Tuesday, May 30, 2006

David Bowie -- Neukoeln

So, this weekend was one of the best Bat-Mitzvah celebrations ever. Six of us in a rental minivan, and I drove both ways (I can't be a passenger -- I get carsick too easily unless I am driving) the 6-7 hours there and back. Friday night dinner. Services. Saturday morning services. Nap. Saturday night big party. Live band, which is always appreciated and classy. The dinner was a simple solution to the problem of who-wants-what -- both steak and fish along with potatoes on one plate. I, the vegetarian, ate it all. I was hungry. Then Sunday brunch, then Sunday evening barbeque. Insane amounts of food.

And the batmitvah girl was the best. Of the fifteen or so I've been to bar/bats I've been to in the past five or so years, this girl (my g/f's niece) was definitely the most into it all. Of all the kids, this one is the most likely to keep learning and strongly identifying as Jewish because she's into it.

And now, back at work, trying to get stuff done. It's a wonderful day.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Arcade Fire -- Vampire, Forest Fire

So. Julia Butterfly Hill is one hot mama. She's a Sex Symbol for the 21st century. An earthy vegan treehugging sex symbol, of course, but still. She's right up there will Rachel Carson and Al Gore. Well, she's above Al Gore. But she's up there.

Don't know who she is? Piss off. Google her, lazybones.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Departure Lounge -- Music For Pleasure

I am really glad that The DaVinci Code got ripped critically, but I'm really glad it did well.


Well, I am conflicted about Tom Hanks and Ron Howard.

Tom Hanks isn't worth talking about, really. I like his movies ok. Think he did a good job in Castaway, one of the hardest roles in any movie ever. Like most movies he's done. Think he's a good actor. Just don't feel it, I guess. Can't tell why.

Ron Howard I used to like. I liked his feel-good, optimistic pov like in The Paper. But then he ruined How the Grinch Stole Christmas And I turned against him. A Beautiful Mind reinforced my thinking that any script he touched would have been better in someone else's hands. I have grown to hate his sentimental, hackneyed style.

But he has directed some of my favorite movies. The Missing is a recent one I think was really, really good -- both as a movie on its own and also how it redefines the Western and portrays the time and complexities of living in the real West far more realistically than previous efforts. Yes, I'm saying that a movie that treats shamans as really having powers as realistic. What can I say. My opinions, like Bush's, steer clear of objective reality.

Before that, we have Parenthood, Cocoon, Splash, Night Shift. Bam, Bam, Bam. Perhaps it's Ron Howard being Serious that I can't handle. I dunno. Perhaps it's just Clint Howard's ugly mug I can't stand seeing in every frigging movie.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

King Crimson -- We'll Let You Know

Well, after my last post, I wrote the following letter to the President. I've replaced my personal info, which I did include to Bush, here. I don't mind the President or Secret Service spying or arresting me, but you guys are abnormal, guilty types, and I don't trust you ---

“Fourth, the privacy of ordinary Americans is fiercely protected in all our activities. We're not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans.”

Ordinary Americans. Innocent Americans.

Mr President, who decides who is “normal?” You? The NSA? What do Americans have to do to suddenly be declared “abnormal?” Is it something simple, like wearing a hijab or frequenting mosques or the like? I’d like to know, so I can stay within your definition of “normal.” I am, however, not a Christian, I don’t like Country or Nascar, and I don’t watch American Idol or 24. Perhaps I already fall outside your definition of “normal.” Perhaps my writing this letter to you and speaking against your repeated and crass violations of our civil rights puts me outside the pale of “normal.” If so, my cell phone number is ***-***-****. You may want to pass that along to the appropriate parties so that they can add my phone records to the millions already collected, or perhaps listen to my conversations, in which I frequently exercise my free speech rights and say all sorts of things that would probably land me in jail if I were Muslim and Arab. I’m not authorizing you do do this, but you already know that as President, you are Authorized to do anything you want anytime you want it.

As to Innocent, it’s almost as if you have never heard the phrase “innocent until proven guilty.” Aren’t ALL Americans thus innocent until proven otherwise? If not, again, please let me know what the boundaries are so I know if I am “innocent” or “guilty.” My home address is 570 S *********** , ********, CA 9****. This is in case you decide that this letter and my previous letters to you, most of which have been critical, put me outside your “innocent” box, and I need to be arrested or rendered to some willing country for “questioning.”

I am on fire, I tell you.

Oh. Hope your Lag B'Omer is fun. I am doing absolutely nothing for it except telling everyone it's Lag B'Omer. Then everyone, Jew and Goy alike, says

"Oh! Cool. What's Lag B'Omer?"

"Well, it's a holiday that marks a certain number of days since the start of counting the Omer. 33 I think."

"What's the Omer?"

"G-d told the Jews to count a certain # of days, 49 I think. It's from Egypt to Sinai, basically, Pesach to Shavout."

"What's Shavout?"

"Oh, never mind."

Someone shoot an arrow for me, OK? I always wanted to do archery.

Machine Head -- LA Gothic

So. Bush says the government doesn't listen to the phone conversations of "ordinary Americans." Funny. I don't think the White House even understands how the very idea of "ordinary Americans" violates the letter and spirit of the Bill of Rights. Of course, the idea that they get to decide who is "normal" doesn't send chills down the spine of most Americans, because they blithely assume they are "normal."

It's an overused quote, but the poem attributed to Martin Niemöller is apropos now. This is the original German, but you don't have to speak German to get it. (I got it from Wickipedia.)

Als die Nazis die Kommunisten holten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Kommunist.

Als sie die Sozialdemokraten einsperrten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Sozialdemokrat.

Als sie die Gewerkschafter holten,
habe ich nicht protestiert;
ich war ja kein Gewerkschafter.

Als sie die Juden holten,
habe ich nicht protestiert;
ich war ja kein Jude.

Als sie mich holten,
gab es keinen mehr, der protestieren konnte.

In the US the poem got screwed up because the victims in the original are Communists, Social Democrats, Trade Unionists, then lastly, Jews. Well, in the US in the 50s, you couldn't stand up and say that Communists and Trade Unionists shouldn't be rounded up, or you'd get blacklisted or something, so they got rid of the unsavory groups, stuck Jews at the top, added Catholics, that sort of thing.

Right now, they're coming for the Muslims and Arabs. Are we going to raise our voices? Are we going to protest? Or are we going to go about our business, assume that we're "normal," and be shocked and surprised when our door is battered down and we're led away at gunpoint?

"Oh, silly Lee," you say. "So dramatic. America is Different. That would never happen Here." But every coup, every civil war, every genocide has before it someone saying the same words about that particular country, that particular leader. Every genocide has many victims who die because they trusted that things wouldn't get that bad. There's no way to know how bad things will get, but we know that what's happening now in the US has led to terrible things other places in the past, places supposedly as civilized and tolerant.

And even if it never gets past abusing the rights and bodies of Arabs and Muslims, what value does America really have if we tolerate violations of civil rights to those deemed "abnormal?"

Friday, May 12, 2006

Sunset Rubdown -- Shut Up I am Dreaming Of Places Where Lovers Have Wings

I love long song titles. People can take it too far, like Sufjan Stevens does on Illinois with this one:

The Black Hawk War, Or, How to Demolish an Entire Civilization and Still Feel Good About Yourself In the Morning, Or, We Apologize For the Inconvenience But You're Going to Have to Leave Now, Or, 'I Have Fought the Big Knives and Will Continue to Fight Them Until They Are Off Our Lands!

So in comparison to that, something like "Shut Up I am Dreaming Of Places Where Lovers Have Wings" is concise, right?


I think Bush is collecting information on who I call and who calls me. After all, I often talk about Revolution and other Socialist ideas. I rail against the Rich almost every day. I long to see Capitalism Smashed. Wait a minute... What am I saying? Of course I'm not being monitored. I'm not Arab or Muslim. If I were, I'd be convicted already of some terrorism charge. But because I'm not Arab or Muslim, I can spout off about anything I want and not get in trouble or have my phone calls monitored. At least I'm pretty sure about that after reading Milton Viorst's sobering article "The Education of Ali Al-Timimi" in the new Atlantic.


You know how Woody Guthrie had "THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCISTS" on his guitar? I'm sure if he was alive today he'd be visited by the Secret Service for supposedly making a threat against the President. Anyway, The "illegal alien" thing has been going on for generations, and here's a song Guthrie wrote about it:

Plane Wreck At Los Gatos

The crops are all in and the peaches are rott'ning,
The oranges piled in their creosote dumps;
They're flying 'em back to the Mexican border
To pay all their money to wade back again

Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye, Rosalita,
Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria;
You won't have your names when you ride the big airplane,
All they will call you will be "deportees"

My father's own father, he waded that river,
They took all the money he made in his life;
My brothers and sisters come working the fruit trees,
And they rode the truck till they took down and died.

Some of us are illegal, and some are not wanted,
Our work contract's out and we have to move on;
Six hundred miles to that Mexican border,
They chase us like outlaws, like rustlers, like thieves.

We died in your hills, we died in your deserts,
We died in your valleys and died on your plains.
We died 'neath your trees and we died in your bushes,
Both sides of the river, we died just the same.

The sky plane caught fire over Los Gatos Canyon,
A fireball of lightning, and shook all our hills,
Who are all these friends, all scattered like dry leaves?
The radio says, "They are just deportees"

Is this the best way we can grow our big orchards?
Is this the best way we can grow our good fruit?
To fall like dry leaves to rot on my topsoil
And be called by no name except "deportees"?

The thing is that Dylan now was so obviously a pallid pretender to the Guthrie mantle. Today it's clear that Springsteen comes closer to anyone to really taking on the role Guthrie once played in music. Here's a Springsteen song from 2005's Devils and Dust:

"Matamoras Banks"

For two days the river keeps you down
Then you rise to the light without a sound
Past the playgrounds and empty switching yards
The turtles eat the skin from your eyes,
so they lay open to the stars

Your clothes give way to the current and river stone
'Till every trace of who you ever were is gone
And the things of the earth they make their claim
That the things of heaven may do the same

Goodbye, my darling, for your love I give God thanks,
Meet me on the Matamoros
Meet me on the Matamoros
Meet me on the Matamoros banks

Over rivers of stone and ancient ocean beds
I walk on sandals of twine and tire tread
My pockets full of dust, my mouth filled with cool stone
The pale moon opens the earth to its bones
I long, my darling, for your kiss,
for your sweet love I give God thanks
The touch of your loving fingertips
Meet me on the Matamoros
Meet me on the Matamoros
Meet me on the Matamoros banks

Your sweet memory comes on the evenin' wind
I sleep and dream of holding you in my arms again
The lights of Brownsville, across the river shine
A shout rings out and into the silty red river I dive
I long, my darling, for your kiss,
for your sweet love I give God thanks
A touch of your loving fingertips
Meet me on the Matamoros
Meet me on the Matamoros
Meet me on the Matamoros banks

Kind of motivates me to try to write a poem at the same time it keeps me from bothering because he's so good.

It's Friday. Let's have a Shabbat where we can grab onto a glimmer of the kind of world we want to have, so we can work on that next week. Or not. Shabbat Shalom.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Patti Smith -- Break It Up

So. The Pentagon is trying to turn the War on Terror into America's Funniest Home Videos. It's an amazingly inane and immature move by the Pentagon. "Oh, lookie! Zarqawi doesn't know how to fire a gun! Oh, how rich, his deputy doesn't have the sense not to grab a hot gunbarrel! Hah! What rubes we fight!"

Meanwhile, Zarqawi's troops have no problem blowing themselves and others up at will in Iraq. They may be following the orders of a guy who doesn't know how to get a machine gun to fire in automatic mode. They may be pitched against American soldiers who know everything about weaponry and tactics, who'd never make the silly mistakes the Al Queda terrorists did. But the knowhow of the American troops makes them no more able to stop the roadside IEDs or the suicide bombers. And while the Pentagon tries to mock Zarqawi by pointing out his lack of firearms skill, his folks killed more Iraqis and American soldiers today.

Perhaps the Pentagon should spend less time showing Al Queda blooper reels and more time, um, well, pursuing Bin Laden and Zarqawi? But we seem to be much better at capturing blooper reels than we are at capturing terrorists, so never mind.


Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Kinks -- Afternoon Tea

So, I've been delinquent. I feel bad. I haven't been posting here.

I've been busy. Terribly so. Oh, well.

On Monday we had the immigrant marches nearby, but I was lazy and didn't march with them. On immigration I have two main planks for my presidential platform --

1) Change immigration laws as far as who we want to allow in: Currently we are biased towards folks with money and skills. I say, "Screw that." Folks with money and skills can make a go of it in their own country. I want America to actually live up to the Emma Lazarus poem on the Statue of Liberty. I want us to really go after the poor, tired, huddled masses. We should be landing cargo planes in Darfur, scooping up the victims and bringing them over to America and getting them medical care and English lessons. If you are poor, diseased, and doomed to die poor, I want you for our country, because our country can change your life and destiny.

2) Make borders more porous, not less porous. Currently, we have tons of people having families in the US and living here who don't want to, but they have no choice. They'd rather have their family stay in Mexico and live here and go back home every month or two, but the border crossing is too dangerous. If we made our borders more open and allowed people to flow freely in and out, we'd have fewer people moving to live in the US, more people going to Mexico for medical care, clothing, food, etc. Better for everyone. Why should capital move over borders so freely when people can't?

3) Adopt Mexico's sensible new drug laws and decriminalize personal possession. We are wasting billions as a country persecuting drug users, putting them in jails, making them go to rehab, making a whole industry around treating illicit drugs as different than cigarettes and alchohol, punishing victimless activity among consensual adults. I don't associate with drug dealers, but they are getting a raw deal. The billions we'd save could be spent on social services, security on the borders, etc etc...

4) Annex Mexico. This is the longterm solution to our issue. Once the population of the US becomes majority brown in this century, we may as well just make it official and take over the country. Then we have a lot less border to worry about. We have the Canadian border, sure, and that's massive and porous and much more easily crossed than Mexico's, but Mexico's southern border with Belize and Guatemala has to be more easily controlled. If not, we can just annex Latin America down to the Panama Canal. It's just the way things will be... it may not be "annexation," perhaps more like the way the European Union is going, but it will come.

Back to work. Si Se Puede!