Thursday, March 30, 2006

No Music -- keep forgetting iPod at Home

At home, I usually go to sleep listening to music. Lately it's been the new Neko Case album, and it's rather nice for falling asleep to. And lately in the morning I've remembered to do all sorts of important things, but have been forgetting to grab my iPod. Oh, well.

It's a nice day today -- sunny and 70. I'm sleepy with a bit of a headache after getting a proper night's sleep again. I wonder if it's springtime allergies.

My daughter is getting mostly A's, our terrible computer system problems that I've been dealing with for the past couple days are resolved, and all is right with the world. Well, not ALL, but lots.

And I have Monsieur Ibrahim, Broken Wings, and Howl's Moving Castle to watch. When, I'm not sure, but there you go. I'm Netflix's favorite kind of customer, the kind that has 3 CDs out at a time but takes two weeks to watch them. So they get between $2.50 and $3.00 per CD from me. This is a good deal for me as well, though, because I tend to forget things, so it works out since there are no late fees.

Boy, the things I forget. I got a parking ticket a month ago in Santa Monica and forgot till today to pay it. Oops. The $45 dollar fine became a $90 fine because I missed the deadline.
I keep the world going through the forgetfulness-fueled redistribution of my wealth to the corporations and municipalities. Without me, they would fall to the ground, gasping for lack of funds.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

No Music -- iPod @ home

So. It's raining heavily, so I got to try out my new umbrella! It's a huge golf umbrella we got as a promotional freebie. I has cool wind vents, so it won't blow inside out in a sudden gust, fibreglass frame and shaft, and it covers an area so great that you could seriously shade three adults walking side by side from the rain. It's the Humvee of umbrellas, is what it is. OK to use walking to and from your car on unbusy sidewalks, but in downtown pedestrian traffic on the way to the subway? It's much too huge. It covers the whole sidewalk. It's a beauty, and when I was just out, it rained nice and hard so I got good use out of it.

And that's about the most interesting thing that happened today. My trip to Portland went well... and work is awfully confusing.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Neko Case -- A Widow's Toast

I am so wiped out today it's not funny... here's a shot I took from the plane on the way out of LA Wed evening. That's the Palos Verdes Peninsula down there. Only problem with the trip is that I was SUPPOSED to be gone at 2pm. The flight I was on was delayed, so I had to get to St Louis on a later flight. And my luggage got misplaced. So I did my presentation in the same clothes I'd worn the night before. But my luggage got to me in the end. Last night the trip was draining... two flights over 8 hours, basically. And Monday I fly to Portland and back.

But on the plane I read an article about the Congo and the civil war there, child soldiers, gangrapes, people cutting out their victims' livers and hearts and eating them. Whole villages macheted to death. Roaming gangs of crippled people laying siege to businesses to get money to eat. Etcetera. So I have nothing to complain about, and we live in the best of all possible places, surely.

So I'm going to go and enjoy my headache and go home and have a sleep-filled weekend and appreciate things like waking up and not having to worry about having my head cutoff by drug-crazed child soldiers.

Shabbat Shalom.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Beulah -- Landslide Baby

Rained yesterday. Sunny today. It's a happy day. Woo hoo.

I brought my lunch. Basmati rice I made in a vegetarian soup stock. Pretty good.

I am feeling so uninspired and uninspiring. Hmm. Wait! Uninspiring. That reminds me of Bush. And THAT reminds me of... OOH!

Listen. I've always said that women with large brains and lots of power really do it for me. I thought Janet Reno was the bees knees. Condi Rice is wrong politically but she's still hot. And on it goes. However, the highest spot on my list is now this hottie:

Listen. Looks come and go. But smarts and courage are forever and are really hot. Bush called on Helen Thomas today for the first time in years, I understand, and she let him have it...

THE PRESIDENT: Helen. After that brilliant performance at the Gridiron (dinner), I am -- (laughter.)

Q You're going to be sorry. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: Well, then, let me take it back. (Laughter.)

Q I'd like to ask you, Mr. President, your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, wounds of Americans and Iraqis for a lifetime. Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true. My question is, why did you really want to go to war? From the moment you stepped into the White House, from your Cabinet -- your Cabinet officers, intelligence people, and so forth -- what was your real reason? You have said it wasn't oil -- quest for oil, it hasn't been Israel, or anything else. What was it?

THE PRESIDENT: I think your premise -- in all due respect to your question and to you as a lifelong journalist -- is that -- I didn't want war. To assume I wanted war is just flat wrong, Helen, in all due respect --

Q Everything --

THE PRESIDENT: Hold on for a second, please.

Q -- everything I've heard --

THE PRESIDENT: Excuse me, excuse me...."

It goes on like this, Bush doing his usual bs and Helen interrupting him. How much more do you need? You know you love her too.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Robert Fripp and Brian Eno -- Terebellum

My daughter. Ok, so she's camera shy here. She's gorgeous, trust me. She's wearing my peacoat and a hat that my coworker brought me from Hong Kong.

I have been getting a lot of sleep and still feel under the weather. I hope I get a good night's sleep tonight and feel better tomorrow, because I have so much to do this week. I'll be traveling Wed and Thu and I have another trip next Monday...

So many things in the news that I don't know what to comment on, except back the call for a Religious UN. Oh, yeah. The regular UN isn't enough fun as it is? On the other hand, I do trust religious leaders much more than political ones...

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Adrian Belew -- Inner Man

Fujimugs has a regular contest with a theme. People submit photos they take specifically for the contest. The current theme is "Incomplete," and this is the photo I submitted. It's a house on Bundy Drive in Los Angeles. The taxes are lower on renovations vs a teardown and total rebuild. So it's common to see something like this in West LA, where there are few restrictions preventing people from buying a home and tearing it down to build another. People are paying millions of dollars often with the house being pretty much sold as a "teardown"-- the land is worth millions alone. It's actually cost-effective to build a totally new house because in today's market you can still make a profit. (This is one of many reasons why it's folly to allow pure market forces to be the highest values, which is what you get with capitalism. The start and end of ethical considerations is "Can I make profit?" If so, do as thou will. Never mind that while you are destroying one home to stick another one in its place and spending millions in the process, people are homeless in your town. Bastards.)

So this is the one little part of the house that remains. Everything else is being built new, thousands of square feet, multiple stories. But because of this one wall and fireplace, it counts as a remodel just the same as if they added a breakfast nook. Nice loophole, huh?

It's a nice a quiet morning, cool and overcast, with rain off and on and a chance for thunderstorms, which I am looking forward to. I love thunder... maybe I'll clean up this apartment. Maybe not.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Stew - C'mon Everybody

Business travel in America -- real business travel, not coddled executives in corporate jets -- is a PAIN. I have to go to St Louis next Thursday from here in LA. There are non-stops that are a fortune or connecting flights that end up taking 10 hours of travel and get you there after midnight.... and with a meeting at 8:30am, that isn't gonna happen. SO I look for nonstop flights. Only issue is that they are only in the morning. SO I'd have to stay another night in St Louis. So which wastes more time and money and which works better to ensure I can do my job... neither option ends up being good. Plus we do our own travel reservations and it takes forever. The company thinks it saves money because, by having us do our reservations directly, it sees the allocated expense for travel agents drop, but it can't see the corresponding drop in our effectiveness as we poke about with our own travel arrangements. Bollocks. That's what I say. At least money is no object. Well, mostly not.

Oh, and Shabbat Shalom.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Merle Haggard -- Hungry Eyes

Last weekend, when I watched Walk the Line with my g/f, it didn't make me want to listen to Johnny Cash songs. Don't get me wrong, I like Cash, I have all the American Recordings CDs, the really good stuff he did with Rick Rubin in the last few years of his life. It's just that the movie features Cash's performance at Folsom and Cash's compassion for guys doing time, and Merle Haggard got turned onto the idea of being a musician from seeing Cash at San Quentin when Haggard was doing time there. So I immediately wanted to hear lots of Merle.

This is Mt. Baldy today, Mt. Baldy with a funky cloud over it. Mt. Baldy in the golden sunset that's also partly that color because of pollution of course. Most of LA and Orange County is dominated by the San Gabriel mountains. You know where you are by where the mountains are... they are to the north, pretty much running uninterrupted east to west on the horizon. And Mt. Baldy is the biggest peak visible from Orange and LA County.

My daughter is crawling through her math homework. I remember when I was her age. I did the same thing, torture myself with this stuff over hours, taking twenty minutes to do one problem. Actually, I remember when I did the same thing today, taking forever to do the most basic stuff at work, totally unable to focus for a couple hours, just doing whatever I could find that required no thinking at all, clerical junk, simple customer requests... I never know if it's normal stuff for me or something I need to get treatment for. Because in today's world you cannot afford to be distracted for a second. It all moves too quickly. We've got to be focused all the time. Get those productivity numbers. Be Perfect all the time.

At least until Osama comes. Then it's prayer five times a day, not to mention mandatory time away from work watching the beheadings, and men having problems picking out their wives in the supermarket and misguided attempts at coontinuing the American Way of Life, like wet burka contests. Just as well. I have long believed that this whole civilization thing was an evolutionary misstep. This is a poem I wrote over ten years ago--

Paradise Lost

Walking between the cages
at the zoo, looking at the monkeys
looking at me
feeling the sun burning my forehead
and feeling, deep down, that it should
not be this way. I was never meant to walk erect,
never meant to have a bare forehead, face, arms,
belly, never meant to wear clothes, speak, eat food
I did not kill or forage with my own hands,
never meant to mate with a female I first did not fight
another male to death or near-death for.

It should not be this way;
there was a left turn where there should have been a right,
there was something missed somewhere,
something that went wrong,
long ago

and now I and the others of my kind are
walking between our caged brothers and sisters

and all I can feel is the loss of what used to be
all those years ago, when we were what we were meant to be,
before someone screwed up, stood up, and did not go back down.

Yeah. That poetry thing. I need to start up again. I've been away from it too long. Six years ago I was writing four or five a week. Then again, six years ago I was working at a dead-end job and loveless. So it's OK for now.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Tom Waits - Barcarolle

Sunset last Friday night heading west on Wilshire. The building is known as "Bullocks on Wilshire," a gorgeous Art Deco structure completed in 1929. A good weekend, but a busy week ahead to get ready for. And the week after I get to go to St Louis, and I haven't been there before, so maybe I'll get cool Arch photos! My daughter got contacts yesterday, so that's exciting. If she gets along ok with them I may try them again next time my eye exam rolls around... it's weird seeing her without glasses, even though I see her every day without them when she gets up and goes to bed-- it's odd. Anyhoo.

It's Purim-time and I have homentashen to eat. And I need to figure out how best to spell it as well. :) Homentashen, that is.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Wolf Parade -- Fancy Claps

It's raining. Very exciting. Also, a very low snow-level today. Here in Los Angeles, it never snows anywhere near sea-level, but usually in winter storms it's cold enough above 4000 feet to snow. So our local mountains get snow and we get rain. Afterwards, we have breathtaking views of snow-covered peaks without the hassle of being frozen and icy. This storm, I heard, is really cold arctic air, and as a result, our snow level could be as low as 1500-2000 feet. My girlfriend's house is 1500 feet, but it's by the ocean, and the ocean will keep it warmer. But our mountains should get a really nice dusting. Should be nice photos to take in a day or two.

Shabbat Shalom, everyone.

Wolf Parade -- Fancy Claps

It's raining. Very exciting. Also, a very low snow-level today. Here in Los Angeles, it never snows anywhere near sea-level, but usually in winter storms it's cold enough above 4000 feet to snow. So our local mountains get snow and we get rain. Afterwards, we have breathtaking views of snow-covered peaks without the hassle of being frozen and icy. This storm, I heard, is really cold arctic air, and as a result, our snow level could be as low as 1500-2000 feet. My girlfriend's house is 1500 feet, but it's by the ocean, and the ocean will keep it warmer. But our mountains should get a really nice dusting. Should be nice photos to take in a day or two.

Shabbat Shalom, everyone.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Wheat -- Don't I Hold You

another photo of the sunset by the same place as the other photo last week taken at the same time. I'm too lazy to post new ones. Suffer.

I am so wiped from my trip... one of my ears didn't properly pop when I landed Tuesday night and that made me dizzy and nauseous, and yesterday I was so tired, and I slept a lot but I was still wiped this morning... I think my brain gets bruised in the altitude changes. Remind me never to go scuba diving.. the pressure would do me in. I am so damn tired.

And I'm behind on phone calls. And the one phone call I do return turns into an hour-long tutorial on Basic Excel stuff. And I'm thinking I should "Just Say No" because I don't support Excel, damnit (or I'd be paid a lot more) but there's no one else who is going to help this person... companies and insurance brokers today are doing the human resources and risk management jobs with fewer and fewer people and the technical and fiduciary demands grow exponentially.... the folks I deal with every day are expected to handle vast amounts of responsibility. No one has time to learn how to use Word and Excel. Everyone just pushes through the slough as best they can, covered in leeches and filth, making do and trying to remind themselves how it could be worse. Anyway. I gotta go home and crash.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Echo and the Bunnymen -- Turquoise Days

I am getting ready to go on a last-minute work trip to the Bay Area. I'll fly up, drive to the hotel, take a bath, and tomorrow train two sets of people, go back to the airport, come home. Woo hoo! It's fun.

While I'm on the plane I'll watch part of Schultze Gets the Blues, probably half each way, since the flight is only an hour. so there.
Perhaps not the best choice for watching on an airplane? It's supposedly a slow, quiet film. We'll see.

South Dakota banning abortion? I remind everyone that most states defacto have no abortion already, because few places will do them. South Dakota has ONE place performing abortions. Check this out at ldi's anti-abortion website which calls places performing abortions "DeathCamps" --- it lists clinics per state. Take a good look. MANY states have very few places. Take a look on a map and see how going to seek an abortion is a huge undertaking for women not located near a clinic. Abortion is viewed as a right, but right now, even without a ban on abortion in South Dakota or a Supreme Court overruling of Roe v Wade, abortion rights in this country, for those not living in major cities, are a joke.

And this is just abortion. When you consider the rising trend of right-wing pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control, women not fortunate enough to live in major cities on the coasts are royally fucked over. You may find it hard to get birth control, and you may find it impossible to affordably have an abortion.

Imagine the situation you are in if you need to have an abortion and are in some rural area hours away from a clinic. How do you get there? If you are poor, you can't afford the bus fare, you just can't get there. A right only affordable to rich women is no right.

I love the politicians in South Dakota for pushing this issue because America needs to wake up. We like to give lip service to the idea that abortion is a right, but average Americans need to take a stand and insist that affordable abortion be made available all over the country. Otherwise this talk of rights is just stupid pipe dreams. We need to have an open battle on this issue on tv, radio, and in the streets. Most Americans are on the fence on this issue and we need them to take a side.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Bob Marley -- Exodus

The Academy Awards were fun to watch. I liked Jon Stewart's touch. I much prefer his sort of humor and presence to Billy Crystal's. Jon Stewart managed, to me, to poke fun at the fundamental nature of the awards and yet also manage to honor them more by the things he chose to comment on.

This is a bit late for Black History Month, but here goes...

I like that the hiphop song from Hustle and Flow won best song. Mainstream hiphop has long been corporate, leeched of any relevance except as the inheritor to disco's mixed legacy of music-to-party-and-foreplay-to; perhaps the sight of its practitioners, diamond-studded grilles in place, up there with the rest of the elites will spur creative kids to break off from the corporate hiphop of today and make new, vital music from the streets, much as punk rose in England as a response to the excesses of prog-rock, glam-rock, etc, etc... Imagine, the new Clashes, Jams, Damneds of hiphop could be out there right now on the streets. Who knows. Could happen.

Because I find it amazing how thoroughly hiphop has been coopted by corporate America. Is there anything more ironic in music? Think about it -- last night, we had the Academy Awards, pretty much the ultimate insider party, embrace pretty much the ultimate outsider song--

an it seems like I'm duckin dodgin bullets everyday
Niggaz hatin on me cause I got, hoes on the tray
But I gotta stay paid, gotta stay above water
Couldn't keep up with my hoes, that's when shit got harder
North Memphis where I'm from, I'm 7th Street bound
Where niggaz all the time end up lost and never found
Man these girls think we prove thangs, leave a big head
They come hopin every night, they don't end up bein dead
Wait I got a snow bunny, and a black girl too
You pay the right price and they'll both do you
That's the way the game goes, gotta keep it strictly pimpin
Gotta have my hustle tight, makin change off these women, yeah

Others had messed with this sort of embracing of the outsider -- Curtis Mayfield sang ABOUT thugs and pimps and hustlers in Superfly, and early hiphop adopted the same stance. Rappers would describe the streets around them and the characters they observed, but their stance was that of a chronicler. Often, those rapping about fringe characters took on the mantle of the "griot" or tribal storyteller and keeper of the neighborhood history... the idea was that the rapper was adopting, perhaps, the persona of the pimp or dealer for the song. This has, in time, changed. Over time, the stories stopped being about dealers and pimps and started being told by dealers and pimps, people who either admit -- no, brag of their gang, pimping and dealing pasts/presents, or failing that, at least embracing the ethic of being a pimp with all the nastiness that implies.

How quickly we saw Public Enemy's defiant and, to white America, threatening, Malcom X style strident calls for unity and pride-- things like the lyrics in "Righstarter (Message To A Black Man)"

Our solution - mind revolution
Can't sell it - no you can't buy it in a potion
You lie about the life that you wanted to try
Tellin' me about a head - you decided to fly
Another brother with the same woes that you face
But you shot with the same hands - you fall from grace
Every brother should be every brother's keeper
But you shot with your left while your right was on your beeper

where the hiphop artist stands like a prophet calling his wayward brothers away from their lives of dealing to lives of unified struggling against oppression, to today, where hiphop by and large ignores injustice and celebrates black on black crime. And White America is eating it up.

And how ironic that Queen Latifah, who started out with notably feminist lyrics and was one of the early challengers of the whole "bitches and hos" trend, has been so cleanly subverted by corporate hiphop that she was nothing but excited to have one more "bitches and hos" song win an award.

I am an observer, of course, and I don't really know much of Black American experience. Perhaps my rant is really one more way the white oppressor keeps down the Black Male of America. Perhaps last night was a good night for African-Americans and shows the acceptance of a legitimate mode of expression, and people like me who find fault are just racists who will poke at whatever minorities do. But to me, the gangsta/pimp persona seems to me to be a new wrinkle on the Uncle Tom, Stepin Fetchit, or Aunt Jemima persona--

Hattie McDaniel, a great, great actor (and who was noted by Clooney last night, was the first Black to get an Academy acting award) once remarked, in response to a question about the dearth of good roles for Blacks in 30s/40s Hollywood, that she'd rather portray a maid than actually have to work as one. And in the past, White America was only comfortable seeing Black faces on TV and movies when they were servants and amiable dunces, perhaps with some sort of innate wisdom that comes from being less civilized than Whites, but that's it.

Today, things have changed. Whites are comfortable seeing Blacks in capacities that threaten physically -- gangsta, dealer, pimp, convict -- and it's even better that they are threatening other Blacks, not Whites. Just as long as Blacks are not threatening intellectually, financially, emotionally. Just as long as Blacks are directing their anger at Black America. Black performers have a choice, just as they had back in the 30s... they can have principles and an appropriately limited audience at best. Or they jump on the bandwagon and pimp themselves out to the highest bidder and play the role that White consumers want them to play.

Sure, you can name Black actors who make good movies and play real characters on TV and in movies. You can name hiphop artists who don't buy into the commercially successful gangsta/dealer/pimp persona. But not that many.

Sidney Poitier was the first Black American cast for a part not specifically written for a Black in The Bedford Incident(1965). He played a newspaper reporter. His being black was absolutely irrelevant to the role. He was just a great actor (in a scary but mediocre movie). So how far have we come in the past forty years? When you look at actors who you know can be considered for any role in any movie, you can name Denzel Washington, definitely. Will Smith, as long as it's action adventure movies. Perhaps Morgan Freeman. Don Cheadle? A great actor, but he is always playing roles dealing with race. You can say Eddie Murphy, but we're talking Disney movies for kids. If you want to see Black actors allowed to play roles that depict the whole range of Black experience, all the range of characters that involves, you have to look at movies made by African-Americans, like Barbershop, Big Momma's House, or Roll Bounce.

Oh, I dunno. Back to work.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Sufjan Stevens -- They Also Mourn Who Do Not...

Ten, fifteen years ago, this parking lot used to be the dying remnants of a residential neighborhood. Then the houses were razed and parking lots put up until the time was right for the property developers to put up a new hi rise development. It seems that this will now happen within a year or two, making shots like this impossible.

It's very odd, when you think about it, something as unappreciated as a reflection in a puddle. And how it's so transient. The water is there for a few hours, then it's gone. And soon, the parking lot is gone, and that's the end of the potential for this photo.

Sure, sure, the seemingly solid and eternal skyscrapers are also transient -- each stands in a spot once occupied by buildings that were ten or twelve stories -- huge for the late 1800s or early 1900s when they were built. Those buildings, in turn, replaced bungalows and palm trees and lush gardens, and so on, back to an earth newly born, magma-covered, dimly aware, even as it startled into existence, of the vague, misty flickering of all these future changes.

Anyway. I have to go eat now.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Jam -- Carnation

Really nice sunset last night. Interesting location, too. This is in Pacific Palisades, a neighborhood of LA that sits a couple hundred feet above sea level, atop a cliff (palisade) with appropriately good views. The house that used to be here (and which doubtless blocked the view) went down the hill ten or fifteen years ago heavy floods eroded the cliff -- 'm not sure if the house was destroyed outright by the slide or was demolished afterwards, but it's not there anymore. Currently on the other side of this fence is maybe twenty feet of land and then it's a sheer drop. Bad for the homeowner (but they were certainly multimillionaires and doubtless made out ok) but good for me and anyone else wanting to take photos of sunset by the ocean.

There were better pics to be had facing East a bit earlier, but I was driving West and had no idea where to get off the freeway and have a good view...