Sunday, September 30, 2007

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Music recommendation

This is Maps performing "So Low, So High," an amazing sorta dreamy, orchestral, indie-pop masterpiece. In the word of my friend Monika it's "beautiful."


And I love this song ... 1234 by Leslie Feist

One Two Three Four
Tell me that you love me more
Sleepless long nights
That is what my youth was for

Old teenage hopes are alive at your door
Left you with nothing but they want some more

Oh, you're changing your heart
Oh, You know who you are

Sweetheart bitterheart now I can tell you apart
Cosy and cold, put the horse before the cart

Those teenage hopes who have tears in their eyes
Too scared to own up to one little lie

Oh, you're changing your heart
Oh, you know who you are

One, two, three, four, five, six, nine, or ten
Money can't buy you back the love that you had then
One, two, three, four, five, six, nine, or ten
Money can't buy you back the love that you had then

Oh, you're changing your heart
Oh, you know who you are
Oh, you're changing your heart
Oh, you know who you are
Oh, who you are

For the teenage boys
They're breaking your heart
For the teenage boys
They're breaking your heart

Friday, September 28, 2007

Wisdom is soooo cool

This story was passed along to me by my friend, Dave. Wow. This professor, who is profiled in this story in the Wall Street Journal, is a man of guts, humor, wisdom. I am glad I at least got a taste of this guy's. In some ways, I must confess, it's stories like this that embody my personal love-hate relationship with newspapers.

This story is simply amazing. Jeff Zaslow blows me away with this by staying out of the way as a writer and letting the story tell itself. But also, when I see what other writers like Zaslow are doing and compare myself, I can't help but feel like I wasn't shit compared to them. And this is not false modesty or compliment fishing, this is simply feeling utterly humbled by the simple, understated brilliance of this piece, which can also be found here ... But just in case that link doesn't work, which I'm not sure about since this is Wall Street Journal, I've pasted it below.


A Beloved Professor Delivers
The Lecture of a Lifetime
September 20, 2007; Page D1

Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon University computer-science professor, was about to give a lecture Tuesday afternoon, but before he said a word, he received a standing ovation from 400 students and colleagues.

He motioned to them to sit down. "Make me earn it," he said.

What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance? For Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch, the question isn't rhetorical -- he's dying of cancer. Jeff Zaslow narrates a video on Prof. Pausch's final lecture.

They had come to see him give what was billed as his "last lecture." This is a common title for talks on college campuses today. Schools such as Stanford and the University of Alabama have mounted "Last Lecture Series," in which top professors are asked to think deeply about what matters to them and to give hypothetical final talks. For the audience, the question to be mulled is this: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance?

It can be an intriguing hour, watching healthy professors consider their demise and ruminate over subjects dear to them. At the University of Northern Iowa, instructor Penny O'Connor recently titled her lecture "Get Over Yourself." At Cornell, Ellis Hanson, who teaches a course titled "Desire," spoke about sex and technology.

At Carnegie Mellon, however, Dr. Pausch's speech was more than just an academic exercise. The 46-year-old father of three has pancreatic cancer and expects to live for just a few months. His lecture, using images on a giant screen, turned out to be a rollicking and riveting journey through the lessons of his life.

He began by showing his CT scans, revealing 10 tumors on his liver. But after that, he talked about living. If anyone expected him to be morose, he said, "I'm sorry to disappoint you." He then dropped to the floor and did one-handed pushups.

Randy Pausch and his three children, ages 5, 2 and 1.

Clicking through photos of himself as a boy, he talked about his childhood dreams: to win giant stuffed animals at carnivals, to walk in zero gravity, to design Disney rides, to write a World Book entry. By adulthood, he had achieved each goal. As proof, he had students carry out all the huge stuffed animals he'd won in his life, which he gave to audience members. After all, he doesn't need them anymore.

He paid tribute to his techie background. "I've experienced a deathbed conversion," he said, smiling. "I just bought a Macintosh." Flashing his rejection letters on the screen, he talked about setbacks in his career, repeating: "Brick walls are there for a reason. They let us prove how badly we want things." He encouraged us to be patient with others. "Wait long enough, and people will surprise and impress you." After showing photos of his childhood bedroom, decorated with mathematical notations he'd drawn on the walls, he said: "If your kids want to paint their bedrooms, as a favor to me, let 'em do it."

While displaying photos of his bosses and students over the years, he said that helping others fulfill their dreams is even more fun than achieving your own. He talked of requiring his students to create videogames without sex and violence. "You'd be surprised how many 19-year-old boys run out of ideas when you take those possibilities away," he said, but they all rose to the challenge.

He also saluted his parents, who let him make his childhood bedroom his domain, even if his wall etchings hurt the home's resale value. He knew his mom was proud of him when he got his Ph.D, he said, despite how she'd introduce him: "This is my son. He's a doctor, but not the kind who helps people."

He then spoke about his legacy. Considered one of the nation's foremost teachers of videogame and virtual-reality technology, he helped develop "Alice," a Carnegie Mellon software project that allows people to easily create 3-D animations. It had one million downloads in the past year, and usage is expected to soar.

"Like Moses, I get to see the Promised Land, but I don't get to step foot in it," Dr. Pausch said. "That's OK. I will live on in Alice."

[Go to forum]
Readers, if you were giving your last public address, what advice would you share, who would you thank, what stories would you tell and who would be on your mind? Share your thoughts.
Plus, watch Dr. Pausch's full lecture at Carnegie Mellon's Web site.

Many people have given last speeches without realizing it. The day before he was killed, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke prophetically: "Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place." He talked of how he had seen the Promised Land, even though "I may not get there with you."

Dr. Pausch's lecture, in the same way, became a call to his colleagues and students to go on without him and do great things. But he was also addressing those closer to his heart.

Near the end of his talk, he had a cake brought out for his wife, whose birthday was the day before. As she cried and they embraced on stage, the audience sang "Happy Birthday," many wiping away their own tears.

Dr. Pausch's speech was taped so his children, ages 5, 2 and 1, can watch it when they're older. His last words in his last lecture were simple: "This was for my kids." Then those of us in the audience rose for one last standing ovation.

Write to Jeffrey Zaslow at

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Throughout the run-up to the invasion of Iraq I often wondered what was more courageous—holding onto one's convictions and ideals no matter what anyone else said (as George W. Bush seemed to do) or admitting one is incorrect and changing (as no one in the Bush administration seemed to be able to do ever).

I am still not sure, but after watching this statement from San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders I'm leaning toward the latter. In the clip below, Sanders tells his city (which is one of the few conservative areas of California) that he is reversing his long-held and campaigned upon position that marriage for same-sex couples should remain illegal. With a daughter who is a lesbian, as well as having members of his own staff who are homosexual, Sanders said that he couldn't look them in the eye and tell that their lives were any less deserving of all our protected civil rights. And more importantly that they deserved any less the opportunities for lifelong love.

Here's the direct link to the CBS affiliate in San Diego, too.


I haven't been blogging as much lately because of mostly fatigue and crazy working hours, but also because even though I'm trying to blog as many as five times a week, I don't want to be the guy who posts about nothing just to post.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Retail therapy

I was off-focus Monday. Definitely nothing as strong as colloquial depression or anything, but just a bit out of sorts mainly from various stresses. So I bought stuff: three books and a pair of shoes and really good beer and fresh fish from Whole Foods. The dinner was great and shoes always make me feel good, even when they are utilitarian in that they're merely replacing dead sneakers. This led my friend Amy to refer to me as her Carrie Bradshaw friend. There are worse things to be.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Musical heroes are out there

This is Rachael Yamagata playing for fans in an alley outside this amazing, tiny venue called the Hotel Cafe in Hollywood. She did this (which sadly is incomplete) to give the fans who couldn't get in a taste at least. She's the only musician I've met and she's way funny and cool so please support her work and see her shows.

And then here she is with her heart-breaking song "The Reason Why"

Friday, September 14, 2007

When do we give up our privacy?

This might be the most provocative thing I've read all year. It was posted on, perhaps my fave website ever for journalism.

The Connecticut Post has come under fire for publishing a huge story and info graphic listing the names, addresses, occupations and some other personal information of all the jurors, alternates and backup alternates in a trial to decide whether a person convicted of a crime should get the death penalty. This trial pertains only to sentencing.

I'm honestly, not sure where I stand on this. As many of you know: traditionally, newspapers and television news stations have not published jurors' names, but they have included other information, like gender breakdown, ethnic/racial makeup of a jury, occupations, just mainly not names and addresses.

Here's Al Tompkins (of the Poynter Institute) interviews with the reporter and editor at the Connecticut Post as well as some legal experts.

Posted, Sep. 13, 2007
Updated, Sep. 14, 2007

Tradition Defied: Connecticut Newspaper Names Jurors
When is it appropriate to identify jurors, and when do privacy concerns trump the principle of open courts?

By Al Tompkins (more by author)

In their two and a half decades working as jury consultants in such high-profile cases as the OJ Simpson trial, the Scott Peterson trail and the Enron trial, Dave Zagorski and Jo-Ellan Dimitrius said they have never seen journalists do what the Connecticut Post did last Sunday.

The Post ran a front page color graphic that took up nearly half of the page and a 90-column-inch story naming the jurors who had just been seated in a sentencing trial that began this week and is projected to last two months.

Courtesy of the Connecticut Post
It is an unusual story to begin with. The 12-person Superior Court jury must decide only whether Russell Peeler Jr. should get the death penalty or life in prison for killing an 8-year-old boy and his mother. A previous jury found him guilty, but deadlocked on whether he should die for his crime. The state Supreme Court ordered a second jury to be empaneled just to decide that question.

The Post
story not only named the jurors but also reported the communities many of them live in, where they work, how old they are and in some cases what they think about the death penalty. When Judge Robert Devlin Jr. told the jury what the paper published, one juror and one alternate juror asked to be excused from duty. One juror said she was concerned about retaliation. The second woman said she was worried about her children's safety. From May until August, it had taken four painstaking months of questioning, or voir dire as it is called in court, for lawyers to pick 12 jurors, four alternates and two backup alternates, and the panel had already lost one of the regular jurors due to health problems.

The reporter and the editor for the story say the public should know who is deciding a case, especially a high-profile case. But jury consultants and a former judge say publishing juror names while the trial is underway almost certainly would be solid grounds for an appeal. The jury selection was held in open court and there is no law that uniformly forbids journalists from publishing jurors' names. Even so, journalists seldom publish or broadcast juror names, especially before or during a trial.

High-Profile History

In other cases, courts found publishing the name of just one juror, let alone the entire panel, to be grounds for a mistrial. The first trial of a former Tyco executive (2004) ended in a mistrial after The Wall Street Journal and the New York Postpapers defended their actions saying the juror had attracted attention to herself. One critic suggested the newspapers be forced to pay for the taxpayer dollars lost when the trial abruptly ended.

But in the Bridgeport, Conn., case, the judge refused to declare a mistrial.

published the name of a juror who allegedly made an "OK" gesture to the defense team. By then, that trial had been running six months and cost millions of dollars. The
Stetson professor
Professor Charles Rose
"I can't come up with a scenario under which you would want the jury identified while a trial is underway," Stetson Law School professor Charles Rose says. Rose is the Director for the school's Center for Excellence in Advocacy and is a retired military judge advocate general. "For a defense attorney this as a tailor-made appeals issue."

The story was written by Post reporter MariAn Gail Brown, a graduate of Western New England School of Law. In her "spare time," she says she argues some of the Connecticut Post's Freedom of Information complaints before her state's FOI Commission.

For 42 days, Brown (and occasionally her colleagues) watched the voir dire proceedings. She says 1,422 people were brought in for jury duty; 388 of them were voir dired in-depth. Brown tells Poynter Online:

I listened and filled 42 notebooks. I am confident, there is not a question in my mind the judge, the prosecution and the defense attorneys knew I was going to name the jury. I believe the Connecticut Post is justified in naming the names of all of the jurors. In J-school, the mantra for writing a complete news story still is the five W's -- who, what, where, when, why and how. To not name these people would have done a disservice. A trial is a public event. Jurors' names are public information. To me, it's illuminating as well as frightening when I hear some people's interpretation of what rights the First Amendment confers. I believe our story upholds our obligation to inform our readers. It's more than a little disturbing the Constitutional rights some people are so willing to toss out in the name of misguided fear.

Brown says she set out to explain to the public how difficult it is to seat a jury in a death-penalty sentencing trial. "We feel it sheds light and understanding on the judicial process and how decisions get made -- what kind of background the people who make the decisions come in with."

Connecticut Post editor
James H. Smith
The editor of the Connecticut Post, James H. Smith, says the decision to publish the names of the jurors "was not a hard decision to make." In an e-mail interview with Poynter Online, Smith explains, "In nearly 40 years as a reporter and editor I have always named jurors. The Sixth Amendment calls for 'a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury.' How can you have a public trial with a secret jury? How do you know if the jury is impartial if you don't know who they are?"

Jury Consultant Concerns

Jury consultant Dave Zagorski, who helped choose the jury in the Enron trial, says journalists in that trial and most others can tell the public important details about jurors such as their age, gender, occupation, race or ethnicity while not naming the juror. "These days, in most communities, not everybody knows each other," he said, so publishing the juror's name doesn't add much useful information to people who do not know the jurors but opens them to big privacy concerns. "If this becomes a trend, will judges inform jurors, 'You must be aware the media have a right to publish and we cannot guarantee your privacy'? Every hand of every person who wants off the jury is going to go up. People really have a lot of concerns about their personal safety."

Connecticut Post reporter
MariAn Gail Brown
But reporter Brown says in any story journalists report includes names because names add credibility. She says "if you use names in any other story because you want to know who said what, why wouldn't you use it in this story?" On the matter of juror safety, Brown says that during voir dire, jurors where overwhelmingly concerned about one thing far more than privacy or safety matters. "The overwhelming concern that people had (about serving on the jury) was the length of time of the case. Their jaws were dropping when they heard they might be serving for two months," Brown told Poynter Online. "By a mile, the biggest concern was the economic hardship of serving on the jury." Besides, Brown points out, anybody sitting in the courtroom, including the defendant, knows the juror's names.

Professor Charles Rose suggests that if jurors knew their lives would be laid open on the front page of the Sunday paper, they might lie or refuse to answer voir dire questions about their personal beliefs or to give intimate details of their lives that lawyers want to know when seating a jury. "You are giving them an overwhelming incentive to be dishonest," he said.

Jury consultant Zagorski says publishing juror names invites jury tampering and intimidation not just during a trial but after a trial if the jury makes an unpopular decision. "With a population of adults that already dreads jury service, now this adds concerns for their privacy and personal safety into the mix. What if this had happened to the jurors on the Chicago mob trial last week? Do you think those 12 people would be getting a very good night's sleep this week?"

Unanticipated Issue

Editor Smith says none of the jurors who were seated in the case expressed concern over their safety, and the paper, he said, would have been sensitive to those concerns, had they arisen. "We recognize there are times when witnesses and/or jurors should be protected from harm, say, in a Mafia figure's trial. In this case not the judge, not the prosecution, not the defense moved to make jurors' names private. They knew we were there and they knew we were writing about the case."

Smith has battled to open courtrooms and court proceedings before. "We argued in Superior Court earlier this year to make jurors' names public in another case and in the course of that argument learned that there were visible threats made against some of the jurors. So we did not pursue that and decided against naming the jurors."

But in this case, reporter Brown says, "We would have had to have seen and believed there was a compelling reason that people were fearing for their safety. If that was the case, there were attorneys that would have argued that -- they would have wasted no time arguing that."

Even though neither the judge nor the attorneys involved in the Russell Peeler trial attempted to prevent the Post from publishing the juror's names, once the story ran, the defense attorney was furious. The Post reported on Monday:

Peeler's lawyer, Erskine McIntosh, urged the judge to put a stop to the proceedings, saying he is concerned the information in the newspaper could hurt his client's right to a fair trial.

"I can barely put into words my disgust with the Connecticut Post. They have precluded Mr. Peeler from getting a fair trial by this journalistic misconduct," he said.

State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict told the judge he agrees with McIntosh only on one point: "This was an exercise of colossal misjudgment by the Connecticut Post."

But the remaining 15 jurors and alternates said despite the paper's coverage, it would not affect their ability to continue to serve, which raises the question: Is concern over whether to name jurors overstated?

Amendments at Odds?

The Connecticut Post readers' blog: Readers react to newspaper's decision to publish juror's names.

Balancing the Sixth and First Amendments.

The Media and Sam Sheppard
The Post's editor points out, "There has always been a tug and pull between the First and Sixth Amendments. A free and unfettered press may make it harder to recruit jurors, but I come down on the side of public trials. All branches of government have complained that the First Amendment gets in the way of efficient government. I think the free press helps elucidate the working of government, including jury trials."
And, Smith says, the courts themselves have spoken to the importance of "open trials." By Smith's reckoning, the more open, the better. He uses a couple of court decisions to make his point. In his e-mail exchange with Poynter Online, the editor writes:

In Globe Newspaper Co. v. Superior Court (457 U.S. 1982) the First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled "Knowledge of juror identities allows the public to verify the impartiality of key participants in the administration of justice, and thereby insures fairness, the appearance of fairness and public confidence in that system.

The seminal U.S. Supreme Court decision is Press-Enterprise Co. v. Superior Court, 464 U.S. 1984, and it held that the First Amendment requires jury selection to be held in open court unless a particularized showing can be made that permits overriding the public's right. "The open trial thus plays as important a role in the administration of justice today as it did for centuries before our separation from England. The value of openness lies in the fact that people not actually attending trials can have confidence that standards of fairness are being observed; the sure knowledge that anyone is free to attend gives assurance that established procedures are being followed and that deviations will become known. Openness thus enhances both basic fairness of the criminal trial and the appearance of fairness so essential to public confidence in the system."

Classic Case

Journalists have created a stir by publishing juror names for decades. Three weeks before the 1954 trial of Sam Sheppard, three Cleveland, Ohio newspapers published all of the names and addresses of the prospective jurors. Attorneys said the potential jurors received anonymous telephone calls, letters and threats and the jurors got so much publicity that they were were treated as minor celebrities. The pretrial publicity and the circus atmosphere in the courtroom lead to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that forever changed the rules of press behavior and courtroom decorum.

Over the years, judges have attempted to withhold juror information, close courtrooms to the press and public. The Reporter's Committee for Freedom of the Press says the use of anonymous juries -- whose individual identities are kept completely secret, even from the parties to a case -- is on the rise.

Reporter Brown says she has gotten a torrent of negative e-mails and phone calls since the story appeared Sunday. "One came from the son of one of the jurors," she said. She says the caller expressed concern about his father's safety. But in follow-up emails, the same man said he was not really concerned about his father's safety, but he said he was reacting to his surprise of seeing his father's name and hometown in the paper.

Brown said several callers wanted to know her home address and phone number.

Editor Smith says despite the public reaction, the free flow of information is worth the uproar. "We've covered this issue before. I've written about it before and still many readers are aghast. I don't think the press generally has done a good job in convincing the public of the importance of public juries."

Here are the thoughtful comments of some of my friends ...

• If absolutely compelled, you can publish demographic info without using jurors names. But the public benefit of publishing is small compared to the potential harm. There is no reason to do this, other than to say you can.

• How important was the timing of the article? If this was printed the day after a verdict wouldn't it have been just as timely and pertinent? In that case, the public good would be served by an open preceding and the jury/defendant would be spared any attempts to sway the decision making.

No one seems to take issue with cloistering a jury to prevent outside tampering. The idea that the jury is making it's decision soley based on the cases presented is an important (though idealistic) one.

• My gut reaction is that this is an issue of privacy. It's one thing if a person breaks a law and has name, age, place of work, address, etc. published. It's another thing if you're fulfilling your mandatory civil duty and suddenly, you're front page news. If we had a volunteer jury system, that would be one thing. But we _have_ to serve. And because it's obligatory, I have a real issue with a news outlet making the call on whether it's ok to reveal my personal information. As a private citizen who, under the law, has to serve, why should I have my personal details splashed across the front page of a paper when I'm complying with the law?

And what exactly qualifies the Connecticut Post to make the call as to whether publishing juror names would put those jurors' safety at risk?

I don't think jurors count as public figures. And I think the Connecticut Post overstepped its bounds here. What is the value in publishing these names? Does publishing this personal information serve the public good?

I think it was last year, the Phila. Inquirer published the names, photos and parishes of all the Phila. Archdiocesan priests who had been accused of sexually abusing children. This? Is a public service in my mind. These were men who broke the law, posed a threat to the innocent and defenseless and were permitted to hide behind their office for years.

Jurors? Not so much. If every case were decided by a jury of one, yeah. I might be interested to know who is effectively deciding legal precedent. But the system is designed to be collaborative and to (in theory) involve a cross-section of citizens that should provide a reasonable expectation of a fair trial.

If I think a juror is unfit to serve, what exactly am I going to do about it? I have no say and no recourse. It's the prosecutor's and the defender's jobs to vet these people.

If I find out a pedophile lives down the street, I can better protect my kids by preventing their having any contact with that person. And by committing a crime, that person has given up some expectation of privacy. A juror should not have to relinquish his/her expectation of privacy as a private citizen for doing his/her civic duty.

• Here are my thoughts ... As someone who served on a jury in a murder trial, I would NOT want to see my name and address in print. Nor do I believe that this serves the public good. During selection I saw person after person seemingly lie to try and get out of jury duty. One of the jurors who ultimately was selected revealed that she lied during selection hoping she'd be excused. [Incidentally, she was warned about her behaviour during trial and was almost found in contempt.] If people knew of this stipulation, that their personal info would be revealed, I could only imagine how many more people would try to dodge their civic duty. And it's not to me about accountability or a lack of it. I took my duty ultra-seriously and despite the frustrations and lost time and occassional boredom, I felt proud in a weird way to contribute to our democracry. So you don't have to publish my name to tap into my ethics and honour.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Some very good new music

Since moving to Los Angeles I've definitely become more and more of a snob—NPR, tofu, organic food, loving-ultra-high-fuel-efficiency vehicles, not setting foot in Wal-Mart, and probably especially music. I like to say that I'm not a music snob and certainly try never to begrudge people their tastes, for what moves someone emotionally is what moves someone emotionally and to shit on that is to invalidate someone's feelings.

But after five years of the Troubadour, KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic, Indie 103.1 and friends like Dave, Monika, Amy, Machiko, Andrea and Katie I couldn't help but develop more distinctive and obscure tastes. Most of the concerts I've been to in the last five years are for bands most of my non-L.A. friends have never or hardly heard of. This honestly makes me sad ... for the artists whom I wish got more exposure and for my non-L.A. friends who I wish had more easy access to great music. And sadly, the Internet doesn't quite count, b/c they all have high-speed Net, but with fams, jobs and such it's not exactly easy to find the time. I get that now.

So first check out Passport Approved. It's a syndicated radio show, which of course originates in Los Angeles. The show features new stuff from the next-big-things. Sure most won't amount to much, but you can at least say that you were there first for those that do. The show is how I learned about Candie Payne. She's a bit loungey and with a hint of that retro-beat sound, but with a bit more desperation and less sunniness.

Waste Waste Waste

Any wonder our great blue marble hurtling through spacetime is getting fucked ... We ordered six (six!) accordian file folders and a package of dry erase markers from Staples. And this was the packaging!

Note the cavernous empty space after we took out the bubble packaging ...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Six years ago we all changed

I wrote this about six years ago a few days af Sept. 11.

Some of you have heard some of this in bits and pieces before from me, and for any redundancy i apologize. at a time of great tragedy and seemingly unbridled emotions that run the gamut from shock to despair to rage, the last thing any of us needs is redundancy from some arbitrary guy on his own makeshift pulpit, RIGHT?

8:45 a.m. EDT Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. A generation seeking definition got something it never could have wished for when iconic symbols of the indomitableness of capitalism were leveled by the actions of some madmen. (though formally trained as a "journalist" from a prestigious school [read expensive] i feel OK using madmen here).

I didn't learn about the two jets ramming into the World Trade Center towers and the jet hitting the Pentagon and yet another jet crashing in Pennsylvania until like 11 a.m., when an episode of Bewitched on the WB got interrupted by "breaking news." I had been sleeping in Tuesday, because of the then-seemingly important primary elections in New York state. When I saw the first video of the crashes and the burning upper levels of the tower it just didn't hit me what had happened. I naively assumed with a cool-headedness a child has when his Lego house gets run over by the family dog, that we would simply rebuild the top floors of the towers -- no problem.

When NBC showed the first footage (that I got to see) of the concrete, steel and glass transmute to dust and fire, naivete was replaced by a numbness, which still has a life in me. every time i think that i have processed the disaster, i see footage of another man or woman, mother or father, sister or brother, son or daughter, holding a photo up to a television camera making a futile and desperate plea for someone to phone home and i shed another tear. the numb parts of me keep melting and someday maybe i won't cry anymore.

When I finally dragged myself away from the television and into the office, it seemed as though I had walked into a movie and not my place of work, which lately had been my own personal heck (hell, is way too strong a word, but i certainly have not been happy heading to work in the last few months). Editors were running around like headless chickens -- one told an editorial assistant that he would be an asshole all day, and not to take things personally -- and reporters were all living this major contradiction. They were at once singularly focused on the disaster but they were distracted by everything about it.

I don't remember a whole lot to be honest about that first day -- at least not in enough detail as to where i would bore any of you with it (at least not more than i already have and am continuing to do with these asides). I did my job basically is what I remember, talked to people about their reactions and then got back to work and tried to write them. but as they struggled to find the words to describe what happened I also failed to find the words to describe what they told me and the looks in their eyes. now five days later the words still don't come.

Day 2 is honestly more of a blur than day one. thanks to the insight of a colleague, i realized that the reason we all were fucked up with this one, is that we were our subjects. unlike covering a funeral when you sympathize, but can maintain your professional distance by drawing on your training and experience, it was virtually impossible to disconnect.

the things that really stick out are crying just a little on the way to work, knowing that thousands of others would never be going to work again and the two army recruiters i talked to for a story on recruiting asking me to go work for the army as a reporter. Getting assigned the story about angry citizens signing up to join an organization that defends freedom by abandoning their free will and undertaking the most futile act imagineable if called upon (going to war), was surreal (apologies salvador dali for probably misusing the word). Here I was a pacifist talking to people who knew what the problem was and more importantly -- the solution. More guns.

I guess in this case the process imitates the life experience (score one for jackson pollack). in the midst of this I was holding onto the one great joy in my life.... the birth of my nephew. unfortunately the events of last week so overpowered me that i didn't mention it until now, much as how last week alex morgan (don't know how to spell last name) was not really on my radar screen that much. sad, huh, that a terrorist horror drowned out life's greatest gift of all (holy we are the world, batman!).

Realizing that my i wasn't coping very well, i cut out of work pretty early wednesday, before more everyone else. and before the second day of free dinner. seems as though when glass-office editors have to work late at night then dinner is for everyone. must be nice. but more important than free dinner was the need to be alone with my emotions and thoughts. So i headed out to my favorite place in the Capital Region and perhaps my fave place ever -- the Grafton Peace Pagoda. a 120-foot buddhist monument dedicated to Peace. there i found inspiration in words -- something i had not been able to provide myself.

"We all hurt. We all suffer the sins of man, not as nations or as religious organizations, but as one spirit."

By this time declarations of payback and retribution and vengeance were making their way onto the airwaves and into the papers and onto mass e-mail forward lists. as sad as everything up to that point had made me, this made me sadder than anything else. more lives will be lost. though perhaps not innocent, all i could ask myself was how innocent am i? have i not been complicitous with my own government when they have done things i would object to if they bothered to tell me about them?

i wouldn't figure it out until later, when a pastor at a local church articulated it, but the words of our president really bothered me. he has quickly become known for his God Bless America sign off, but where was God in his life? How could a loving God who preaches forgiveness and turning the other cheek, possibly condone killing? how hypocritical to abandon the most basic of tenets as soon as it was no longer convenient. Shouldn't true leadership and greatness be the ability to hold fast to one's ideals during the most trying of crises. For how can one formulate an ideal solution to a problem if one does not live to ideals in his life????

I slept easier though wednesday night..... for i at least had discovered the roots of my own turmoil related to the attacks. I was now able to focus on just processing the deaths of thousands, billions of dollars in destruction and a paralyzed nation.... wait a second, why did i want the clarity to deal again???? suddenly i felt like a starfleet cadet (sorry, non star trek fans) stuck in the Kobayashi Maru (the no-win scenario). and just as i was about to feel sorry for myself, i saw footage of someone holding up a photo to a television camera asking for a loved one to contact him. despite all the perspective the disaster had brought, i was still petty enough to think that my problems mattered.

Thursday brought more of the same, but also something new. as the news channels continued their commercial free 24-hour coverage, the unfolding of events was slowing, and the propogation of fringe thoughts and tangential analysis was becoming more common. "now we take you to INSERT TOWN NAME HERE, where the man on the street wants to know when the U.S will respond and how forcefully"

Oscar Wilde once said that patriotism is the virtue of the viscious. I found myself in agreement lately. Not that i hate america or don't appreciate the fact that it allows me to criticize, live like a fat cat and enjoy freedoms unlike anywhere else, and i wouldn't trade it for the world. but the idea of human-made lines on a map indicating whose life may be worth saving and whose life may be worth taking, just doesn't make sense. and to too many people the red white and blue were starting to become a symbol for taking up arms. The President's promises of getting the folks who did this, only seem to serve to buoy those whose narrow vision of justice is not peace and liberty and merciful authority, but an eye for an eye.

Fortunately friday and saturday afforded me the distraction of my nephew. sunday brought me back to work, and perhaps my first sense of hope since visiting the peace pagoda. i met Jo Page, pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in Niskayuna, NY. Though I am an atheist and have been for some time, i do not deny the power of spirituality nor my own alt-belief in a form of spirituality and faith -- mine is just in humanity and the wonders that are us. nevertheless, Jo Page is one of those people that has a radiance, one cannot help but be illuminated by. she challenged her congregation to embrace all the forgiving precepts (bad word?) of christianity in this time of crisis.... and it was music to my ears.

tomorrow (or actually later today) is another day.... i hope to continue hearing the music

Monday, September 10, 2007

Best feeling in a long while ...

... humbled. I was recently completely disarmed by a friend's kind words about me. It was almost indescribable, but definitely so waaaay cool and welcome. I think more people should feel this way more often. It's such an amazing thing to be without guile or sarcasm or irony or schadenfreude. It was a pure moment. I've thanked this person, but still ...


Sad about the Bills. :( But much sadder about what happened to back-up tight end Kevin Everett, who was injured during a helment-on-helmet collision. He was stretchered off the field while immobilized and according to reports had a long, emergency surgery on his neck. He was in critical condition on a respirator. They have wisely been very guarded about the prognosis, b/c it's waaay too early. But thus far there was even question as to whether he'd walk again. I give the Denver Broncos credit ... before going into his Q&A session with the media, Bronco kicker Jason Elam (who won the game on a time-expiring FG) said that his team's prayers were with Everett.

Such an expression of genuine concern rooted in what I am sure is an empathy shared by men who play such a violent sport reminds me that the shared love of people can transcend religion. So why must we fight over God?

Friday, September 07, 2007

For what ails ya after a long day of work

Glass Mountain Syrah wine. I can add this to my list of shit I would do ads for along with Icy Hot and Claritin. I can drink a bottle of this wine and still function the next day at work no problem. But it certainly has a richness of flavor but lightness of body that makes it a great unwind wine.

And after watching the video for Rilo Kiley's "Silver Lining" I have a new favorite some from Under the Blacklight. It had been "Dreamworld," but this song is break your heart sad and maybe cry. And I love it. When Jenny Lewis sings "I never felt so wicked as when I willed our love to die"—well, I can't imagine a sadder lyric EVER, especially because there's a tone of kiss-offness to it. Wow. I know I've been largely disappointed by UTB, but this song is soooooo good.

Yay wine and yay Rachael Yamagata!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

R.I.P. (art and my brain)

Luciano Pavoratti died yesterday. He wasn't the best tenor of all time, but he made opera famous and popular (at least a little) and that's a great thing. I'm not sure if anything has ever captured emotion as well as opera in the history of history.


Work has been killa (back to back 13+ hour days). So unlike many people who work to exhaustion, I can't just go to bed when I get back late. I need to unwind. So tonight it was Top Chef on the TiVo, PTI on the TiVo, Kimmel performance for Rilo Kiley and then some IMing while watching Oprah. Tonight's episode ... aging. Oprah did some stuff on the Dove campaign for real beauty thing and the call out they had for 50+ models, mini-profiles of three women defying age (including a 70-year-old woman who looked about 40) and then makeover type stuff with people being shown how to change their dress and look to get it together. Bravo fashion guru Tim Gunn (how cool is be, btw?) assisted with the clothes makeover. And he gave one woman some knee-high suede boots, and noted that EVERY woman should own a pair. And you know what, he's so fucking right! Knee-high suede boots are way sexy.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

I LOVE WEATHER (and amazing Rilo Kiley songs)

Humane heat conditions have returned to the Westside. Yay!

Late tonight one of my former students asked me a Rilo Kiley/Jenny Lewis lyrics-related question. While trying to hunt down the answer I started playing random RK songs and realized how much I don't feel as if Under the Blacklight holds up. I still give it a B or B-, but this is a band that I love. That has made me feel like William Blakeishly attaining "higher innocence" when I listen to some of their songs. And I'm sad and a bit disappointed that the new album doesn't make me do that.

I think the detailed review is coming this week.

But if you're able go listen to "With Arms Outstretched" or "Wires and Waves."

Monday, September 03, 2007

Ultimate stupidity (mine)

To enjoy the Labour Day weekend, a couple friends (Dave and April) and I decided to go hiking. It's been a heat wave in the Los Angeles basin lately and Sunday, Sept. 2 wasn't any different, so we chose a coastal hike—The Gaviota Wind Caves, north of Santa Barbara.

We head out of L.A. by 8:30ish a.m. to beat the wicked heat, so we figure that should have us at the trailhead around 10:30. The directions from are hit and miss for precision, but these seem really simple.

"From the 101 exit at Gaviota Campground, just before the entrance to the campground,veer to the right and up the hill. Park in parking area and follow the road beyond the gate and mountain lion danger sign."

We follow the directions perfectly and park in the parking area. As we get out of the car we see large group of a few adults and half -a-dozen plus small children walking toward the parking area from the north. They're wearing hats, backpacks and appear to be finishing a hike. Dave, April and I start heading north on the paved road assuming that the group is coming from the trail, despite the absence of any trail signs. [Note: California is not good about marking trails, at least not compared to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation]

It's already WARM, but with a pristine view of the Pacific Ocean to our left who cares. We walk about a half mile north on the paved road and notice a gate on the right with a mountain lion warning on it. I hadn't told anyone about this. More importantly, even though the directions said to follow the road behind the gate and mountain lion sign, nothing about this scene says "trail starts here" to any of us. There's a very short road and no apparent trail at the end of it. We press on.

There are several cars and trucks that pass us, also headed north up the road. There are ZERO other hikers. This seems a bit odd to me, given that reviewers raved about this hike and noted that it's kid-friendly. Shoudln't there be some people out on a holiday weekend?

After another quarter mile we come to a gate that warns against trespassers. So no trail yet, and a warning about trespassing. But the gate is open so we continue to head up the road. I tell Dave, who is videotaping our excursion, that I think the "No trespassing" applies to the fenced in land to the side of the road, not the road.

After about another half mile we're hot, there's no trail in sight but there's a guard shack and gate leading onto the Hollister Ranch property. And um, no wind-eroded sandstone wind caves. We approach the guard who kindly tells us that we need to head back to the mountain lion sign, walk through the opening in the gate, follow the road and the trail will be "right there."

We walk back steeled against the overhead sun by our vigor to attack the trail and be awed by millenia of erosion. BRING ON THE WIND CAVES!!

Upon returning to the moutainlion-signed gate, it's obvious where the road is and we follow it. But getting to the end of the road, it's not so obvious where the trail is. We head out along a sem-cleared path. We're all wearing shorts and getting scraped shins, but this merely confirms a note on our directions that says "litttle ones" should wear long pants and sleeves. However, after about 50 feet there's no trail. There are other sorta clearedish spots, but there's no trail. And as we crawl through uncleared low brush (more scrapes and soon blood) Dave looks to the right. It's about 60-70 feet down a pretty steep slope covered in sharp grassy terrain and shrubs.

"That's not anywhere I'd bring kids."


We pass the directions among ourselves half a dozen times trying to figure out what we're misinterpreting. "
Park in parking area and follow the road beyond the gate and mountain lion danger sign."

What the fuck, right? We followed the road, but there's just no trail. After another 15 minutes of aimless wandering through shin-scraping low grasses and plants we give up. Of course we've wandered so much that when we get back to the road we're at a point that requies basically sliding on our butts down a dusty hill. I've also managed to ruin my Skechers by ripping part of the sole off my left shoe.

As we walk back toward the car, I am pissed. Dave and April are trying to assuage my anger by telling me that we've still had a fun day and have a great lunch coming up in Santa Barbara. We examine the directions again and can't see how any of us missed a thing. We pass a woman walking a dog and Dave starts to ask her about the wind caves, but she ignores him. Not really, she just never heard him because she was listening to her iPod.

We get back to the car and are starting to put our stuff away and I change into the shoes I had brought to change into after the hike. Dave and April ask two more people, including headphone woman, about the wind caves. Snake eyes. Eventually someone notices that there's a gate about 20 feet south of the car. Beyond the gate lies a paved road. "
Park in parking area and follow the road beyond the gate and mountain lion danger sign."

We slowly walk over to the gate, knowing that we'll see a Mountain Lion sign. We do. Well, the good news is that the hike is back on, even if this is perhaps literally the supidest-feeling moment I've ever had.

So long story, long ... we do the hike. It's awesome. It's short (about 2.5 miles in and out) but it's up and down. So up on the way in and down on the way out. The caves are really cool. Big enough to walk around in and with beach-sandy bottoms. Mrs. Yunke, my third grade teacher, said that "erosion" was her favorite word. After checking out what wind had wrought over the millenia, I was forced to see her perpective.

As for the mountain lions ... No sightings, but ...

As we left the second wind cave Dave and I considered trying to enter a third, which was higher up and would require scrambling up about 20 feet of rock face. As I'm paused looking for good hand and footholds, Dave points out that a lion could be in that cave. It's high up and shadey, which would be very nice in the heat. Usually I blow off warnings like this, but honestly, I acknowledge that Dave has a good point. As I start my descent I notice sets of four vertical lines scratched into the rocks.

"Look at those. Those are claw marks." I jump down the final foot.

We leave.

Upon returning home I realize that I left my cell phone in Dave's car. Since we don't have a landline at our apartment (which many months later I still love), I immediately e-mail Dave and April to let them know that I'm headed over to get my phone (after showering and changing). I get the phone no problem and am ready to leave. I stick my key in the ignition, turn it and NOTHING HAPPENS. Literally nothing. No evidence of any sign of life from the engine. I'm not bothered by a dead battery, b/c I have AAA, but at 5:35 p.m. on a Sunday of a holiday weekend I'm a bit concerned about when this can get fixed.

I call AAA and they say that they'll send somebody out by 6:05 p.m. They tell me that the service guy will bring a battery testing kit and can even sell me a battery if needed. As I wait for AAA I call Dave to report the bad luck and recall a recent car story of relevance.

A couple weeks ago I was getting out of my car upon showing up at work and heard the dingdingding of "you left your lights on." Weird! I hadn't heard it when I got in that morning. And I hadn't heard it when I got out the night before ... but I had been talking on my phone. And maybe I did leave my car lights on over night? But I don't remember seeing them on? But I didn't walk in front of my car when I got out. Since a week went by with nothing happening I had just started to convince myself that I had instead inexplicably turned them on that morning on the drive in.

As I was re-telling this story to Dave I amended it to note that I obviously had left them on. This battery wasn't that old.

Jimmy the AAA guy shows up. He's awesome. Runs the test, which confirms the battery needs replacing and at least lets me know that I don't need a new alternator. While he's installing the new battery a couple stops. The 50-something guy asks me what happened. I tell him that AAA is doing a battery replacement. After a few seconds though he has suddenly commandeered Jimmy and is asking him about what types of cars are most reliable, what Jimmy would recommend as a minivan, etc. I would have tried to help, but dude's female companion button-holed me about politics, slavery, Korea, Vicente Fox, Geroge W., McDonald's, you name it. And the best thing about 12 minutes with her, after about 1 minute she decided that personal space didn't need to be a consideration among strangers talking in the presence of a AAA guy named Jimmy on a really hot day. She stood directly next to me for the rest of the conversation despite me standing with crossed arms and leaning away.

Oh well, at least she said that she liked South Koreans after I shot through her expectations. She assumed I was born in the States because I don't have an accent. I corrected her immediately that I was born in Seoul, not telling her that I was adopted as a baby and raised in the states.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Day late, not a dollar short I hope

I think among my mother and my teachers I must have told been told "Someday you'll be unlucky enough to have a kid like you" or some variation on that about a gazillion times. I was a constant questioner, sarcastic back-talker, poor, but at times sincere passive-aggressive manipulator and general hyperball.

Yesterday, which happened to be Debbie Gibson's 37th birthday, I got smacked in the face by karma. One of my students, an incredibly gifted soon-to-be-ninth-grader with a wit for sass, forced a mirror in front of me. She was resisting my efforts to make her revise a couple sentences in a story she was writing. I told her that she was NOT moving onto the next sentence until what she had written was "changed."

"So I just have to change it?"


"Just change it."


"OK—" she immediately chimes in somehow cutting off my one-syllable reply.

"NO—" I interject cutting off her devlish thoughts of using literalism. "You cannot just change it. You have to change it to something you and I both agree is better."

The what-me look is being flashed.

"I know that 'literalism' game too, well, J. Don't you think I was a teen? I used to do that to my parents all the time and they could recognize the entrapment pretty much every time, too. Kids have been playing this game forever ... you're not the first." BLHBLAHBLAH I continued.

Despite the occassional frustration working with her, I am highly amused to recognize this constant tension between generations, especially being on the flipflop of it. Also, she's got the potential to be a brilliant writer and getting to work with talented people's quirks and attitude is but tiny price to pay.

I love my job, even though it's kicking my ass and chasing me home hours-wise.