Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Conspiracy Theory -- Believe It or Not!

Civilization is a conspiracy. … Modern life is the silent compact of comfortable folk to keep up pretences.
John Buchan (1875–1940), author

There is an interesting two-page advertisement in the New York Times. I can’t find it online, just in the actual paper. It’s a letter from Paul Kuntzler, president, Court Reporters Transcribers, asking for his materials back from the Washington Post, specifically a video titled “The Men Who Killed Kennedy, the Final Chapter, Volumes 1 and 2.” According to the letter/advertisement the Post has been very slow in returning his materials and it still has not returned Volume 1.

He goes on through the two pages to detail the conspiracy to kill President John F. Kennedy. He says that Lyndon Johnson was involved, Richard Nixon was involved, George H. W. Bush, who then headed the CIA, was involved; Gerald Ford, who headed the Warren Commission, was involved, and Arlen Specter, who was a lawyer on the Warren Commission, was involved.

It is quite an interesting advertisement and makes one think twice about the entire conspiracy theory. What makes me think there may be more credibility to it than I had ever assumed is the recent political events that have led to George W. Bush’s election and many of the surrounding events.

The 2000 election snafu where the Supreme Court jumped in too soon, the 2004 Ohio voting snafu, President George W. Bush’s blatant high-handedness in doling out favors and political appointments to unqualified friends, the entire unnecessary war in Iraq, and the fact that Bush is just a front for Dick Cheney’s agenda.

I am not so ready to dismiss the conspiracy theory as I once was.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Tom Snyder RIP

Misers are no fun to live with but they make great ancestors.
Tom Snyder, (May 1936 - July 29, 2007) journalist, talk show host

In case you don’t recall, Tom Snyder worked in Los Angeles as the local news anchor here (los Angeles) on KNBC, channel 4 in the 1970s is my earliest memory. It was the bantering between Snyder and Ross Porter that started the downward spiral of happy talk on the evening news. If you watch the video below, David Letterman says happy talk started in New York, so who knows.

I don’t recall who left first whether Porter left to join the Dodgers or Snyder moved on to New York. However, I believe it was Dan Ackroyd’s parody that probably further helped Snyder’s career.

Singing with Emotion

Alas! all music jars when the soul’s out of tune.
Miguel de Cervantes (1547–1616), writer

I borrowed the idea of listing singers who move you from Janet at The Art of Getting By. Here is my list. No list attempting to name favorite singers who come across as believable in song and lyrics can start without Billie Holiday heading the list. She originated and perfected the art of singing with emotion. Without her we might still be listening to a bunch of Bing Cosby and Pat Boone type of songs and no saloon songs or rock and roll for that matter. The rest of the list is in no particular order of emotions:

Billie HolidayStrange Fruit: This song was written especially for Holiday and the pain and prejudice come through loud and clear. Frank Sinatra said many times that he learned to sing with emotion from watching and listening to Holiday. You can pick so many of her songs, when she sings that she is going to love you “Come Rain or Shine,” you believe her. When she sings “God Bless the Child” whose got his own, you know that child has something.

John LennonCold Turkey: The temperature is rising, fever is high, can’t see no future…Cold turkey has got him on the run and we feel as though we now know what heroin withdrawal is like without having to experience it first hand.

Ani DiFrancoUntouchable Face: You feel as though she stopped crying long enough to get this song out. The venom of the chorus stings and you want to almost feel sorry for the guy/girl. She is one note away from being Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction.”

Ann Sofie von Otter and Elvis CostelloBroken Bicycles/Junk: Costello combined Tom Waits’ song Broken Bicycles and Paul McCartney’s Junk, this is sung with poetic beauty and the lyrics are great.

Paul McCartney -- Yesterday: comes across as someone who has suffered through life and is now in the bars boring people with stories of yesteryear. Considering McCartney was in his mid-20s is truly exceptional. A plus for lyrics and A plus for singing with feeling to make this either the number one recorded song by other artists or second only to White Christmas.

Bob DylanPositively 4th Street: “You gotta a lot of nerve to say you are my friend.” I am not sure there was a more biting first line that not only captures many relationships, but easily translates to the corporate world.

Eric ClaptonTears in Heaven: Because this story is true the song is so much more potent. In case you don’t know, Clapton wrote this about his young child who fell out of the window of his Manhattan penthouse.

Frank SinatraIn the Wee Small Hours: who among us has not wished that your boy- or girl-friend would call late at night apologizing. The stings and Sinatra’s voice in this song are very moving. What make this song all the more powerful is you know Sinatra had been there too.

James McMurtryWe can’t Make it here Anymore: To me this song says what is causing America’s slide into a second rate power while China takes all our and the world’s manufacturing. Hear the song and see the video on my July 4th post.

Miles DavisBlue in Green: If this song doesn’t send you to the bottle when you are feeling down nothing will. The loneliness and desolation start at the first note.

The Kinks20th Century Man: This song just so perfectly sums up the issues of dealing with a modern society.

Neil YoungNeedle and the Damage Done: for all those who didn’t go through cold turkey.

Lucinda WilliamsThose Three Days: We all feel as though we were used.

Nina SimoneSugar in My Bowl: combine this with Holiday, Sinatra, and Davis and you’ll either be singing Lennon’s “Cold Turkey” or Young will be singing about you.

AerosmithGoing Down/Love in an Elevator: Living it up while I am going down for a chorus to be illustrates the rock and roll life. From various interviews Steven Tyler said the song came out of true-life experiences; the elevator even opened up on them in the lobby as they were going to town.

This is by no means a complete list, please add your favorites.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Miracles of Nanotechnology

All cruel people describe themselves as paragons of frankness!
Tennessee Williams (1914–83), dramatist

I just finished reading the front section of the Los Angeles Times and read the story about Vice President Dick Cheney’s heart surgery. The doctors replaced an implanted device that monitors his heartbeat.

Isn’t it amazing that through nanotechnology surgeons can find Cheney’s heart?

Notes From Vacation

Every man who possibly can should force himself to a holiday of a full month in a year, whether he feels like taking it or not.
William James (1842–1910), psychologist

The time is flying by. I still have another week, but it seems as though it will be here just as I settle into a routine. Finished two books (I’m a slow reader) “Out Stealing Horses” by Per Petterson and “Bangkok Haunt” by John Burdett, both were enjoyable.

Saw Bob Dylan in concert. Visited brother, sister-in-law and nephew in Tucson, enjoyed the summer storms. However, I have been out misanthroped by my nephew. He is beyond misanthropic. A misanthrope at least has some passion, even if it is a dislike of people. My nephew is so cool that his personality is frozen, but over time he thaws out to the lovable tot I once knew. Before I left, I gave him a number of burned CDs; I’ll have to ask his father if he liked them.

We picked up Nephew on the way to the concert, he came down the stairs from his new apartment and I sat in the back sit waving to him I finally get a slight head nod. I gave him grief about that for two days. At the concert, he and I were saving a table, when a mother and daughter were sharing their excitement about the upcoming concert. They turned to nephew and asked what his favorite Dylan songs were. “I don’t know,” he said, conversation over.

I asked him after they left if he had any Dylan CDs. “Oh yeah,” he told me, “I’ve down loaded all of them.”

“Do you have a favorite?”

“I like ‘It’s alright, Ma’ (I’m Only Bleeding.)’”

“Why didn’t you tell the mom and daughter that?”

“I don’t like chitchat.”

During the concert, I was bopping around in my sit to the music (daughter and I would have been up dancing), nephew sat there not even tapping his foot. The next day, a very nice couple came over for an evening barbeque and the man said about my nephew, he has cold water running through his veins.

“It’s more like embalming fluid,” I said.

He is a good kid. He recently turned 21, has his business degree, and is working in accounting.

A few days later, I golfed at a private club in Camarillo with On The Mark. What a luxury to play a fabulous course with no one behind us, no keeping score except to track birds, bogeys, and double bogeys. On The Mark, sunk at least a 40-foot putt for a bird, a very nice shot.

Vacation is wonderful!!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Feline as Grim Reaper

Against you I will fling myself, unvanquished and unyielding, O Death!
Virginia Woolf (1882–1941), novelist

Oscar the cat seems to have an uncanny knack for predicting when nursing home patients are going to die, by curling up next to them during their final hours. His accuracy, observed in 25 cases, has led the staff to call family members once he has chosen someone. It usually means they have less than four hours to live.
If that cat walked into my room he’d be joining me in the after life.

"He doesn't make too many mistakes. He seems to understand when patients are about to die," said Dr. David Dosa in an interview. He describes the phenomenon in a poignant essay in Thursday's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Doesn’t make too many mistakes. Who the hell cares? With that kind of reputation he’d kill people once he entered the room.

After about six months, the staff noticed Oscar would make his own rounds, just like the doctors and nurses. He'd sniff and observe patients, then sit beside people who would wind up dying in a few hours.

That is probably because they are allergic to the damn cat of death. Scat, get the hell out of here!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Mick Jagger turns 64

At 20 a man is a peacock, at 30 a lion, at 40 a camel, at 50 a serpent, at 60 a dog, at 70 an ape, and at 80 nothing.
Baltasar Gracián (1601–58), writer

The energetic rocker turns 64 today. Wow!

Keith on the other hand will turn 164 toward the end of the year, well at least he looks like he will.

No place like home

A comfortable house is a great source of happiness. It ranks immediately after health and a good conscience.
Sydney Smith (1771–1845), writer

I am a homebody. I am perfectly content to stay home, read, hang out, and relax. Traveling to downtown everyday fighting traffic both ways is wearing, so when I get the opportunity to stay put I take it with zeal.

Seeing Bob Dylan was a big deal and it gave me an opportunity to see brother and sister-in-law’s house, which is very nice. The photo is just a portion of the view from their backyard, which allows them to survey much of Tucson proper. While I was there, I saw part of a summer monsoon coming through with the lightening and thunder.

I started my drive to Tucson on Tuesday morning and I got a late start so I ran into all the rush hour traffic, but I am on vacation and not in a hurry, so I ignored most of it. Eighteen-wheelers passing each other like glaciers moving nowhere fast were my only frustration on the way there. I enjoyed the rainstorm driving through the desert.

I left last night at 8 and pulled into the driveway at 3 a.m. I sang duets with Dylan all the way home for seven hours to help me stay awake, which was easier than driving out there.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Misanthrope on the Road
Bob Dylan in Concert

Democracy don't rule the world, You'd better get that in your head; This world is ruled by violence, But I guess that's better left unsaid.
Bob Dylan, singer/songwriter

TUCSON, AZ – Bob Dylan played the Del Sol Casino here last night and it was incredible. It’s easy to say the show surpassed all my expectations because I had none. I had heard Dylan can be on or off it’s just a crap shoot. The concert review in the New York Times a few weeks ago said good things, but then that is New York, if you bomb there everyone will know.

If you bomb in Tucson who cares? Dylan apparently because I felt as though I saw a historic show. He opened with Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat, followed with Lay, Lady, Lay. He played guitar on both songs, he than moved to the organ where he played standing behind it the rest of the show.

To say that his voice is rough or course is not completely accurate; if it were possible, it’s more like he gargled with whiskey and rusty thumbtacks. The melody of many of the older songs were changed to the style of the new CDs and you had to sometimes wait until the chorus to figure out what song he was singing, but once you did, oddly the lyrics were clearer than on the CDs. To give you a close idea of how Dylan sang here are the words as I heard them


Theywalkedalonebytheold canalAlittleconfusedIrememberwell

after moving to the organ, he played the songs in roughly this order:
Watching the River Flow, Workingman’s Blues #2, Rollin’ and Tumblin’, Simple Twist of Fate, Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again, Million Miles, When the Deal Goes Down, Watching the River Flow, Señor (Tales of Yankee Power), Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine), Summer Days, Masters of War, and Highway 61.

The memorable songs to me were Workingman’s Blues #2 because it is a recent favorite. Masters of War is just as powerful and apropos, sadly, as it was when he first recorded it. He played it with a heavy organ sound. The rocker of the night was Highway 61, which was simply great rock and roll. My nephew who sat next me had to even nod his head a bit to that song, more on my nephew on a later post.

Dylan played for 90 minutes and never spoke a word to the audience, other than to introduce his band. During Highway 61 Dylan turned toward the audience and cracked a sly sardonic grin.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Brother Can You Spare $3.60

One more cup of coffee for the road,
One more cup of coffee 'fore I go
To the valley below.
Bob Dylan, “One More Cup of Coffee,” singer/songwriter

I did Starbucks for about a year, three days a week; it was my breakfast on the run. I have since stopped once I started adding it all up. Now I am very happy or should I say Grande happy.

Starbucks is raising U.S. prices on coffee, lattes and other drinks by an average of 9 cents a cup next week to help offset soaring costs for milk and other commodities, a spokesman said on Monday. What the spokesperson should have said was prices are rising to help meet profit projections for shareholders.

This will Starbucks' second price increase in less than a year. Try not going to the ubiquitous coffee shop and watch what will happen to prices. But, the smart money people know that we’ll do nothing.

"There will probably be some grumblings initially, but at the end of the day I think people aren't going to change their pattern of buying," said Morningstar Inc restaurant analyst John Owens.

Tombstone Blues

Mostly You Go Your Way, I’ll Go Mine
Bob Dylan, singer/songwriter

I am on the road to Tucson to see brother, sister-in-law, nephew and Bob Dylan. Brother called a few weeks ago and said that he could get better seats if he purchased four tickets instead of three, so I agreed to go.

Attempting to use a Southwest refundable ticket proved futile. The expiration goes by the time you purchased the ticket, not based on the date you were scheduled to fly. So, they deduct $50 and send the next ticket to you via U.S. Mail, not online because they want you to buy another ticket.

So, rather than hassle the security nonsense, the luggage ordeal, I determined it was easier to drive. I have my CDs and my iPod player, which says I can drive for 7.6 days without hearing the same song.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Not as Stupid as We Appear

The question now is: Can we understand our stupidity? This is a test of intellect, not of character.
John King Fairbank (1907–91), historian

Americans aren’t as ignorant as portrayed in the host of polls showing many of us failing tests of general knowledge and history, according to an article in the National Journal, run in today’s Wall Street Journal.

The polls I thought they were talking about were any that still showed support for George W. Bush and his disastrous presidency, but no, it’s the ones that show a majority of the people surveyed can name two of Snow White’s dwarfs but not two Supreme Court justices.

They point out that the questions are often poorly designed, misleadingly tricky and contain errors. The respondents couldn’t name the author of Pride and Prejudice because the questionnaire had Jane Austen’s name misspelled. This is my theory: when Grumpy and Dopey were listed people thought they were answering two questions Antonin Scalia as Grumpy and Clarence Thomas as Dopey.

We’re not so dumb after all.

But then again…

The story in Friday’s Los Angeles Times about Caesars Palace royal expansion explains the hotel’s renovations include a new 665-room Octavius Tower, but the icing on the cake is that the existing Forum Tower will be remodeled. All rooms will have flat panel televisions, iPod docks and doorbells. Doorbells!? We need another survey.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Don’t do it George W. Bush, don’t do it.

How many of our daydreams would darken into nightmares, were there a danger of their coming true!
Logan Pearsall Smith (1865–1946), essayist

At some point today the prince of darkness, no not knuckle head columnist Robert Novak, but the real thing, Dick Cheney is going to assume the powers of the President of the United States! President Bush will have a colonoscopy Saturday and temporarily hand presidential powers to Cheney.

The doctors are going to do to Bush with their medical instruments, what he has been doing the American people and the world with his policies.

With Cheney at the controls, I wonder if he will completely pardon Libby Lewis. If he does, I am sure we’ll be the last to know.

Friday, July 20, 2007

A Trip to Dodger Stadium
Two Hot Dogs, Peanuts and a Second Mortgage, Please

Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hit man.
Ronald Reagan (1911 -- 2004), U.S. President

At the risk of sounding like an old codger, going to a Dodger game is not what it once was. The declivity begins immediately with $15 parking and enduring the slow winding parade past a natural parking lot entrance to the backside of the same lot while being directed by an army of parking attendants. I’d rather find my spot myself; it used to be so much quicker.

There was a story in the travel section last weekend about U.S. travelers to Europe experiencing price shock because the dollar is so weak against the Euro. Let me tell you, you don’t have to go to Europe to experience the devaluation of the dollar, just go to Dodger Stadium. If Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke attended a game, he’d see inflation on par with oil prices. Oh that’s right, food and oil don’t count in the inflation statistics. One hot dog, $5.50; one scaled down medium soda, $4.50; one regular bottled water, $5.50; one bag of peanuts $5. 50 (actually, I don’t recall the price of the peanuts; I might be off by fifty cents. The price of the ticket, well, let’s say I could pay my gas bill in the winter and have money left over for a movie.

In between innings, regular commercials played on the giant scoreboard. Every piece of real estate is for sale at the stadium. Employee uniforms have manufacturer labels; advertising is blasted with flashing, blinking lights that would make Las Vegas take notice.

Don’t take me out to the ballpark, just open up a certificate of deposit in my name please and we’ll call it even.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Missed Explosion

Some people go to priests; others to poetry; I to my friends.
Virginia Woolf (1882–1941), novelist

I hadn’t heard the news. I am on vacation for a couple of weeks. I was sitting in the backyard starting a new book, “Out Stealing Horses” by Per Petterson, when Johnna from Blindsquirrel called and said she was okay and just missed New York’s latest explosion. You can read her more detailed story at her site.

Thank goodness you’re okay. I turned on the local news and there was nothing on, so I knew it couldn’t be a major disaster, so I turned to CNN and they were reporting it and I discovered a steam pipe burst from under the street. Working late sometimes does have its benefits. Immediately following the explosion she and other workers were told to leave, as in get out of the building now.

Johnna moved to the big apple to further her playwriting career, but she misses Los Angeles, but she is doing well and doing more than holding her own. She is fifty pages into her trilogy of plays and attends a writing class that workshops her scenes with real actors.

What happens is that when I don’t write for the blog I also don’t read other blogs as a general rule, because I usually get to the blogs through Tonermishap. Johnna’s dedication to writing has served as an inspiration for the past couple of years we worked together.

I guess it’s time to poke my head back into the world of blogs.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Hide and Seek in the Forest of ChouChou:
Gary Baseman at Billy Shire

My wife celebrated her birthday on Bastille Day (as usual) and allowed me the pleasure of taking her to the Gary Baseman opening at the Billy Shire gallery last night in Culver City -- awesome evening!

Baseman is known for his pervasive art (I'm pretty sure he coined the phrase, and plies his trade alongside fellow artists such as Tim Biskup). He is everywhere, not just with fine art but also vinyl toys, textiles, prints, books, soda cans... he blurs the line between low and high art, between fine art and commercial product. Not the first to do so, but certainly one of the more successful, and so quickly! I love his style and his various mythologies, many of which are very character-centered.

The "ChouChou" exhibit is an example of such, and we were able to chat with him at the opening and hear from the artist himself some of the ideas that went into it over the year he spent developing the concept. It was incredible to hear him describe the parts he had worked out and the parts that he still hadn't quite figured out, though he's already painting them...

Baseman is a guy I've been enjoying for a while, especially given our similar backgrounds: we both grew up in LA, both went to kindergarten at Laurel Elementary, both attended UCLA and had the same job there (years apart), both friends with my mentor Arvli Ward... and he has the type of success I'd like for myself.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Revenge Pooping:
The Worst Kind of Pooping

So my family and I were on vacation for a little while... sans poodles; they were being boarded chez in-laws, and so for ten days they probably sat staring out the window-in-law wondering if we'd abandoned them forever.

So we got back to town, picked them up, and brought them back to the B2 homestead... and we are still experiencing the horror of revenge pooping.

As you can no doubt guess, revenge pooping is when your pets, in an effort to get back at you for a perceived slight or injustice, take to ignoring all training and expensive dog doors (if available) and intentionally poop IN THE HOUSE.



For days on end.

Revenge pooping: the worst kind of pooping.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy July 4th

Freedom is not an ideal, it is not even a protection, if it means nothing more than freedom to stagnate, to live without dreams, to have no greater aim than a second car and another television set.
Adlai Stevenson (1900–1965),politician