Friday, September 22, 2006

L'Shanah Tovah Tikatevu

For there is no man so righteous on earth who does only good and never sins.
Ecclesiastes 7:20

For our Jewish readers and friends

Thursday, September 21, 2006

New goal: blissful ignorance

I need something to be unrealistically optimistic about, so it might as well be this.

What I am Listening On My Way to Work

Jazz music is an intensified feeling of nonchalance.
Françoise Sagan, novelist

Diana Krall’s new “From this Moment On” is every bit as good as many critics have been saying. It is the perfect end of day – I need to relax type of music or a restful winter’s weekend.

Coming home I plan to listen to Elton John’s new one “The Captain & The Kid.”

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Gasoline Prices to Rise on Schedule

Business? it’s quite simple: it’s other people’s money.
Alexandre Dumas (1824–95), dramatist

It’s almost as if on cue. The headline in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times at the top of page four in the Business section encourages drivers to “Enjoy cheaper Gasoline, for Now.” Soon prices will be reacting to concerns about Iran’s nuclear enrichment program and continued delays in starting production at oil giant BP’s Thunder Horse platform in the Gulf of Mexico. Now the facility won’t be open until mid-2008.

This is why I have a hard time believing oil prices are not manipulated through a labyrinth of arcane deals that only Inspector Clouseau could uncover through serendipity.

According to the article, Monday was the first time since March that American motorists spent less than $1 billion a day on gasoline.

As I have predicted, no matter the excuse, gas will be $3.25 a gallon by Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


It's International Talk Like a Pirate Day! I celebrated by creating a special pirate brochure for my co-workers. How about you?

Monday, September 18, 2006

The White Stripes on the Simpsons

If you haven't seen this, you won't fully appreciate this Simpsons parody.

Los Angeles Times in Danger

Half of the American people have never read a newspaper. Half never voted for President. One hopes it is the same half.
Gore Vidal, writer

The worse thing that can happen to the Los Angeles Times is to have it sold to a bunch of billionaires in Los Angeles headed by Eli Broad, philanthropist and founder of insurer SunAmerica, and supermarket magnate Ronald Burkle. Entertainment industry mogul David Geffen is making his own offer, according CNN Money. I have no doubt that if either group got control they would take a very hands-on effort to control editorial content.

The state of journalism is in real trouble and I believe the root of all the troubles is the Federal Communications Commission lifting of the concentration of media ownership rules. A further disgusting development is former FCC chairman, Michael Powell’s alleged destroying of a study that suggested greater concentration of media ownership would hurt local TV news coverage. See Anything they Say for the complete post.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Knocking on Heaven's Door

All publicity is good, except an obituary notice.
Brendan Behan (1923–64), playwright

October is my favorite month even though it’s going to make me another year older and that much closer to death. And, speaking of death, what a coincidence, I enjoy reading the obituary pages in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. When I read about someone’s life and what major event he or she participated in or what they invented or endured, I am amazed. I also wonder about all the knowledge and wisdom we lose everyday.

I am hopeful death will allow me to go quietly and gently into that good night, and unless I go in some spectacular fashion or Toner Mishap gets well known, I don’t see an obit in my future unless it’s paid for by Daughter.

The reason I bring all this up is the book “The Dead Beat” by Marilyn Johnson is rather interesting. She notes that it’s more than coincidence, actually she believes it supernatural that people are leaving this world in occupational clusters. She lists several examples such as the obituaries of Paul Winchell, the voice of Tigger in "Pooh," and John Fiedler, the voice of Piglet in "Pooh," both left this world a day apart. She also points out two scientists, one who isolated vitamin C, and one who isolated vitamin K, died around the same time. And, of course, there are the famous deaths of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the second and third presidents of the United States who died on July 4, exactly 50 years after they signed the Declaration of Independence.

While this may be a stretch, I do think it’s worth noting that Oriana Fallaci the hard-hitting journalist known for her war coverage and for aggressive, revealing interviews with the powerful, and Ann Richards, the former Governor of Texas, also a champion of feminism, whose comment truly hits home for many women: “Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels,” died just days apart.

Coincidence or supernatural -- you be the judge.

Update: In today’s Los Angeles Times is the obit on Estelle Ramey. The headline reads, Estelle Ramey, 89; Doctor, Sharp-Tongued Feminist. Just add Ramey to the list with Richards and Fallaci. What I am beginning to conclude is that it’s best to have an occupation or cause that no one else has so you can go out on your own terms and timeframe.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Gas Prices -- Where are they Going?

Liberalism is, I think, resurgent. One reason is that more and more people are so painfully aware of the alternative.
John Kenneth Galbraith, 1908-2006, economist

I have been saying ever since gas prices started coming down and not jumping back up in time for Labor Day that there is some connection to the upcoming mid-term elections. Some how the market is being manipulated, at least from my perspective, because if a hurricane strikes or a pipeline breaks that is an excuse to raise prices -- immediately.

Jay Leno once joked oil companies raise the price of oil after any mishap faster than one gets gas from a bean burrito.

My prediction is gas prices will again climb to more than $3 a gallon after the election no matter who wins, oil companies tend to support the Republicans because they believe in the Darwinian theory of capitalism.

However, Dr. Steven Taylor over at Poliblog (where I check in for his take on political events) doesn’t agree with me, and he makes a valid point, but I believe there is some collusion, and maybe OPEC is involved. I left a comment under one of this posts and here is his response, which makes sense, so if anyone has an answer or a theory I'd like to hear it, maybe my friend at Anything They Say will have an answer.

Dr. Taylor’s reply:
...The price of oil is determined by the commodities market, and that isn’t just driven by the oil companies–it is driven by traders.

Explain to me how the administration or the oil companies are able to manipulate the price of barrel of oil on the commodities market.

And, if they can, what would be their motivation for doing anything except keeping prices high?

You might argue that the GOP is good for business, but if they can manipulate the oil prices at will, why would they care about which party is in charge.

Further, the argument is predicated on the notion than an administration that is supposedly inept is somehow simultaneously hyper-powerful. That doesn’t tack.

And you know that I am not an auto-booster for Bush.
Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Friday, September 15, 2006 @ 8:42 pm under a Thursday post titled $2.27

Friday, September 15, 2006

More than a Simple Twist of Fate

… Everything from toy guns that spark
To flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark
It’s easy to see without looking too far
That not much is really sacred.

Bob Dylan, singer, songwriter

What’s the big deal about Bob Dylan using a phase here or a line there from some poet? The words are his most of the time. The New York Times ran the story yesterday about Dylan borrowing lines from Henry Timrod, sometimes known as the poet laureate of the Confederacy, for his new CD “Modern Times.” On his last CD, “Love and Theft,” a fan spotted about a dozen passages similar to lines from “Confessions of a Yakuza,” a gangster novel written by Junichi Saga, an obscure Japanese writer (this sentence was copied verbatim from the NYTimes article, well I changed the word album to CD).

These words are not just blowing around in the wind, Dylan has done some research to find these little known or forgotten writers and poets. The good news about Dylan’s use lines from other writers is that he brings them fame they most likely would not have received otherwise.

I wouldn’t think twice about being inspired to use words from another, it’s all right. I am not talking about plagiarism, more along the lines of using a phrase created by another and still creating an entirely different and new piece. Plato pointed out that the tragic poet is an imitator who is thrice removed the king and from the truth. Okay, so Plato was talking about imitation as it relates to the world, but every now and then, I have to get some use from my college texts.

Dylan is probably not entirely used to Google as a research tool or maybe he is and just assumes someone won’t uncover the source of his unoriginal lines, but the times they are a changin’. It would have been nice for Dylan to say inspired by Henry Timrod or Junichi Saga, but his ego or his attorneys advised against it. Now he needs shelter from the storm.

highlighted words are Dylan song titles, sort of.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

New White House Appointment
Toner Mishap Exclusive

Morals are a matter of taste.
Mike Leigh, British filmmaker

Disgraced Hewlett-Packard Co. Chairwoman Patricia C. Dunn, who resigned her leadership position on the HP board for spying on her peers on the board regarding a media leak, is going to be appointed to a Homeland Security position.

“Patricia Dunn is a patriot and a honorable America who will make a great addition to our efforts to protect the American people from the proliferating terrorists eager to attack freedom loving citizens,” said an unidentified White House official. “Without Patty’s brave forceful steps we could have had any number of computers or printers producing mushroom clouds.”

An uncorroborated report has it that Vice President Dick Cheney praised her efforts and said California attorney general Bill Lockyer would rather give traitors free reign to provide comfort to the enemy.

HP’s outside attorney appears to have had prior knowledge of the wiretapping and did not stop it. President Bush was so impressed by the attorney that he may introduce him as a Supreme Court judge nominee when one of those liberal jurists who’d rather make laws than interpret the laws retires or dies.

Toner Mishap will keep you posted on any new developments.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A Honest Pig or a Clean Liar

Bath twice a day to be really clean, once a day to be passably clean, once a week to avoid being a public menace.
Anthony Burgess (1917–93), author

I’m in a state of confusion now. I am a major proponent of hand washing frequently (see the posts just over their to the right Try a Little Cleanliness and the companion piece Urinal Selection Strategy), and especially after using the restroom, but a report in "Science Magazine" points out that:

Physical cleansing has been a focal element in religious ceremonies for thousands of years. The prevalence of this practice suggests a psychological association between bodily purity and moral purity. In three studies, we explored what we call the "Macbeth effect"—that is, a threat to one's moral purity induces the need to cleanse oneself. This effect revealed itself through an increased mental accessibility of cleansing-related concepts, a greater desire for cleansing products, and a greater likelihood of taking antiseptic wipes.

I believe most people 8 out of 10 will return your wallet or tell you that you dropped money – it’s just a guess. So, the study in "Science Magazine" may very well explain why most people don’t wash their hands. Now, I’m waiting for the study on why men spite in urinals and most times don’t flush them.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Let it Bleed or Exile on Main Street

“I've never had a problem with drugs. I've had problems with the police.”
Keith Richards, Rolling Stone

I am trying to write everyday, but I didn’t get a chance to read the newspapers yesterday, so I really have nothing to say, but there was the Rolling Stone magazine in my mailbox.

The story that caught my eye was the one about the Rolling Stones during the making of Exile on Main Street.

I am truly amazed that they could sustain their musical ability while taking so many drugs, dealing with sycophants, dozens of women and who knows what else. Somewhere in there you have to have enough discipline to rehearse and record. They did and they created what many consider their masterpiece. I don’t. I consider Let it Bleed with “Gimme Shelter,” “Midnight Rambler,” and “Live with Me,” to be a bit better.

Let me know which you prefer "Exile" or "Let it Bleed."

Monday, September 11, 2006


I have always considered it as treason against the great republic of human nature, to make any man’s virtues the means of deceiving him.
Samuel Johnson (1709–84), author

It’s a shame that the horrific events of 9/11 have to be made so political. The United States should have spared no expense to track down Osama bin Laden and eliminate the Taliban, instead the trauma and tragedy were used for someone else’s political agenda and gain.

The Bush administration should be vilified throughout history for such a blatant disregard for the country and a betrayal of its citizens.

They talk of a man betraying his country, his friends, his sweetheart. There must be a moral bond first. All a man can betray is his conscience.
Joseph Conrad (1857–1924), novelist

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Sunday Television

“Blessed is the man who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed” was the ninth beatitude.
Alexander Pope (1688–1744), English satirical poet

Two items of disappointing note on television this Sunday morning.

First up, will be Vice President Dick Cheney on "Meet the Press." Dr. Evil will use Tim Russert's platform to spew forth more lies and propaganda. He’ll tap dance and never give a straight answer and if he does it will be a lie. I’d like to see the Sunday political talk shows not allow anyone from the White House Gang to come on.

Second, is the U.S. Open men’s final. Andy Roddick vs. Roger Federer. I would like Roddick to win, but I suspect Federer will take it rather easily. I watched last night as Maria Sharapova beat Justine Henin-Hardenne 6-4, 6-4. I also dislike Sharapova because she thinks she is all that. Henin-Hardenne comes out in a somewhat traditional tennis outfit and Sharapova has some custom-made tennis dress that could double for an Oscar-ceremony type gown. I much prefer a low-key style to the “I’m all that” style. But, the most important reason for disliking her is that she is a cheater. In tennis one is not allowed to communicate with one's coach during the match. Sharapova and her coach were sending signals back and forth. In her press conference she refused to discuss it and sounded like someone from the White House Gang.

Update: Russert did a good job of asking tough questions throughout the program. Cheney appeared defensive about everything. He tried to again to resort to complete distortions such as "We caught or killed hundreds of top Taliban leaders." Oh really! Please tell us whom you have caught besides the five or six we are aware of. How many top leaders do we have?

Cheney also said that the America people don’t have the stomach for a fight. On that I disagree. The American people will rise to the occasion, but the White House Gang took advantage of our desire to find the terrorists and created a completely new agenda, thus dividing the country and the world.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Editorial Cartoonist

There is a relationship between cartooning and people like Miró and Picasso which may not be understood by the cartoonist, but it definitely is related even in the early Disney.
Roy Lichtenstein (1923–97), pop artist

Here is a book I am looking forward to reading – the Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Mike Luckovich has a new book coming out "Four More Wars. "

Luckovich was interviewed in the recent Newsweek magazine. He was asked, You have satirized numerous presidents. How’s this presidency different?

His answer: previously, whether I was dealing either a Republican or a Democratic president, I always felt that they were kind of up to the job, basically. And this president, to me, doesn’t seem that way at all. It’s very scary to me that he occupies the office.”

I couldn’t agree with him more, unless he also included the vice president and the secretary of defense.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric

When distant and unfamiliar and complex things are communicated to great masses of people, the truth suffers a considerable and often a radical distortion. The complex is made over into the simple, the hypothetical into the dogmatic, and the relative into an absolute.
Walter Lippmann (1889–1974), U.S. journalist

Katie Couric made her CBS News début last night. It appears to me that she is bringing a bit of the morning show to the evening news, which may not be a bad idea considering the evening news needs some new ideas along with new blood.

Admittedly, I am a Brian Williams watcher and I rather like his somewhat harder hitting style, but Couric segments were a bit more in depth. I am looking forward to her interview President Bush tonight.

More Gas from the Oil Companies

Even if gas prices fall, consumers will continue to be gouged at the pump the only thing that we can be sure rises faster that the price of gasoline is the skyrocketing profits of oil companies.
Major R. Owens, D. Rep. New York

Just as people are getting angry and feed up with gas prices the energy policy of the white house gang, Chevron announces a major oil find in the Gulf of Mexico. Coincidence or strategic planning?

Last year every last weather hiccup was cause to raise gas station prices two to five cents a day, but now with prices hovering around $3.00 a gallon and a barrel of oil fluctuating between $70 to $100, the oil companies are reporting $8 to $10 billion in sales every three months the troubles are behind us. Yeah right. Gas is dropping in price because we are in election season, so it’s time to announce gas is no longer an issue -- for now.

When was the last time gas prices actually came down around a major holiday as they did this Labor Day? I can’t recall a single one.

I don’t believe in conspiracy theories because no one can keep a secret, but Chevron must have surely known about this oil field for sometime, but why would they want to say anything until they could get the gas prices up to a point that is close to what they “should be” based on inflation. There will be some bumpy roads ahead, because it will take three to four years to get this new oil field piped to shore, but it will be smooth sailing everytime it's in the oil companies interest to reduce prices or announce new wonderful fields.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Welcome Fall*

To be interested in the changing seasons is, in this middling zone, a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.
George Santayana (1863–1952), philosopher, poet

Summer is the only season that starts with a holiday and ends with one, each being a three-day weekend one announcing the arrival of long warm days as well as commemorating the fallen soldiers, and the other heralding the labors of the proletariat. Neither weekend is sufficient to honor either group.

Only politicians and department stores keep the meaning of the weekends alive with public relation-type ceremonies used to lay wreaths on unmarked graves or to offer back to school sales.

Following on the heels of summer is Halloween, which signals the descent into the holiday season. Fall is a much welcomed time as it is invigorating and brings a sense of hopefulness to me as New Year’s brings for many others.

Allow me to wish you all a terrific fall season.
(*unofficially; the equinox is officially Sept. 21)

Monday, September 04, 2006

The Salt of the Earth

Let's drink to the hardworking people. Let's drink to the salt of the earth.
"Salt of the Earth" by Jagger/Richards, singer songwriters of the Rolling Stones

Without us the rich would not get richer, as easily.

Without us the high and mighty would have to roll up their sleeves.

What do we receive in return?
  • A society where everything is privatized and powered by greedy corporations who are further empowered by sneaking politicians looking to make a career on the backs of taxpayers.
  • A government that is trying to make Social Security a private portfolio statement rather than helping the majority minimize the indignities of poverty in old age.
  • A nation that divides its citizenry by poor and rich with little to no in between.
  • A government that continually lies to its people.

James McMurtry has written one of the most powerful and exacting songs regarding the current situation of the United States:

"We Can't Make it Here"
Vietnam Vet with a cardboard sign
Sitting there by the left turn line
Flag on the wheelchair flapping in the breeze
One leg missing, both hands free
No one's paying much mind to him
The V.A. budget's stretched so thin
And there's more comin' home from the Mideast war
We can't make it here anymore

That big ol' building was the textile mill
It fed our kids and it paid our bills
But they turned us out and they closed the doors
We can't make it here anymore

See all those pallets piled up on the loading dock
They're just gonna set there till they rot
'Cause there's nothing to ship, nothing to pack
Just busted concrete and rusted tracks
Empty storefronts around the square
There's a needle in the gutter and glass everywhere
You don't come down here 'less you're looking to score
We can't make it here anymore

The bar's still open but man it's slow
The tip jar's light and the register's low
The bartender don't have much to say
The regular crowd gets thinner each day

Some have maxed out all their credit cards
Some are working two jobs and living in cars
Minimum wage won't pay for a roof, won't pay for a drink
If you gotta have proof just try it yourself Mr. CEO
See how far 5.15 an hour will go
Take a part time job at one of your stores
Bet you can't make it here anymore

High school girl with a bourgeois dream
Just like the pictures in the magazine
She found on the floor of the laundromat
A woman with kids can forget all that
If she comes up pregnant what'll she do
Forget the career, forget about school
Can she live on faith? live on hope?
High on Jesus or hooked on dope
When it's way too late to just say no
You can't make it here anymore

Now I'm stocking shirts in the Wal-Mart store
Just like the ones we made before
'Cept this one came from Singapore
I guess we can't make it here anymore

Should I hate a people for the shade of their skin
Or the shape of their eyes or the shape I'm in
Should I hate 'em for having our jobs today
No I hate the men sent the jobs away
I can see them all now, they haunt my dreams
All lily white and squeaky clean
They've never known want, they'll never know need
Their shit don't stink and their kids won't bleed
Their kids won't bleed in the dirty little war
And we can't make it here anymore

Will work for food
Will die for oil
Will kill for power and to us the spoils
The billionaires get to pay less tax
The working poor get to fall through the cracks
Let 'em eat jellybeans let 'em eat cake
Let 'em eat shit, whatever it takes
They can join the Air Force, or join the Corps
If they can't make it here anymore

And that's how it is
That's what we got
If the president wants to admit it or not
You can read it in the paper
Read it on the wall
Hear it on the wind
If you're listening at all
Get out of that limo
Look us in the eye
Call us on the cell phone
Tell us all why

In Dayton, Ohio
Or Portland, Maine
Or a cotton gin out on the great high plains
That's done closed down along with the school
And the hospital and the swimming pool
Dust devils dance in the noonday heat
There's rats in the alley
And trash in the street
Gang graffiti on a boxcar door
We can't make it here anymore
Music and lyrics © 2004 by James McMurtry

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Death of a President – No Comment is Best Response

In our world it seems that as soon as a clear need appears, it is met falsely. It becomes a new occasion for exploitation.…We are not sold real apples or real ice cream, we are sold the idea of the apple, the memory of ice cream.
Saul Bellow (1915 - 2005), novelist

It wasn’t long ago that a movie or TV show would ever touch the subject of a presidential assignation, but “24” has and now “Death of a President” by British filmmaker Gabriel Range has gone so far as to combine archival footage as well as computer generated images to show George W. Bush being shot outside a Chicago hotel.

Artists tend to strive toward the shocking to inspire a reaction, even negative feedback is positive to an artist because it means that people are reacting to the work. The public relations for “Death of a President” are in high gear. I’m not sure anyone has seen the movie other than the still photography used to create publicity about the film, yet it’s being widely discussed before its premiere at the Toronto Film Festival next week.

The message here for groups against any particular film or book is to ignore it. The White House Gang attempted to ignore it by issuing a statement that says they will not dignify the movie with a response, but that comment was even too much. They should have said we never heard of it, and if we see it we’ll comment.

Newest Terrorist Threat -- Taxi Drivers

“When I asked him how long he had been driving a taxi, he said, Dree mouse.”
Mike Royko, journalist 1932-1997

Well, it’s what every racist wit (now there is an oxymoron) believes, but only Montana’s Republican Sen. Conrad Burns had the nerve to say it aloud: the United States is up against “a faceless enemy of terrorists who drive taxicabs in the daytime and kill at night.”

Burns’ campaign justified the slight by saying that the senator was simply point out terrorist can be anywhere.

The official reply from the union of cab drives: “Thank you very much.”