Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Brian Eno -- Everything Merges with the Night

It rained yesterday. Today it's pretty much over and all we have are a bunch of pretty cotton-ball clouds scooting by. Very pretty. But, frankly, they are not that interesting. I just learned about mammatus clouds and, well, our boring old run-of-the-mill clouds? Well, never mind.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Michael Oldfield -- Hergest Ridge

The Original Mix!!!

This is something that's no big deal to anyone but Mike Oldfield fans. I'm not really even that. It's just that when I was in college, I discovered Hergest Ridge and loved it so much ago that I tended to play it when I went to sleep. A few years ago, I found the CD version, and was surprised when it didn't sound like the version I remembered. A quick Google revealed why -- the CD version was based on a remix that Oldfield did a year or two afterwards. He didn't like the original version, it turns out. It had too many instruments in it, and apparently he'd only done that because he was worried that the way he liked it wouldn't be popular without more layers of sound. So when he did the remix, he took out some of the instruments that he'd originally had on, so the remix was a lot more spare. It was frustrating that I could not hear it the way I was used to it. Some Oldfield fans swear up and down that the remixed version is better. But I had whole hypnagogic epics play out in my mind as I'd go to sleep listening to this music, with animals scurrying in brush, long blades of grass shimmering in the wind, even one time a huge magician's tower, into whose window I soared, with tables filled with crystals and potions and books and little puzzle things... listening to the remixed version was like listening to a Beatles song with the Harrison guitar work gone. It was just WRONG.

So. After years of searching, I got my hands on the original version! And now I can go to sleep listening to it again for the first time in almost twenty years. So good. It's like when Elisha raised that boy from the dead. But way better.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Rufus Wainwright -- Vibrate

They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security. -- Benjamin Franklin

The average man does not want to be free. He simply wants to be safe. -- HL Mencken

I have named the destroyers of nations: comfort, plenty, and security - out of which grow a bored and slothful cynicism, in which rebellion against the world as it is, and myself as I am, are submerged in listless self-satisfaction. -- John Steinbeck

At the Israelisms website Tomer said

Bush steppin over people's rights... How? The wiretaps? I'm pretty happy with what he does for the most part, not as an Israeli, but as a Pro-US and pro-Neocons.

That kind of talk is common, of course, amongst Americans. We've lost touch with the founding principles of our country. We value security over liberty. And no matter how safe we are, no matter how long the average American lives, even living a life of relative sloth and laziness and terrible habits, we want to be safer. Safe from what? Safe from disease. Safe from drunk drivers. Safe from the consequences of our own actions. And all of these things end up being cheap little plastic masks, one slapped over the other, layers of distraction to cover the one thing we really fear -- Death.

We aren't afraid of Osama or terrorism as much as being stuck in a skyscraper with a still-hot Starbucks in our hand, thinking we were going to have a normal day of routine stress, and instead finding ourselves weighing the relative merits of death by burning versus death by falling one hundred stories and slamming into the ground.

The Jews among us know the different ways we may meet death -- Yom Kippur to Rosh Hashanah we have this prayer:

On Rosh Hashanah will be inscribed and on Yom Kippur will be sealed: how many will pass from the earth and how many will be created; who will live and who will die; who will die at his predestined time and who before his time; who by water and who by fire, who by sword, who by beast, who by famine, who by thirst, who by storm, who by plague, who by strangulation, and who by stoning. Who will rest and who will wander, who will live in harmony and who will be harried, who will enjoy tranquillity and who will suffer, who will be impoverished and who will be enriched, who will be degraded and who will be exalted.

After which, of course, we say "But repentance, prayer, and charity remove the evil of the decree." And by this we don't mean that we can prevent ourselves from being blown to bits by a terrorist if we repent, pray and do tzedakah. It means that the "evil" of the ways in which we may die is removed by our good acts. It is in our living lives of true torah values that we free ourselves from the evil of dying in these terrible ways. For, as we know, true holy people, whether renowned rabbis or simple peasants, die from all of these causes, have every negative experience possible, every minute of every day. Leading good lives connects us to G-d and eternal life and thereby conquers the temporary evil of death. It also conquers the fear of death.

However, the easier course is to look at the list as preventable occurences that can be reduced, both in frequency and severity. Safer cars. Safer medicine. Safer food. Safer streets. Safer cities. Safer sex. And until we conquer death, we keep at the list. Isn't it obvious that we cannot be living lives of good deeds when we are obsessed with preventing evil deaths? One thing I assure you is that our culture's obsession with staying safe is leading us inexorably to a very unstable and unsafe future. Because, to keep ourselves safe, we purposely make others less safe.

Look at the way we deal with democracy -- it's a wonderful idea, certainly. We promote it all over the world. Until an election goes contrary to our wishes. Then we, either secretly or overtly, work to topple the newly-elected government. We've been doing it since well before we toppled Allende and ushered in the dictatorship of Pinochet, and we'll be doing it long after we try to destabilize the newly elected Hamas government. We turn other countries into places where the people live in fear and despair of peace and self-determination, because we are so determined that things go the way we think will lead to us being safest. We are, literally, hell-bent on making the world into a place that will be safe for us. And in the process, we make the world a more dangerous place for all, and we pave the way to hell and to evil deaths.

So by all means, Tomer, let's be pro-US. Let's embrace the ideals of the United States that lead us to spend billions of dollars a year to help others, that lead us to fight for human rights and voting rights and democracy. Let's promote the US doing good. But let's get off this stupid idea that one can be happy with Bush stepping on our rights. The United States without its redeeming values, like civil liberties, turns into just another Sodom and Gomorrah. And for endangering our lasting freedom for temprorary security, Bush is a traitor that needs to be impeached.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Kate Bush -- There Goes a Tenner

Here's another look at Union Station's Information Booth. I love this thing. Someday I'm going to get some Information from these booth guys.

I've been under the weather all week and sleeping a LOT. Yesterday the only thing I did was take my daughter to In 'N Out Burger and watch her eat. Also, I took a nice long bath while reading A Hundred Years of Solitude and I listened to the new Cat Power CD again. And besides that, I slept a lot. A LOT. And I still slept a full night. Today I have to do laundry. Besides that, I think I'll sleep.

Oh. I also watched Yasujiro Ozu's Good Morning. Great movie from 1959 that's about Japanese kids who want a TV and stop talking when their parents say "No." Very good movie, because you see Japanese life circa 1959, and besides that, just a a great quiet but great story.

Oh. the other thing I did yesterday was read "Are You There God? It's Me, Monica:

How nice girls got so casual about oral sex," by by Caitlin Flanagan in the Jan/Feb Atlantic magazine. Such an interesting and depressing article. I've wondered about our popular culture and exactly how the feminism of the 60s and 70s somehow gave way to the pure adolescent boy's world where boys are now saved the hassle of having to beg for sex by girls who think of blowjobs as "no big deal." Flanagan at one point notes that "A huge report was issued by the National Center for Health Statistics. It covered the topic of teenage oral sex more extensively than any previous study, and the news was devastating: A quarter of girls aged fifteen had engaged in it, and more than half aged seventeen. Obviously, there was no previous data to compare this with, but millions of suburban dads were quite adamant that they had been born too soon." And while reading the article about teenage girls "servicing" guys at parties makes me, as the father of a 12 year old girl, want to puke, as a guy, hey. I was born too soon.

But the article, like a LOT of handwringing about today's kids, involves upper middle class and upper class parents and children. In truth, the behavior has always been there. Maybe the only change is that now, people talk about it more and it's done more, perhaps, by wealthier kids, but so what? I'm tired of stuff that's common in working class and minority neighborhoods suddenly being a crisis when wealthy kids do it.

Well-off parents are constantly moving from crisis to crisis, convinced that their kids are eggshell children so easily breakable. if they don't have the perfect diet, perfect school, perfect summer camp experiences, their lives will be worthless. And this idea generally is directed by mothers at their daughters. Is my daughter bulimic? Is she giving guys blowjobs? Does she think Bush is a good president?! Girls are fetishized in our culture where normal teenage mistakes and experimentation are greeted with parental proclamations of ruin and disaster. Well-off parents are so obsessed with their kids getting into Ivy League schools I'm sure that some are convinced that sexual behavior of the wrong sort will ruin their kid's chances at Princeton. Now, I'm sure we all know a family where a child has real drug, alcohol, or behavior issues. I wonder, however, how the endless obsessing over kids feeds into things. Perhaps parents need to worry about their own sex lives a bit more and stop poking into their childrens'.

When I was a teenager, guys were getting blow jobs. Sure, I wasn't -- but some guys were. And while I wanted to have sexual experiences, I was always in love with some girl from afar. And I never went to parties that weren't my close group of friends. If I were a teenager today, I wouldn't be getting any of these easy blowjobs. I'd be worshipping some goth hottie from afar, writing poems and imagining how amazing it would be to smell her hair and hold her hand. I am not, as much as I sometimes would like to be, the kind of guy who would want a jaded girl to give me some anonymous blowjob.

Anyway, I gotta go.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Mirah -- Dogs of Buenos Aires

This is a sculpture in the courtyard next to my building. It's part of a large installation called "Zanja Madre." In English that's "Mother Ditch." Figueroa St and much of old downtown LA used to have stone-lined irrigation ditches carrying water to the residences and farms, and this particular sculpture is apparently some sort of screw device used in the transportation of water. I dunno. It's a nice sillhouette with the moon. This is from a couple weeks ago, but I haven't got any new photos to share. I have tons, but not here.

I've been sick all week. I've been sleeping a lot and drinking lots of fluids and feeling ripped off when I've awoken in the morning, after a good night's sleep, and found myself still sick.
Today I came into work though I am still sick because I can do a little work and help a few people. Considering I've been out all week, not that much to catch up on. I'm buried, but not that deeply. It's a shallow grave.

I'm reading One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I have no idea how I missed reading this before now. I remember over twenty years ago my dad told me how good it was, but hey. I had lots to read. So now I'm reading it and it's one of the most wonderful things I've ever read.

Off to work. Or to kind of work.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Mirah -- Struggle

This is the view from our table at Ciudad, a wonderful, wonderful restaurant in downtown Los Angeles. It's basically Latin American cuisine, with all sorts of cool unusual tastes from all over Central and South America. On Sundays they have a Tapas-only menu. Tapas are appetizers, and you get a bunch of different appetizers and have yourself a wonderful sampling of incredible food, such as

Plantain Chips and Spicy Aioli
Goat Cheese Fritters with Sherry-Soaked Cherries
Grilled Asparagus with Romesco Sauce
Marinated Spanish Cheese and Oil-Cured Olives
Piquillo Peppers stuffed with Avocado Goat Cheese
White Grape Gaspacho
Argentine Empanadas with Tomatillo and Chipotle Salsas

and that's just part of the vegetarian options. If you eat fish you can have

Saffron paella with seafood, chorizo and chicken
Salt Cod fritters with Orange, Fava, and Fresh Mint Salsa
Fried Shrimp and Okra with Salsa Africana

and tons more, and for the meat-eaters there are things like

Manchego Cheese Buñuelos with Serrano Ham, Arugula, and Red Pickled Onions
Boneless Baby Back Ribs slow roasted in Chile, Spices, and Sweet Mistela
Seeded Lamb Chops with Algerian Eggplant Jam and Preserved Lemons

and tons of other cool-sounding things.

Anyway. It's a wonderful place for a special occasion. My favorite restaurant because it's an adventure every time. And I'm not even talking about the drinks...

Happy Friday, Shabbat Shalom...

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Sufjan Stevens -- The Man of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts

So. Bush trots out news from years ago. Four years ago, Al Queda was hatching a plan to get a bunch of guys from some Southeast Asian country to hijack a plane and fly it into the US Bank building here in Downtown LA. It's a half mile or so from here-- the biggest building in LA and on the West Coast, for that matter, 60-something stories high. The plot was foiled. Ok... whatever. Are the American people stupid enough to think Hmm... well, they DID foil that plot in Southeast Asia... even though that has nothing to do with the President illegally wiretapping US Citizens in direct violation of the FISA act, he's getting results, so we're OK with the wiretapping? Probably.

Funny thing is that right now, I'm hatching a plot to win Saturday's lottery. Using a highly complex algorhythm, I'm going to break the seemingly-random winning number selection and become the next mega-millionaire..... DAMN! Some woman with Corporate Real Estate just came into my cubicle with a tape measure and starting seeing how big my file cabinet was. Then a coworker saw this and cackled "She's seeing how you measure up!" Then I thought of how women always get away with the sexual innuendos and noticed how the woman with the tape measure was totally not even paying attention anyway, and also how she did have nice jeans on... as a result, my plot to become a multi-millionare has been ruined. If not for that woman and her tape measure, I'd be rich. Drats! Foiled again!

No photo of the biggest building in LA but here's one of the prettiest -- Los Angeles City Hall.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Dave Navarro -- Rexall

This is the only Dave Navarro song I have. Still, it's good.

The sky is gorgeous because of the smoke from the wildfires... I have to go take a walk so I can get some nice sunset photographs.

And the play was great! I had not seen it in years and had forgotten how timely a play it still is. I'd say more, but hey. I have to go get photos of the sunset buildings.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

The Decemberists -- The Bagman's Gambit

I flit about from interest to interest like a hummingbird. Right now I am loving photography and learning more about composition and the mechanics of it, and here is a hummingbird I photographed last evening. It stayed on its perch in the lemon tree because it's always sitting there, and so as I stood four or five feet away it chirped its territorial chirps at me but stood its ground so I could get a pretty good picture. I can't find my bird book so I can't say for sure if it's a male or female, but I think female because a male would have more color around the neck. But I can't even tell you what species of Hummingbird it is, Anna's or Allen's or what, but anyway. We're off to see The Cherry Orchard production at the Mark Taper Forum, which stars Annette Benning and Alfred Molina...

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Bruce Springsteen--Kitty's Back

Sunset tonight.

Cat Power -- Lived in Bars

This is one of the nicest photos I've taken. Union Station in Los Angeles is just a gorgeous old building. I don't know enough about it to know the style, but as you can see, archways, intricate lamps and ceilings, stuff akin to arts and crafts... I love the way "Information" seems to be glowing.