Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The futures market for souls

Great news Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Jainists, Zoroastrians, practicers of voodoo, agnostics, Wiccans, pagans, worshippers of Greek/Roman Gods and even atheists like me—Americans seem to be coming around on the notion that ethics (actions) are more important than morals (beliefs).

As Charles Blow wrote in the NYTimes recently ... In June, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life published a controversial survey in which 70 percent of Americans said that they believed religions other than theirs could lead to eternal life.

Blow summarizes the main point of the survey as people saying that as long as people act ethically, they will be rewarded in the afterlife. Naturally, there was some resistance to the findings.

The evangelicals complained that people must not have understood the question. The respondents couldn’t actually believe what they were saying, could they?

So in August, Pew asked the question again. (They released the results last week.) Sixty-five percent of respondents said — again — that other religions could lead to eternal life. But this time, to clear up any confusion, Pew asked them to specify which religions. The respondents essentially said all of them.

And they didn’t stop there. Nearly half also thought that atheists could go to heaven — dragged there kicking and screaming, no doubt — and most thought that people with no religious faith also could go.

As a longtime atheist (since college, and was questioning loooooooong before that, ironically since my counselor at Evangelical Christian summer camp after fifth grade told me that all non-Born Again Christians burn in Hell), I took this as good news. Not that I want some eternal salvation or paradise that I don't believe exists. But rather that my lifestyle won't necessarily be rejected out of hand as one that is lacking something fundamental in the composition of a good human.

I hope someday to see a President who doesn't say God Bless America. But I have a feeling that a mixed race lesbian who allies herself with Islam and whose parents were born in Russia and the Iran has a better chance of being elected president of the United States than an avowed atheist.


Another good read, is this story by a writer in Los Angeles who writes about the time he was involuntarily committed to a mental hospital.


And no matter what you believe in, please extend your best and most hopeful thoughts to the Gaza Strip, Israel, Palestine, and to everyone who makes decisions affecting the people who live there. Those who side with violence will never be right, but all who side with Peace shall never be wrong.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Dear Barack,

Is it possible to have "the most inclusive, open, accessible inauguration in American history" (as Obama spokeswoman Linda Douglass called it) when the opening prayer (the actual definition of "invocation" Hello? Church || State sep?), is being given by Rick Warren, leader of an evangelical ministry that strongly promotes intolerant values?

As CNN's story
points out, Warren supported Prop. 8, which stole the right to marry from same-sex couples, and opposes guaranteeing women the right to determine for themselves how to control their bodies and health. OK, maybe CNN didn't use the words.

But does tolerance of diveristy mean biting your tongue in the face of those who preach intolerance? Who preach that one form of love is blessed in the eyes of a scientifically unprovable being while the other is eternally condemnable?

I say that it does NOT. Each of us eventually is confronted with challenges to our assumed values (the premises on which we base all our arguments/belief systems) and when facing those challenges, perhaps we have to respond with a similar ideal(ogue)ism.

So while I am still thrilled with your election night win, your nominations for the Cabinet and other key appointed posts and the prospect of you occupying the Oval Office and representing our country on the world stage, I am deeply disappointed in your selection of Rick Warren to usher in your presidency. What happened to the man who said that he opposed Prop. 8 because of its divisive nature? How can he include the man who would divide us?

I suppose it could be argued that my lack of Christian faith preculdes me from understanding one of Christ's New Testament teachings about loving thine enemy. But I would assert that it's taking a stand and defending my core beliefs.

I think this explains why I'm dealing with toughest editing challenge right now. I've got a student who supported Prop. 8 because of his conservative Christian upbringing. I want desperately to help him write his story in the clearest and most effective way possible so that everyone (including and especially liberals like me) can get a better understanding of what drives his ideas. But honestly, I just can't accept the premise that who someone loves is morally wrong.


At least Rick Warren would support the cause highlighted in today's holiday song flashback.


And I've always loved the coordinated, rhythmic leaning at 2:47.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Shaken from the blogging doldrums

It's not that I haven't thought about blogging since Thanksgiving, nor is it that I haven't had the time. But in Kindergarten we're taught if we don't have anything nice to say it's better to say nothing at all. As a blogger, I've adapted that to if I don't have something valuable or interesting or funny to blog, then it's better not to blog. I've read too many blogs that lack points.

So it was today that the L.A. Times, specifically media writer James Rainey, stirred me to blog. In this first-person commentary he lets the readers know that despite massive slashes to the L.A. Times newsroom and business and productions staff and despite an industry in the middle of an evolutionary selection, honor has not left the building.


Courage in the face of danger -- and bankruptcy

Times journalists respond to Tribune's hard times by working hard.

December 14, 2008

I've seen my colleagues plunge into rioting mobs, drive into the hills as they exploded with fire and -- on days when the earth shook -- leave their anxious families to rush to crumpled buildings.

You think a little bankruptcy scares this crew? You think Chapter 11 has us down? You think we fear the future?

Well, yes. Yes. And hell yes. In the ragtag old Los Angeles Times newsroom, emotions run as threadbare as the quarter-century-old carpet.

Editors quip about whether their company credit cards will work. Reporters wonder what a crew chief at McDonald's might earn. Dark thoughts abound about Tribune boss Sam Zell, who bet on the real estate market just right and the news market oh so wrong.

But luckily for the newspaper and the customers who read it, Times people multitask like nobody's business.

So, in the hours after the wires announced that Tribune had filed for bankruptcy, Tina Susman got out of her sickbed, donned her long black coat and head scarf and took to the fearsome streets of Baghdad.

Howard Blume spent another long day glued to the phone, so he could ...

Click the link above to read the rest, latimes.com could use the traffic.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Band of the year // I love music

The Accolade. Saudi Arabia's most accomplished and well-known all-female rock band. Sure, they've never played a concert nor are the members' last names known, but the New York Times wrote about them.

In reading the story I learned that 60 percent of Saudi Arabia's population is younger than 25. And the young are demanding a more open culture. Part of that loosening of traditional mores, is an embrace of western rock music. According to the story, much of it is metal. But The Accolade are bringing a good alt-rock sound. Music rules.

The band's MySpace page has one song (Pinnochio) and honestly, it's not bad. It totally could have been on Alternative Nation when I was in high school.


The other great newspaper story about music, I read today was the Los Angeles Times profile of Gustavo Dudamel, the next music director of the L.A. Phil. I won't be catching any of his first performances this year, the final year with Esa Pekkanen-Salonen as music director, but next year I am so going to abide by the Dude.

Friday, November 21, 2008

One of my first loves

We were talking in the office today about what technology you couldn't live without. Well, not really, we were just musing about the way technology (primarily cell phones and the Internet) has changed our lives and society. I pointed out that without the Internet I'd go catatonic.

And tonight I stumbled upon one of those reasons ...

Growing up I loved CFNY, the alternative music station broadcasting from Toronto. I got introduced to Single Gun Theory, The Tragically Hip, Spirit of the West, Sarah McLachlan (also though a show on the CBC called Good Rockin Tonight, which aired late Friday and Saturday). In an effort to prevent Canadian popular culture from being subsumed by its south-of-the-border monolithic cousin, the Canadian government had a CANCON rule. The Canadian Content rule stipulated that a certain percentage of music broadcast on the public airwaves had to be created/performed by Canadians.

Every night I listened to CFNY as I did my homework and I totally crushed hardcore on evening DJ Dani Elwell, the superknowledgable, laidback (in the way that all Canadians are) ultrasexy voiced music fan. What's not to love right? She left the station before I graduated high school, but I always kept a candle lit for her.

I had read years ago that she was working in a flower shop with her mom. But tonight I discovered that she's still doing voicework, which can be found here. The years have done her right, as her slightly textured alto has developed into an even sultrier siren song.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Oh the 70s

Bill Simmons is at his best in his running diary of the most dated (in the, this could NEVERFUCKINGHAPPEN now sense) television clip preserved on YouTube ever.

How much do you _really_ know about your home?

I grew up just outside of Buffalo, N.Y. in a northern suburb called Amherst. Recently, I've read two stories that taught me a ton about the region I grew up. First was this story about the history of Buffalo architecture. I knew the basics: Frank Lloyd Wright's Darwin Martin House is in Buffalo, Frederick Law Olmstead designed the urban park system, etc., but this NYTimes story taught me so much more.

By the end of the 19th century the city’s grain silos and steel mills had become architectural pilgrimage sites for European Modernists like Erich Mendelsohn and Bruno Taut, who saw them as the great cathedrals of Modernity. In their vast scale and technological efficiency, they reflected a triumphant America and sent a warning signal to Europe that it was fast becoming less relevant.

Yet it is the parade of celebrated architects who worked here as much as the city’s industrial achievements that makes Buffalo a living history lesson. Daniel Burnham’s 1896 Ellicott Square Building, with its mighty Italian Renaissance facade, towers over the corner of Main and Church Streets. Just a block away is Louis Sullivan’s 1895 Guaranty Building, a classic of early skyscraper design decorated in intricate floral terra-cotta tiles.


But it was Wright who made the decisive leap from an architecture that drew mainly on European stylistic precedents to one that was rooted in a growing cultural self-confidence. Wright built two of those great pillars of American architecture here, the 1904 Larkin Building and the 1905 Darwin D. Martin House.

Holy scheit!!! After reading this story I suddenly regretted how much of a high-school-age jackass I was during a field trip we took downtown to admire and learn about Buffalo's architectural history. A field trip that only honors students took and subsequently squandered. Of course some of that was because our principal, who didn't garner much respect cloistered in his papered-windows office, led said trip.

Secondly, I read this espn.com story about the University of Buffalo's only bowl team and the moment they said that bowl games don't mean a thing compared to integrity, honor, fellowship, justice and love. Invited to the Tangerine Bowl in 1958, the team voted unanimously not to attend because the Orlando High School Athletic Association, the game's leaseholder, wouldn't allow blacks and whites to play on the same field.

How could I never have heard of this story? The University of Buffalo's north campus was almost literally in my backyard. I could walk to my high school in 17 minutes and another 10 minute walk would have me on campus at UB. I read the Buffalo News every day. I've read it almost every day since I was in high school (at least the sports page and this is a sports story).

I can often be heard saying how moving back would be a step backward and I refuse to do that. But at the same time, going backward in time allows one a chance to correct mistakes and oversights.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Moment of adulthood // you get what you pay for

When I moved into my current apartment I resolved to start adultifying my life. I wanted to at least slowly get rid of the crappy old possessions that betrayed how student-living-as-an-adult my life used to be (old towels and t-shirts, sneakers with soles coming off, mismatched silverware, etc.) and how not-quite together I am. That I still possessed those things nine years after college graduation was pathetic.

So I started a dance of ditching (cheap ironing board that had lost its padding) and upgrading (new sofa cover, higher thread count Egyptian cotton sheets). Ideally, I would have purchased a nice (read: non-IKEA) shelving unit, but alas I didn't have the space to fit one in. And I was just too lazy and cheap for the rug.

Another aspect of my upgraded life has been finally hanging stuff on the walls. I was pretty good about it at the place I lived with Scott when I first moved to L.A., but in Culver City I went naked walls again. Since moving to the best apartment I've ever lived in with Andrew and Curtis, I have sworn my concert-going, Rilo Kiley/Stars fandom to the walls. Alas, as sophisticated as my decorating intentions have been, the execution has been just-out-of-college with my Target and Bed, Bath and Beyond frames—Rilo Kiley and Stars were great enablers with their standard-sized 18x24-inch posters fitting Target's black-metal, no-matte, plastic-rather-than-glass frames perfectly.

My latest concert poster acquisition though, presented a challenge or perhaps opportunity to upgrade another station of my life. My Jenny Lewis poster measured 15x24. A quick Google search revealed that if I were lucky I might find a 16x24 cheapo frame, but no way was I getting an off number of inches in a mass-produced black metal frame. With the tanking economy though, I figured before I went "custom-frame" (cue, eerie music) I had to try at Target. After all, I buy soup, CDs, moisturizer, toilet paper and vitamins there, why not an odd-dimensioned frame?

In the frames area, I quickly roll snake eyes. But I decided it would be worth checking the "framed art" (prints of Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe abound) section. Perhaps I could find a frame/matte combo that would be tailored to the unusual dimensions of the Jenny Lewis concert poster. Rifling through I have quick luck. There's a B&W Marilyn Monroe print that's 15 inches across between the horizontal dimensions of the matte. I am giddy with excitement that I can get my poster frame at Target (I'll just have to de-Monroe it) rather than the "custom frame job."

Then I do a quick visual inspection and the vertical dimension seems right on at 24. I am feeling elated now, especially when I notice that the Monroe print and frame is only $30! Wanting to verify my measurements I go back to the frame section, pull out an 18x24 frame and compare it with the frame for the Monroe print. Yes, the length of the Monroe frame is exactly 24 inches, just like my Jenny Lewis poster.

I get home excited until I see that I have to do some surgery to rip this thing apart to perform my Monroe-ectomy. It involves a knife, scissors and a procedure that will render this unreturnable. Fifteen minutes after covering my room with shreds of cardboard, wood staples and plastic, I finally am ready to place the Jenny Lewis poster between the matte and into the frame. Here's the part where I'm an idiot takes over.

While the poster fit beautifully into the matte's unusal 15-inch width, the top and bottom 2-3 inches of the poster are covered by the matte. What the fuck? Dumbass drunk on giddiness that I was, I forgot to take into account the matte when measuring the vertical dimension of the frame. Standing their amidst the detritus of the Monroe poster and the Monroe frame I realize that if I want to get this framed then it's "custom framing" time.

When I get to the Frame Store the associate walks me through the selection process: 1. a matte color that will match the poster's highlights and color palette; 2. a frame that will match the colors of the poster and matte, as well as in this case the wood grain appearance of parts of the poster. We experiment with several frames for but agree on a dark brown one, since the darkness will contrast nicely with the brightness of the poster and help the colors pop; 3. Time to choose a glass. The grades are basically museum (best and most expensive. as clear as a Windexed window but blocks 99 percent of damaging UV rays) or preservation (blocks the rays but has a slightly darkish tint).

Jared starts punching buttons on his calculator, then pauses.

"Hmm. OK ..."

I'm a little nervous. Associates pausing when doing routine price calculations are surprised by something. And since this is an adult purchase, I knew it wasn't by the massive discount that was appearing on screen.

"I think we'll do preservation glass, since this a bit more than I expected."

"How much?"

"It's $450, but I'm gonna knock off $50 since this is more than we had talked about price range wise."

"Um, I had a coupon for 50 percent off."

"Oh, yeah, I already took half the price off. This is a more than $800 job. We can take a look at some of the other frames. See, what happened is that the darker frame you chose is actually one of our premium frames. Sorry, I didn't know that when I was showing it to you."

I take a look at the other frames and the lighter shades of brown (think milky coffee), just don't look as good. The bright oranges lose so much of their pop when contrasted with the light brown. I can't change now, no matter the cost. "I'm sticking with the darker frame. It just looks sooo much better."

"OK, so with the coupon and the $50 off, it comes to $442."

I slide my credit card across the glass counter and he runs it, wary of the costs of adulthood but very happy with the frame.

I finally picked it up today. Thankfully, the pros at the Frame Store did me right, at least in terms of quality. They say that when paying for custom framing to think of it as "I'll never need to frame this again." Well, I sure as hell hope not, because I can't afford anymore adulthoods.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

I love that I'm not nearly the best

Because if I were the best or even had I been the standard of greatness at a newspaper, then stories like this probably wouldn't have been published. It's the heart-rending story of Eugene Allen, a black man who worked in the White House for more than three decades as pantry man/butler/maitre d'.

Wil Haygood of the Washington Post wrote this story and it's one of the best feature stories I've ever read and the turn at the ending, well ...

Thursday, November 06, 2008

This is where we go from here

After California voted for bigotry, intolerance, fear and hatred, I was despondent. All the optimism I had felt about Barack Obama's win was virtually wiped out. But knowing that 64 million people chose the new champion of HOPE, it didn't die. And after thinking about how far this country has come, I can say with certainty that my students will be attending their same-sex couples friends' marriages.

It's also because as Torq Campbell (lead singer of Stars) said ... most people are good. It's because there are people like Mark Johnson, whose documentary Playing for Change showcases the simple but transformative power of music. I promise that the Mark Johnson link will take you to one of the best 18 minutes you'll ever spend. We must preserve PBS! Hooray for Bill Moyers.


Also ... it's finally embeddable ... Before Barack Obama emerged I would have said if you're not inspired by this, get out of the way. But now I would say that's OK, we can still work together, because we should, because without cooperation we won't achieve the best for either of us.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Election day aftermath

[Mike's note: this is more than 2,000 words, so bear that in mind.]

In a nation that seems to value the spirit of the individual more than anything else, that instills in its children how unique and special they are from the moment they can converse, I've never felt better to be one of so many as when 64 million people voted Barack Obama to be the 44th president of the United States. To be one of the newly energized masses who said that hope and decency are the most courageous choices when a country has been shaken by the horrors of war. That generosity and empathy are the aspirant ideals when families' confidence in the pillars of the economy has been shaken. That creativity and sacrifice are the solutions when our planet hangs in the balance.

Obama said that to me, to so many of my friends and clearly to millions of others across the country and around the world. He re-ignited in us the idealism that inspired us to support liberal causes even when our more cynical parents said that we had to look out for ourselves. He galvanized our collective resolve not to grow conservative as we got older, like those before us had, but to remain committed to helping our brothers and sisters in our communities. He renewed our faith in a democratic process that correctly protects the freedom to have and espouse ideas that burn our hearts.

When I felt in September 2005 that the only way to win back control of the government was to out-Karl Rove Karl Rove, Barack Obama reminded me that the ethical, reasoned path is the only road to an honorable solution.

"Russ Feingold, the only Democrat to vote not only against war in Iraq but also against the Patriot Act, doesn't become complicit in the erosion of civil liberties simply because he chooses to abide by a deeply held and legitimate view that a President, having won a popular election, is entitled to some benefit of the doubt when it comes to judicial appointments. Like it or not, that view has pretty strong support in the Constitution's design. ...

... In fact, I would argue that the most powerful voices of change in the country, from Lincoln to King, have been those who can speak with the utmost conviction about the great issues of the day without ever belittling those who opposed them, and without denying the limits of their own perspectives

When we at the office watched him giving his victory speech outside in the chilled air of Chicago's Grant Park, we knew we were bearing witness to history. Not in the literal President XX is giving a speech so turn a camera on way, but in the History with a capital H way. In the, where were you when? way. In the, I'm gonna tell people about this forever way. It was unlike any victory speech I can remember, and not just because there weren't any balloons or confetti or drunken campaign operatives and volunteers making out and screaming. But this speech focused on what's next. On the challenges we face. On the seriousness of our time and how all we've won is an opportunity to be the change we want to see in the world. And on how it's time for everyone, regardless of ideologoies and party allegiances, to act their consciences for what's good for this country, because there can be no American shining city on a hill, unless WE are resolute, honorable and tolerant.

I used to hate it when fans used "we" to refer to their sports teams. But I don't anymore (as long as they also use it when their teams lose), because pouring your energy, heart, guts and soul into something that binds you to others isn't a bad thing. It's when we act together that we can accomplish the most. And that's what Barack challenged us to do with the collective power of our "we."

"What began 21 months ago in the depths of winter cannot end on this autumn night.

"This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were.

"It can't happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice.

"So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other."

I saw people crying and so moved that whatever chill might have been in the air, they were totally immune. Their blanket from the cold was optimism and hope and joy. Their shield from the wind was gratitude that the sacrifices of generations have born the sweetest, ripest fruit. I wanted to trade places with any of them.

And I'll say it without apology or qualification, I was finally proud to be an American. I had never been prouder. I saw my country live up to the standards it used to arrogantly only hold others to (maybe that's not true, but after Abu Ghraib and Gitmo and the renditions, it felt that way). I saw my country live up to the ideals to which I'd affixed to it when I was too young to even know what cynical is, let alone be it. I saw my country say that the future can still be better, not only than the troubled present, but than the best of the past.

When Barack said: "It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled, Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states.

"We are, and always will be, the United States of America.

"It's the answer that led those who've been told for so long by so many to be cynical and fearful and doubtful about what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

"It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment, change has come to America.

"A little bit earlier this evening, I received an extraordinarily gracious call from Senator McCain.

"Senator McCain fought long and hard in this campaign. And he's fought even longer and harder for the country that he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine. We are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. ...

I saw hundreds of thousands of people on television and the dozen in our office conference room affirm with one spirit, that our differences and disagreements did not make us enemies. I resolved that I would try to be the better person my country would require of me. Barack Obama inspired in me (and I would argue millions of others), a desire to work hard to help, not wait for the government to rescue me (as Republicans argued during the campaign).

History was going to judge us all after this moment, and the most divisive Americans would as well. Would we do the work to honor its promise or squander its potential? Would we do the work to create a more free and just world or would we allow our differences to paralyze and endanger us.

Watching the 13-inch tv in our office it felt like millions across our country had chosen to work. And judging by initial international reaction, so had billions others. It was like the Olympic Opening Ceremonies except instead of thousands of athletes bound by the spirit of competition, this was billions of people bound by the possibilities of cooperation.

[Aside: I'm not blind to the darkness of the world. I've been to the memorial service for one of my students and had another die. If anything, I normally have to convince my students that I'm not jaded. And in this case I wasn't so naive as to think that the challenges had disappeared, that the differences were resolved, that the conflicts had ended or that the no-win scenarios had miraculously been Jim Kirked.]

It's just that the promise of better was a little intoxicating and incredibly fortifying and empowering.

Shortly after the most euphoric and transcendent moment of my civic life, I was discovered a new worst feeling ever.

Before Tuesday night the worst non-situationally-specific feeling I could remember is what happened in my gut when my father gave me his look of disappointment. It started with the gaze. His eyes would seem as though they were looking through my body, searching for the son who would never have committed whatever mistake I had just made. At this point, my insides would start to rot. And to hollow me out, he would look away unable to meet my eyes as they started to plead for forgiveness and promise that I'd never do whatever I had done again.

But Tuesday night, less than an hour after elating at Barack Obama's victory, I was confronted with a challenge to my newly re-energized idealistic faith in humanity. California voters gave in to fear and intolerance and chose to deny same-sex couples the right to marry.

I couldn't believe it. As soon as the ballot measure qualified, I had a solid faith that the people ready to vote an African-American with an unusual name into office were going to protect another minority group's finally being granted equal status, which is essentially what the Republican-appointed Supreme Court ruled in June. Polls showed that the opponents of bigotry were leading; I interpreted that as people seeing through the deceptions (supporters portrayed the denial of equal rights as a way to protect marriage, religious freedoms and parents' rights to guide their childrens' educations).

Somehow though, the lies worked. The ads referencing things that happened in Massachusetts and the ads that were factually repudiated by the state superintendent of education as lies somehow worked. By 8:25 Wednesday morning the newspapers were reporitng that voters chose to amend the state constitution and overturn a state supreme court's June ruling that made California the second state in the country to apply the idea that separate is NOT equal to civil unions. The proposition passed with just a shade more than 52 percent of the (counted) vote.

According to the LAT, "of the seven in 10 voters who described themselves as Christian, two-thirds backed the initiative. Married voters and voters with children strongly supported Proposition 8. Unmarried voters were heavily opposed."

If the faithful want to call me out as not tolerating their views, so be it. I refuse to accept or condone a belief system that attempts to justify and rationalize discrimination under the wobbly guise of "hating the sin, but loving the sinner." There's nothing "loving" about judging and controling another person's right to love someone else in a consensual.

And co-opting the State to codify langugage that institutionally forbids someone's freedom to pursue legal recognition of that love is the worst violation of our most basic freedom. The First Amendment did not simply guarantee freedom of religion—so that the Puritanical descendents who founded the country would be free to practice their faiths without State interference; but also freedom from religion—that the State would be shielded from the Church while conducting its affairs.

So as I had told a friend the night before, 90 percent of the pure joy I felt at Barack Obama becoming president has been vanquished by the forces of intolerance that I lived amongst. I shall never understand how some people can fail to accept two individuals finding happiness in love. And I shall never tolerate how some people can take joy in forcing the State to deny those two individuals their right to marry the person who brings them peace, joy and love.

Throughout Wednesday as I communicated with friends and former students on the East Coast, I found myself trying to explain what happened. How even though a "liberal" senator like Barack Obama got elected and that even though he dominated in Los Angeles County, Prop 8 also won in L.A. County. With the largest Roman Catholic diocese in the United States and nearly 70 percent of African Americans voting for Prop 8 based on exit polls, that's some bad arithmetic for gay rights. I also explained that California's liberalism has more in common with classic libertarianism (the government should deliver my mail) than in some bohemainly progressive Kucinichville.

Just as the joys of 200,000-plus others at Grant Park came through the TV the night before, the outrage and shock at the blatant denial of human rights and rejection of decency came through the IMs Wednesday afternoon.

But then I thought back to what Sen. Hillary Clinton said as she endorsed Barack Obama.

"Although we weren't able to shatter this highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it's got about 18 million cracks in it, and the light is shining through like never before," she said.

"It is this belief and optimism that Sen. Obama and I share," Clinton said. "That has inspired so many millions of supporters to make their voices heard. So today, I am standing with Sen. Obama to say, 'Yes, we can.'"

Prior to the rise of Hillary Clinton on the national scene, I used to say with complete (and resigned) belief that there would not be a woman president in my lifetime in the United States, even though the Phillipines and the United Kingdom had female leaders when I was a kid. And though her campaign ended as a national semi-finalist, she got fucking close. So close that by the time my oldest female former students (just graduated college) are ready to run, their candidacies won't be nearly as newsworthy until one of them actually becomes the first woman president.

And before Barack Obama soared like a fireball through the sky during the 2004 Democratic National Convention when he gave the "There is A UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" speech, I would never have thought the country would embrace a black man as president either. But it happened. And not in decades, but just four years later.

So though our state has erected a wall between same-sex couples and human rights, Barack's win will, I hope, empower those of us who believe in equality for all to swing our hammers with more force than before. To write more letters. To donate a little more money. To be a little kinder and perhaps more public with our support, so that those who didn't vote against Prop 8 this time, will understand that a failure to oppose a rights-denying idea was tantamount to collaboration.

We're going to restore (I almost said resurrect, but it's not dead yet! Not even close) dignity, respect and equality for all in California. I promised my students that they'll be attending weddings in their lifetimes for their same-sex friends. It's going to happen.

Because this week I feel a HOPE and an optimism that I've not felt in about eight years. Scratch that. That I've never felt.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Revisionist concert history

I counted my concerts again tonight, because that's what I do on a Saturday when Arizona loses it's homecoming game to USC and the Sabres lose in a shootout because Ryan Miller forgot to man the crease.

I am at 107. I was off a few last time I counted. My 100th show as Black Kids in July, not Rilo Kiley in June. :( That does not include shows at Amoeba nor does it include the second Gemma Hayes show at the Hotel Cafe, which was five songs. It does include Christopher O'Reilly playing Nick Drake arrangements on Piano. I've got two more shows this year ... Jenny Lewis at the Orpheum next Thursday (third row center, holla) and Frightened Rabbit opening for the Spinto Band at Spaceland the night before election day.

Spending update:
$5 on pizza Friday night. I owe roommate actually.
$20 Peruvian dinner. If you live in El Segundo go to Playa Blanca.
$6 gasoline.
$6 Coffee Bean.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sorry, Shell, addicted to staying awake at work

Another $4 on coffee bean this morning.

The election

I haven't blogged much about it yet, but I think that it's coming. I read something on CNN.com's ticker blog today that got the passion juices coursing. James Dobson and Sarah Palin got to talking about how God will help out the ultra-religious conservative Republicans come Nov. 4. Before I get too Rovianly UsVThem, let me just say that I fucking hate what people will do/say/(not)think/espouse in the name of organized religion.

It's late, but I still blog

$4 today, technically yesterday, for a caramel latte. I was beyond tired in the morning and I would never have survived work otherwise.

$34ish on groceries Monday, though that is a bit of a guess.

$89.93 for car oil change and accessory drive belt.

Typing of the car. I ran into the inconvenience of green-ness. I am cheap and not a car person, so my car gets washed only when I take it to Saturn for an oil change or other service. I pay more and drive out of my way to get serviced at the dealership, but they have Wi-Fi and courtesy washes so it evened out in my head. Or at least they used to have courtesy washes.

I was informed Monday that they have discontinued them because the dealership lacked the capability of recycling the runoff water for the washes. To be more eco-conscious they instead now provide customers with coupons for free car washes across the street. I have a bad feeling about this.

After my service, I drive to the car wash. As I pull in I notice that there are at leaste half a dozen people sitting waiting for cars, which are stacked waiting to be dried. There appears to be several cars going through the tunnel wash and a line of several cars waiting to enter. I hate the waiting at these places. It never goes quickly.

There is also an obvious entrance to the conveyor wash, but nowhere to check in or anyone to checkin with. One guy, who appeared to be a toweling guy, pointed me toward the tunnel entrance but didn't say anything. There were banners with rates above four detailing stations and two were manned, but no one was offering any directions. There was even a cashier inside, but nowhere to clearly park as a customer.

In a moment of hunger/frustration/confusion I bailed and left with even dirtier car. Oh well, the weather temperature specturm has been so wide-ranging of late that, my car would have been filthy by Tuesday morning, when I went out and it was covered in moisture.

Friday, October 17, 2008

It's a heat wave and I'm freezing

My office was so cold Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday that my hands hurt. Literal pain through coldness. WTF?

I bought a $4 latte just to warm my hand.

Some things are worth paying for

Thursday: Ethiopian dinner with a future great journalist $35.

Thursday: Full tank of gas $34.

Friday: Great sandwich from Sandbag's (because I was a moron and forgot to bring the lunch I had made) ... $6.50.

Friday: way overdue haircut $40.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Spending report -- food for the next couple weeks.

$23.55 at Albertson's, but I saved $3.60 with my Preferred Card. The only semi-indulgent buy was jalapeƱo havarti cheese.

$7.49 at Target on bread and potato chips. I saved $1.78 buying stuff on sale, though.

$27.87 at Trader Joe's.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Flyers fans ... you've won me over


$10 for Chinese lunch, chow mein, curry chicken, vegetarian egg roll, kung pao, large Sprite.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

I am going to miss Coffee Bean

We're moving our offices in a few months. I won't have a Coffee Bean next door to the office. I shall miss it. I would never have survived the biggest Newcomer's Day of all time without my morning latte. ($4)

Friday, October 10, 2008

A victory for human rights ... I should be toasting this

The Connecticut State Supreme Court Friday that same-sex couples can get married. On a day when the stock market burrowed deeper into a recession state of mind. On a day when John McCain's campaign staff had the unmitigated gall to accuse Barack Obama of "attacking" the McCain supporters whom had called out "kill him" in reference to Obama during a campaign rally, just because Barack said that the McCain campaign was using fear tactics to get people riled up. And on a day when SNL caved and allowed Sarah Palin onto the show. There was this blinding strike of justice across the land.

Those four justices—Flemming L. Norcott Jr., Joette Katz, Richard Palmer and Appellate Judge Lubbie Harper, sitting for Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers, who recused herself—realized that a state constitution which guarantees its citizens with equal protection under the law HAD TO ALLOW same-sex couples to marry. It was a courage and a wisdom too often unfound and unwielded in this country right now.

According to the ruling as quoted in the Hartford Courant "the justices ruled that civil unions were discriminatory and that the state's 'understanding of marriage must yield to a more contemporary appreciation of the rights entitled to constitutional protection.'"

"Interpreting our state constitutional provisions in accordance with firmly established equal protection principles leads inevitably to the conclusion that gay persons are entitled to marry the otherwise qualified same sex partner of their choice," the majority wrote. "To decide otherwise would require us to apply one set of constitutional principles to gay persons and another to all others."

In one of three three separate dissents, Justice Peter Zarella said: "The ancient definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman has its basis in biology, not bigotry," Zarella wrote. "If the state no longer has an interest in the regulation of procreation, then that is a decisionfor the legislature or the people of the state and not this court."

I must disagree with Zarella, in that the history of marriage dates back to a legal contract regarding an exchange of property. It is not based on biology. Reproduction is based on our DNA's organismic need to replicate and perpatuate. Sexual intercourse is based on anatomy, parts fitting into other parts.

I was so happy to hear of this decision. That makes three states that have realized that people should be allowed to be happy and have all the freedoms afforded the laws of the land. I know that the religious conservatives will claim that these justices have "legislated" from the bench in the name of "judicial activism." WRONG. All that happened is that the justices rendered a decision that they disagree with. That's LITERALLY THE ONLY THING conservatives mean when they use those phrases.

So tomorrow night, I'm toasting (a day late, but not a dollar short).


$3 on a candy bar and a Coke.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Why I think at least some Republicans can't change their allegiance

It hit me tonight while discussing the election that some people (mainly middle class people who aren't married to a conservative social agenda) are voting Republican in this election because of cognitive dissonance.

They can't accept that they support the people who have done so much to fuck our country and who would do so little to help middle class and poor familes. So they pretend that the bad things (rocketing debt, cratering markets, spiking energy costs, ignoring the realities of Katrina, quagmiring in Iraq, nuclearizing in North Korea, still-at-large Osama bin Laden, deteriorating environment, disappearing civil liberties) didn't happen or more likely rationalize away their negative consequences or assign blame for them to someone else (namely Democrats, even though Republicans have controlled the Presidency and the legislature for most of the past eight years).

Even when they admit that Bush is the least competent president ever.


Spending tracker blog ... $8 for Arby's!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

David Letterman rules


$2.50 on a caramel latte.

Friends with talent

I've been really lucky since moving to L.A. I've found a great job in the first city I've ever truly felt at home in and most importantly met some amazing friends. So here's one of them. Her name is Amy and she's an artist and pretty much awesomeness. I'll let this speak for her.

This is question/answer #9.

9. The Palin/Biden debate just wrapped up. I'm curious... as a woman, what's your take on McCain choosing Palin as a running mate?

First of all, I come from middle-class midwestern stock. My mom is a nurse, and my dad worked for General Motors. My stepfather is a teacher and my stepmom drives a school bus. I'm very familiar with the down-home, blue collar audience that McCain/Palin is trying to court with the 'folksy' attitude she's 'bringing to the table. Policy aside, I think it's totally appalling to see any adult in a position of authority - but especially a woman who is, herself, the parent of three daughters - so completely denigrate education, curiosity, literacy and learning by implying that academic achievement is somehow shameful and elitist. Her embrace of anti-intellectualism is absolutely reprehensible and reckless. She's doing a horrible, horrible disservice to children. She's sending a terrible message, and selling out kids. Her own incuriosity is just as troubling. I really wish she'd been able to name at least one newspaper that she reads-that was really a terrifying moment. I think McCain's choice was cynical and insulting. I appreciate that Barack Obama is a hell of a lot smarter than I am - that's what I'm looking for in a world leader. Presidents, doctors, Generals - we should expect that people in these roles be well-informed and functioning at an expert-level, because we depend on them to keep us safe.

Friday, October 03, 2008


I had to have a burrito today. I mandated that as I was driving to work. I don't make my own, so that meant I had to buy one. I dropped $6.17 on a chicken fajita-style burrito at Chipotle. MMMMM ... burrito.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Because I'm part of the gotcha-journalism-loving, no-ethics having media elite

Watching Sarah Palin's performance with katie couric (not being able to name a newspaper or magazine or cite a supreme court case that she disagrees with) I am coining this phrase ... Sarah Palin doesn't blink, she blanks!

Btw, Howard Kurtz points out in the Washington Post today that ...

In an exchange last night that was replayed on several networks, Couric, after a question about Roe v. Wade, asked Palin what other Supreme Court decisions she disagreed with.

"Well, let's see," Palin said, smiling and stalling for time. "There's -- of course -- in the great history of America rulings there have been rulings, that's never going to be absolute consensus by every American. And there are -- those issues, again, like Roe v. Wade where I believe are best held on a state level and addressed there. So you know -- going through the history of America, there would be others but --"

Asked again, Palin answered without naming a ruling. Surprisingly, she failed to mention the court's June decision to slash the punitive damages awarded to those whose livelihoods were affected by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in
Prince William Sound, which Palin denounced at the time.


$19 on pastries this morning for the office.
$19 on drinks at the Stars concert last night.
$50 for My Bloody Valentine concert ticket tonight.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

This is your CHANCE

The deadline to register to vote is coming immediately. If you don't register, you can't vote. And if you don't vote, shut the fuck up. We're going to alter the course of history in a little more than a month, do your part to make sure we're on the right course.

http://www.maps.google.com/vote. OR http://www.declareyourself.com.

Do it now.


Btw, I spent $5 on coffee this morning.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The last temptation of the KFC

In nearly six years at L.A. Youth I avoided the KFC until tonight. But it was late and I needed sugar so I spent $2 on a medium Sprite.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Last spending for the month

$10 on lunch at Big Mike's. And um stuff that I have receipts for, but not on me so this blog post is incomplete. :(

Sunday, September 28, 2008

I love Los Angeles today ...

... gorgeous summer like weather. amazing dim sum ($20 covering part of friends' share) and I got to see 9 to 5 the musical.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Losing discipline

~$40 today on lunch, cupcakes, and good Indian for dinner. but so worth it to eat well while on killing self on deadline. no money shall be spent tomorrow. zero.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Best schadenfreude day ever as a proud, unapologetic liberal

Where to begin? This morning I read on CNN.com that Campbell Brown is calling for an end to the sexist treatment of Republican VP-nominee Sarah Palin ... on the part of John McCain's campaign handlers. Brown asserts that by shielding Palin from virtually all media interviews, they are disrespecting her years as governor. As Brown says more eloqeuntly than I ...

I call upon the McCain campaign to stop treating Sarah Palin like she is a delicate flower who will wilt at any moment.

This woman is from Alaska for crying out loud. She is strong, she is tough, she is confident. And you claim she is ready to be one heartbeat away from the presidency. If that is the case, then end this chauvinistic treatment of her now. Allow her to show her stuff.

Well, then I read the transcript of Sarah Palin's interview with CBS's evening news anchor Katie Couric.

The final question and answer in the interview:

Couric: I'm just going to ask you one more time - not to belabor the point. Specific examples in his 26 years of pushing for more regulation.

Palin: I'll try to find you some and I'll bring them to you.

When you watch it, she doesn't come across quite so teenager-making-an-excuse-for-not-doing-homework as she does in the typed transcript, but she still comes across as unprepared for the interview, at best, and Greek-tragically unprepared to substitute to lead the world at worst.

But wait, just when the campaign was going Hindenberg there's more, courtesy of John McCain's lie to David Letterman. McCain was scheduled to appear on tonight's show, but called Letterman personally to cancel saying he was rushing back to Washington, D.C. to assist in the negotiations for the Wall St. bailout. He might have fudged his timetable a little.

From the LATimes' Matea Gold: After Letterman learned that McCain was sitting down [while Letterman's show was taping] with Katie Couric, he had this to say:

I don’t want to keep beating this thing, but it just really is starting to smell now. Because he says to me on the phone, I took a phone call from John McCain – a lot of senators don’t call me – and so I felt like OK, as part of the national good, I understand and I said good luck and thank you for being attentive to the cause. And he said maybe next time I’ll come in and I’ll bring Sarah Palin. And I said, fine, whatever you need to do, that’s just fine. And he said, yeah, we’re going to go save the country. And then it’s like we caught him getting a manicure or something! [as video showed him getting powdered before the cameras started rolling for his interview with Couric.]

Letterman also says regarding McCain suspending his campaign and calling for a delay to Friday's scheduled first presidential debate to head to Washington to work on the bailout negotiations:

Sure, there’s an economic crisis. And here’s what you’re do if you’re running your campaign in the middle of an economic crisis and its about to crater…You’re a fourth term senator from Arizona. You handle what you need to handle. Don’t suspend your campaign. You let your campaign go on, shouldered by your vice presidential nominee. That’s what you do…

You say, I gotta get back to Washington to save this country. Good for you. And while I’m gone, campaigning in my stead will be my great running mate from the state of Alaska, Sarah Palin. And she comes out and campaigns. What happened there? What’s the problem? Why isn’t she doing that?

So what's happening to the McCain campaign? Seriously? The Washington Post's poll noted that Obama is starting to increase his lead over McCain. That's not unexpected as the RNC/Palin bounce is feeling gravity's pull.

And regarding McCain's call to cancel Friday's debate ... I say this not as a partisan, but as an American concerned about the faltering economy: I want that debate this Friday. I want to hear what the candidates have to say. They should recast the debate theme to the economy and domestic issues and let's hear what their proposals are. Let's make this about the issues, and stick a hot pitchfork in McCain campaign manager Rick Davis's eye who said that the campaign is NOT about the issues. And for the record, I felt this way before Barack Obama essentially said the same thing.

News outlets are reporting basically that Barack said that unless personally told his presence would be essential to finalizing an agreement he thinks it best to stay away from Washington so as not to inject politics/campaigning into the solution.

Spending blog note: $3 for caramel iced-blended from Coffee Bean.

Monday, September 22, 2008

My memory is only kinda good nowadays

I've needed Shead Spread Country Crock for more than two weeks. I have been to a grocery store or Target (where they also sell it), at least five times since I ran out. I have failed to buy it every time. But hey at least I remembered the aluminum foil today, which along with the Blistex I bought, cost me $8.51 at Target today. I also spent $8 at lunch and $37+ on gasoline filling up my tank.

Oddly, speaking of memory, I recently surprised the shit out of my friend Kerri, as I remembered that she was listening to a James tape like 19 years ago when we were at All-Erie-County music festival. WTF? Why is my brain power so poorly allocated?

I hate Sarah Palin and John McCain, but I no longer fear them. Barack Obama is going to win. I feel it in the same way that I knew the Buffalo Bills were going to comeback against the Raiders yesterday.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

I'm too tired to be inspired

$4 for caramel iced blended.

$6 for Famima pre-made panini. I couldn't drag my ass out of bed this morning to make lunch before hand and for some reason eating Spaghettio's in front of my co-workers ... well, I couldn't bring myself to do that.

Free night tonight. Not as in call me, but as in I'm old and a cheapskate (at least for this weekend after a week in which I spent a fair amount of money).

Someday I'll be a fun person again. For now, I'm just old and tired. Wow, this entry is so fucking depressing. Next blog post will have some sizazzle.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Money, money, money -- how quickly it disappears

$18 on beer and scotch at the Jenny Lewis show Thursday night.
$4 coffee Friday coming on the heels the previous night's concert, which didn't start until 11:50 p.m.!
$15 for dinner at the Bright Spot Diner on Sunset Boulevard before the Jenny Lewis show on Friday night.
$33 for gas (only $3.63.9 per gallon in Torrance!) Friday night.
$3 for coffee Saturday. There was no way I was making it through a full work day going after back-to-back concerts without coffee.
$19 Chinese food, my share of our sci-fi-geek night fest.
$11 an import copy of Gemma Hayes' debut CD Night on My Side, won on eBay. Songs come in a different order and there are three different songs than the American release. She's amazing so I'm happy to support her. Gemma, please come back to the States.

I've not been blogging about the campaign as much lately, b/c quite frankly I'm angry. Very angry. The John McCain/Sarah Palin campaign of lies, not misunderstandings, not claims, not half-truths, but FUCKING OUTRIGHT LIES offends me. But it's really more than offense.

It's a feeling of betrayal. I used to admire John McCain, who endured so much during the Vietnam War, and I felt badly for how the Bush campaign smeared him in 2000 while he tried to take the high road. But he has gone and done what I at-one-time (and regrettably) felt like the Dems should do in 2004, out-Rove Karl Rove. Even the ladies of The View tore Johnnie Mac a new one for being a liar. Why must the pretty be outdone by a comedienne, like Joy Behar who had the brass to demand better from John McCain.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Weakness for carbs and music

$2 cheese-jalapeno bagel at CoffeeBean. We need to move our offices. I also just bid on eBay for the UK edition of Gemma Hayes's debut album Night on My Side, which has a different track list. She's also got the U.S. release of her third album, The Hollow of Morning, coming out and there's a new track. Hopefully iTunes hooks me up!?

$15 for the new Jem CD. I bought it on Newburycomics.com to get the free autographed liner notes and to avoid giving any money to Best Buy.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Food costs money

$10 for lunch at an Indian buffet. $11+ in groceries at Albertson's (sliced turkey, pasta, sauce, loaf of bread). $20.56 at TJ's for fruit, cheese, tomatoes and other groceries. $7.50 on pizza.

Shopping white whales

There are few things in life that will force me to suspend sleep and even reading Harry Potter ... and sadly, they are retail. For a dozen or so years I have endeavoured to find the perfect bowl. It's probably best described as a pasta or hearty-soup bowl. It needs to be perfectly round and smooth (no etchings or bevels). It needs to the right depth (biggest problem) and diameter. And the color and thickness must also be harmonious. I've searched in every housewares store/section out there. I've dug around ceramicists' shops at markets (including the Saturday Market in Portland, OR). Snake eyes.

I also still hope to one day find the blood red vinyl Converse All-Stars. I love my maroon vinyl converse One-Stars, but still ...

But perhaps the ultimate Ahabian quest is for sunglasses that truly fit my face/head. I have a wide face, almost no bridge to my nose, and narrow set eyes. That's a rough sunglasses combination, and one found with some frequency among Asians. I've even Googled "wide-face sunglasses" and found many an-Asian-man weighing in.

To adequately cover my eyes and still wrap around my head I've learned that wrap-style sunglasses are often best. But I've compromised on fit (often too tight) or need to find a pair that's partially broken to make it work. Or I've allowed myself to wear huge glasses that look funny. Once I even spent (or the parentals did) like $110 on a pair. Needless to say they were broken within two months. Steve Jimenez hit me in the face while messing around at marching band rehearsal in college. Dammit! Granted, I didn't love them anyway.

Now I've discovered that Oakley has found this market and resolved to meet the demand. They have "Asian Fit" sunglasses. I've found a style that I like and customized them to my specifications. Of course, being Oakley, they cost $155 before taxes and shipping, etc. And the bigger rub is that I have a history of not getting more than about eight months from a pair of glasses before breaking or losing them. I have truly had three pairs of glasses that fit me great, but only two of which I really liked. All three were misplaced. The pair that I liked least (gold frames and brownish lenses) is outside Portland, OR.

I Like:

Flak Jacket® XLJ Asian Fit by Oakley at Zappos.comFlak Jacket® XLJ Asian Fit

On my austerity budget, which has been loosened already a bit this month, there would be no place for such an indulgence. Hrmmmmm. Update, I have found them for $142 on Zappos.com and that includes shipping, which is always free.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Spending update

$4.95 at Coffee Bean for a caramel iced-blended on Saturday. It was tastey. $73+ for four tickets to see Jenny Lewis Thursday and Friday (two for each night). $18 of that will be reimbursed. But I went off half-cocked regarding Thursday's show at The Echo and bought a second ticket without a commitment and so far all attempts have yielded one doubtful. That's it. No worries. If I have to eat $18, I can manage that.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

John and Sarah might want to get their message straight

Tonight toward the end of his speech Republican Presidential candidate John McCain implored his sycophantic, myopic audience members to stand up for the principles they believe and do things to help, like teach an illiterate adult to read or fight for someone oppressed. OK, well why did his VP choice, Sarah Palin, make a mocking comment about Barack Obama wanting to make sure that prisoners were treated according to the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions?

I hate them.

But I love Scotch. I dropped $42 on a bottle of 12-year-old Glenfiddich. And then $10.36 on buns, milk, sausage and one other thing at Trader Joe's. Oh yeah, and $50 to B.O. I am putting my country first.

Jon Stewart for President

Today's spend ... $10 on lunch at Milk. And last night, $38 on gas.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The end of the world moment at tonight's Republican National Convention

Texas Railroad Commission Chairman Michael Williams said: "Let me make it clear. Drill, baby, drill! Drill now!"

Then the whole fucking crowd chanted "Drill baby drill! Drill baby drill!"

And a few more points about the campaign:

First is this one about journalism and ethics. The "liberal media" is getting attacked now for "going after" the Palin family. Republican VP nom Sarah Palin's daughter Bristol is pregnant. When news broke pretty much everyone said that this was a family matter, including reporters and Barack Obama. Obama said anyone on his campaign who brought it up as a talking point would be fired.

But then the Palins and McCain decided to "use it" staging a photo opp this afternoon with McCain hugging Bristol and shaking hands with Levi Johnston, Bristol's fiance and the father of the baby.

Well, to quote the Poynter Institute on this one ...


Palin's Choice: From Privacy to Photo Op
Levi Johnston, Bristol Palin's boyfriend, has joined the vice presidential nominee's family at the Republican National Convention, greeting Sen. John McCain at the airport in front of cameras and eliminating whatever compulsion I might have had to lay off the pregnancy story now that the campaign is trotting out the kids for a photo op.

Earlier today, my Poynter colleagues Kelly McBride and Bob Steele offered good ideas and thoughts on the Palin family troubles and right to privacy. Steele says:

My concern for this 17-year-old and her privacy is deep and genuine. As the father of three daughters, I can relate to what she and her family are experiencing. Yet, I strongly believe the American public deserves to know about this piece of this teenager's life. Bristol's mom –- Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin –- could become the vice president of the United States.

The White House, Barack Obama and John McCain have all urged the media to give the teenage couple their privacy. To back off. But you can't have it both ways, asking journalists to back off while putting the teenagers in the spotlight on Sarah Palin's biggest night.

Second point, watch this ...

Third point referencing Slate.com and the LATimes.

In recent days, several pieces of information have come out that dispute McCain's description of Palin as a government reformer who has "stopped government from wasting taxpayers' money." But perhaps none of it is as damaging as a story in today's LAT because it turns out that McCain himself criticized some earmarks that Palin's small Alaska town received while she was mayor. In "pork lists" that the senator has published to call attention to wasteful government spending, McCain has included earmarks for Wasilla, Alaska, as "objectionable" three times in recent years. Palin was far from embarrassed about these earmarks, as she defended the practice in a newspaper column. And although McCain's campaign is trying to say that Palin had no choice but to work within a broken system, the LAT couldn't be clearer: "Wasilla had received few if any earmarks before Palin became mayor."

I take back what I've said about at least some TV reporters

CNN anchor Campbell Brown NAILS Tucker Bounds, John McCain campaign spokesman for obfuscating, evading and dodging. This is NOT liberal bias. This is accountablility and clarification, something that McCain and Sarah Palin have said they hold as fundamental traits of a good President.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Sweet tooth and sweet music tooth

$3.15 on a Dr. Pepper, bag of Reese's Pieces and a candy bar. No way in hell I was making it through today's 13+-hour day without a sugar fix. $3.84 for new Stars EP.

Three weeks until Acid Tongue!!

Start to this month's spend-a-blog

To celebrate Labour Day, I had lunch with Amy and her friend Christina, who works for 826LA. A hot, carefree afternoon at the Farmer's Market cost me $25 in lunch and four lemonades. I bought two for me and two for my pals. I heart fresh-squeezed lemonade on a hot Los Angeles afternoon. Otherwise, this blog post is very not interesting.

Other things I did to celebrate the working person, not clean much but instead read about 1/3 of Harry Potter and Half-Blood Prince.

I also found this article in the New York Times ...

August 31, 2008
Economic View

Is History Siding With Obama's Economic Plan?


CLEARLY, there are major differences between the economic policies of Senators Barack Obama and John McCain. Mr. McCain wants more tax cuts for the rich; Mr. Obama wants tax cuts for the poor and middle class. The two men also disagree on health care, energy and many other topics.

Such differences are hardly surprising. Democrats and Republicans have followed different approaches to the economy for as long as there have been Democrats and Republicans. Longer, actually. Remember Hamilton versus Jefferson?

Many Americans know that there are characteristic policy differences between the two parties. But few are aware of two important facts about the post-World War II era, both of which are brilliantly delineated in a new book, "Unequal Democracy," by Larry M. Bartels, a professor of political science at Princeton. Understanding them might help voters see what could be at stake, economically speaking, in November.

I call the first fact the Great Partisan Growth Divide. Simply put, the United States economy has grown faster, on average, under Democratic presidents than under Republicans.

The stark contrast between the whiz-bang Clinton years and the dreary Bush years is familiar because it is so recent. But while it is extreme, it is not atypical. Data for the whole period from 1948 to 2007, during which Republicans occupied the White House for 34 years and Democrats for 26, show average annual growth of real gross national product of 1.64 percent per capita under Republican presidents versus 2.78 percent under Democrats.

That 1.14-point difference, if maintained for eight years, would yield 9.33 percent more income per person, which is a lot more than almost anyone can expect from a tax cut.

Such a large historical gap in economic performance between the two parties is rather surprising, because presidents have limited leverage over the nation's economy. Most economists will tell you that Federal Reserve policy and oil prices, to name just two influences, are far more powerful than fiscal policy. Furthermore, as those mutual fund prospectuses constantly warn us, past results are no guarantee of future performance. But statistical regularities, like facts, are stubborn things. You bet against them at your peril.

The second big historical fact, which might be called the Great Partisan Inequality Divide, is the focus of Professor Bartels's work.

It is well known that income inequality in the United States has been on the rise for about 30 years now — an unsettling development that has finally touched the public consciousness. But Professor Bartels unearths a stunning statistical regularity: Over the entire 60-year period, income inequality trended substantially upward under Republican presidents but slightly downward under Democrats, thus accounting for the widening income gaps over all. And the bad news for America's poor is that Republicans have won five of the seven elections going back to 1980.

The Great Partisan Inequality Divide is not limited to the poor. To get a more granular look, Professor Bartels studied the postwar history of income gains at five different places in the income distribution.

The 20th percentile is the income level at which 20 percent of all families have less income and 80 percent have more. It is thus a plausible dividing line between the poor and the nonpoor. Similarly, the 40th percentile is the income level at which 40 percent of the families are poorer and 60 percent are richer. And similarly for the 60th, 80th, and 95th percentiles. The 95th percentile is the best dividing line between the rich and the nonrich that the data permitted Professor Bartels to study. (That dividing line, by the way, is well below the $5 million threshold John McCain has jokingly used for defining the rich. It's closer to $180,000.)

The accompanying table, which is adapted from the book, tells a remarkably consistent story. It shows that when Democrats were in the White House, lower-income families experienced slightly faster income growth than higher-income families — which means that incomes were equalizing. In stark contrast, it also shows much faster income growth for the better-off when Republicans were in the White House — thus widening the gap in income.

The table also shows that families at the 95th percentile fared almost as well under Republican presidents as under Democrats (1.90 percent growth per year, versus 2.12 percent), giving them little stake, economically, in election outcomes. But the stakes were enormous for the less well-to-do. Families at the 20th percentile fared much worse under Republicans than under Democrats (0.43 percent versus 2.64 percent). Eight years of growth at an annual rate of 0.43 percent increases a family's income by just 3.5 percent, while eight years of growth at 2.64 percent raises it by 23.2 percent.

The sources of such large differences make for a slightly complicated story. In the early part of the period — say, the pre-Reagan years — the Great Partisan Growth Divide accounted for most of the Great Partisan Inequality divide, because the poor do relatively better in a high-growth economy.

Beginning with the Reagan presidency, however, growth differences are smaller and tax and transfer policies have played a larger role. We know, for example, that Republicans have typically favored large tax cuts for upper-income groups while Democrats have opposed them. In addition, Democrats have been more willing to raise the minimum wage, and Republicans have been more hostile toward unions.

The two Great Partisan Divides combine to suggest that, if history is a guide, an Obama victory in November would lead to faster economic growth with less inequality, while a McCain victory would lead to slower economic growth with more inequality. Which part of the Obama menu don't you like?

Alan S. Blinder is a professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton and former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve. He has advised many Democratic politicians.

My conservative friend, Kevin, raised the standard conservative's objection to Blinder's premise: "Go look up what % of the tax burden "the rich" already shoulder. You might be surprised. :)"

In fact, I did look it up to be exact, but I wasn't at all surprised. I'd read these numbers before and similar numbers are all over the Internet.

The top 1 percent of taxpayers paid 33.7 percent of all individual income taxes in 2002. This group of taxpayers has paid more than 30 percent of individual income taxes since 1995. Moreover, since 1990 this group's tax share has grown faster than their income share.

BUT (me again) ask yourself practically, who can afford more? if someone earns $1 million a year before taxes, they can still easily live on $575,000 a year after taxes.

If someone earns $40,000 a year, it's a lot harder for them to live on $30,000 a year.

And if we want to stim the economy then middle class people need to spend. there are MORE of them. And if we want to have a Just society the poor must be assisted. Horatio Alger is fiction. That's the really sad thing about John Edwards career as a public official going in the toilet after his affair getting publicly disclosed. The Dems have lost their best and most prominent advocate for the poor. I loved Barack's speech, but his emphasis on the middle class should have also included the poor and working poor.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Money money money

The spending blog has been excellent for me. It really helped me keep my expenses down this past month. My primary credit card bill came in at less than $400 (and that includes virtually all groceries, house stuff and gasoline for the month), as well as some leisure expenses like comic books.

I intend to keep it going for at least two more months. I figure that a quarter of monitoring will influence my behaviors enough that they'll become habits.

Final expenses for the month: $9 chinese take out and $16.64 at TJ's for OJ, Mango juice, bbq chicken pinwheels and carrot cakes.


This is one of the great movie scenes ever.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

I'm sooo getting old

I bought coffee again today. It's been a brutal week and I woke up knowing I would need coffee to get through the day. $4. I'm exhausted and debating whether to pick up Chinese on the way home from work. The debate doesn't feel very fierce right now, but the the craving does.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Gray or bald?

After learning today from the woman who cuts my hair that gray is coarser and often thicker, I'd rather be gray-haired. I can always dye that. Instead I continue to pay for haircuts that will soon be unnecessary. Today was a $40 spot. But I'll gladly pay that every time knowing I'lll be happy when it's done and that I'll have that half hour of interesting conversation. I still miss you Deniece of Shapes and Colours on Wolf Road in Colonie.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I am about to go overbudget

I've spent $11 in the last two days. $7 on an iced-blended and a muffin to push through the second of back-to-back 12-hour-days Wednesday. And then another $4 today on sliced Muenster cheese from TJ's. That was strictly a grocery expense since I have sliced turkey at home but I don't eat sandwiches without cheese.

But Friday I get a haircut (which is desperately needed) which puts we way above the $6 I have left in my wallet.

Oh well, I can live with that.


I won't stop pimping this song or band ...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The glass is 40 percent full of Radiohead

A few months ago I celebrated my 100th concert. HOORAY FOR ME. HOORAY FOR MUSIC. I've seen shows in Orchard Park, Lewiston, Syracuse, Albany, Schenectady, Troy, Tucson, Phoenix, Finger Lakes, Pembroke, Los Angeles, Irvine, West Hollywood and even Pomona.

With this kind of experience, when I saw that Radiohead was playing the Hollywood Bowl on Sunday and that the show "started" at 7 p.m. according to the ticket, I figured 7:30 p.m. dinner plans would get me to my seat right about 9 p.m., when the band would be taking the stage.

Amy and I used the following logic in planning our concert excursion. Noise ordinance kicks in at 11 p.m., so working backward ... a band with an extensive back catalog, which Radiohead is, usually plays about two hours per show. So if we aim for a 9 p.m. arrival, we should probably be getting to Hollywood to park around 8:30 p.m. thus leaving plenty of time to walk from the surrounding neighborhood up the hill to the Hollywood Bowl. That means a quickie, cheap dinner starting at 7:30 p.m. should be fine, eh?

We meet up at 7:30 and our arranged restaurant but improvise sushi just down the street. Ultimately, this decision costs us about 20 minutes—rather than finishing at 8:15 we finish closer to 8:35. We end up getting parked in Hollywood around 8:50 instead. But we're both good walkers so we know that we'll make up most of the time and if we miss a song or two the world won't end. (We've each seen them before).

As we approach the entrance to the Hollywood Bowl we can hear Radiohead. "Shit, we missed the beginning," I say. It's about 9:15 when we get to the entrance. NO ONE else is "fashionably late." But then again, this is RADIOHEAD. Their fans are devoted.

We proceed up the hill and I notice that we're the only ones heading in. Like I said, devoted. The ticket guy scans our tickets but the security people let Amy through without a bag check. WTF? Is this Dick Cheney's America or what? As we're walking I notice that a large pack of Bowl employees are eating and the black and white clad ushers are heading away from the seating area. RADIOHEAD FANS ARE DEVOTED.

"I could really use a drink of water," Amy says.

"Yeah, but let's get to the entrance to our section first," I reply.

"Right on."

We had good seats so we get there a minute later. I go in and Radiohead is in the midst of Climbing Up the Walls. While waiting for Amy they start Bodysnatchers, my favorite song from In Rainbows. It's AMAZING with it's crooked rhythmic aggression. And they sound incredible. I am geeking out huge. Amy comes back and we head toward our seats. We get to our aisle and decide to wait until the band finishes the song before we head to our row, so as not to be too disruptive as the fashionably late arrivals.

When we get to our row, it's jammed like sardines. As we squeeze by the other fans I apologize for being the late ones. Our spots are actually occupied, but the people standing there are cool as we show them our tix and push down and Amy and I nestle in. Now that we've arrived they start playing How to Disappear Completely. More superbness. Then the band walks off stage to cries that can only be interpreted as thank-you-so-muc-you-changed-my-life-type passion.

I don't know how I felt in that moment. Amy would tell me later that I got pale for an instant. I look at her and she has a weird smile (doesn't reach her cheeks really) and a distant look in her eyes. Then she and I simultaneously chuckle at the absurdity of our situation.


"Um ... huh?"

"Is that ...?" neither of us quite able to voice our fear.

I look at my watch. It's 9:35 p.m. She looks at her cell phone to check the time. Same thing.

I can tell I've got a weird smile on my face as I stare at a Radioheadless stage. I feel Amy's hand on my shoulder. I look to my left.

"Dude, the encore is next. We missed the show," she says, probably as much to comfort herself as me.

"I know. I can't believe it, though. Look at the time," I say oddly feeling only a slight disappointment. I think the stun effect is still overwhelming me.

"I know," she replies equally stunned.

Both concert vets, we pause to reconstruct our plans for the night and we can't find any flaws.

I quickly entertain thoughts of buying tickets to the next night's show on Craigslist. But since I'm in austerity-Mike mode I bury those thoughts. "Maybe, the noise ordinance kicks in at 10 p.m.? I wish I had triple checked."

The band returns to the stage. I have one thought in my head. I want a five-song encore. That would mean I'd get to hear about eight songs. At $80 a ticket that's $10 a song. If my per song value gets higher than that, I'm gonna lose it?

Well, thankfully they proceed to play an amazing five-song encore: Videotape / Paranoid Android / Dollars & Cents / Street Spirit (Fade Out) / Reckoner. WOWZ. It's like a transcendent musical experience. I almost cried during Videotape and the crowd energy during Paranoid Android energy was like organic.

The band leaves the stage again. It's 10:08 p.m. If the noise ordinance cut off was 10 p.m. the show would have ended then, because the fine would kick in immediately at 10:01. Now we don't know what's going on.

Amy and I are impressed enough that any lingering disappointment has been quashed, thanks in part to tons of shock still runnning through us. The fans are going even more nuts. And on one is packing up anything. No one is dashing to beat the crowd, which is almost as common as dope smoking at Bowl concerts. As we look to the stage, Amy and I both note that the stage isn't being broken down, instead the piano is being moved and guitars are being replaced and tuned.

They come out again!!! We consider the possiblity that maybe they're taking breaks every five or six songs. Again, neither of us can ourselves to ask anyone. At this point Amy is crossing her fingers for "House of Cards" from In Rainbows. I wonder whether they've already played everything from the latest album.

In a sign of good karma, they open this set with House of Cards. Then they perform Lucky and Everything in Its Right Place. Then it's over at about 10:30, so we got about an hour of show. We're both disappointed, obviously, but also quite zenfully at peace with it. As we're leaving the venue, we remark that we were each glad that we shared this experience with the other. With almost anyone else, we would have probably gotten pissed through a mutual sharing of frustration thing. But we each were so struck by the absurdity of seeing our very sensical, logical plan disastorously crash that we coasted through it.

In the end we got about 10.5-11 songs, so better than $10 per song.

When I checked the Web Monday I learned that they had in fact played like 26 songs. And I later found out that they took the stage at 8 p.m. By Grapthar's Hammer that's quite a value.

In the end, it was still an amazing show. But I suspect that had I been there for the whole thing, it would have been transcendent. *sigh*

Here's a highlight