Thursday, April 30, 2009

The scariest (non) movie trailer ever

So this is the latest video from the still-searching-for-its-message-and-strategy-and-brains Republican party.

This follows the defection of Arlen Specter to the Democratic Party and Op-eds from Republicans Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and former NJ Governor Christine Todd Whitman lamenting their party's growing exclusiveness and inability to articulate words with more than one syllable: "no," "fear," and "scare."

Though I am a pretty left-leaning liberal (one reason I'm not a registered Democrat is because the party is too conservative for my tastes, particuarly socially), I am not blind to American history. I know within my lifetime that I'll see the resurrection of the Republican Party from its currently prematurely-obituaried state and then another alarmistly termed death knell and a subsequent resurrection, which will flow inversely with the Democratic Party's lifeline.

The only true constant in politics is that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The Democrats, who thanks to Specter are on the verge of a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and who already own the House, will find a way to fuck it up (see Rostenkowski, Dan). I know that more certainly than that I'm going to die.

Wasn't it just four-and-a-half years ago that the commentorati were relegating the Democratic Party to N.Y.C., Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Portland and Seattle? And telling liberals that they should move to Western Europe because America had fundamentally repudiated government regulation of markets and take your gay, god-killing, baby-eating, rare-insect-saving, terrorist-hugging friends with you?

The problem I'm seeing with the Republicans (and Whitman, Specter, Snowe all say words to this effect) is that right now all those people they excluded have banded together with the pretty much everyone else and realized that, it's the economy stupid and right now we're fucked. What do Bob Nardelli (CEO of Chrysler) and union-card-carrying Joe The Assemblylineworker have in common? They're both about to lose their car-industry jobs.

Extra rub for the GOP, payback's being particularly bitchy this time, because your exclusionary tactics toward the different in our 24-hour-news-cycle age were especially condescending O'Reilly-style (it doesn't rear it's head until the 2:14 mark, but I heart this clip) snark and blowhardery.

If they wanted my advice, and they don't, they'd first have to acknowledge that their Message sounds anachronistic. Government will NEVER be small again. The gun-toting libertarians of Eastern Washington State and Oregon are such a small sliver of a slice of the electorate that they shouldn't be trying to secure that vote. In fact, the people who won you the 2000 and 2004 elections (people in the burbs) and who lost you 2008 (people in the burbs), don't want a small government. At all.

They want to know that their kids will get good educations that they can afford and that their investments will be protected. And since rampant deregulation and over-merging got us in this mess, stop saying that the markets will monitor themselves. Even Ayn Rand stated that for true Objectivism and Virtue of Selfishness dogma to work in the real world, people have to recognize that acting corruptly is bad and then not act corruptly.

Well, Rand for all her vilification as inhumanly cold, was in fact perhaps too optimistic. Because people can't help but fuck each other over and often themselves if left wholly to their own devices. So don't accuse the liberals of a naively, pollyannaish world view, in fact I think liberals are more cynical about humanity's capacity to deliver the shiv.

The people in the burbs want to be safe, so yeah, that worked great in 04, but the human genome has programmed us to adapt. And since 9/11 we've raised our baseline, so we're used to a constant yellow or orange alert status, so we're just not as afraid as we were in 02. Maybe we should be, maybe we shouldn't. But Bushies, not only did you squander the greatest opportunity ever to lead the world (post 9/11 when everyone empathized with the United States) and one of the highest presidential approval ratings ever, you also in fact sowed the seeds of your demise.

Karl Rove's decision to get in bed with the religous right was a very short-sighted gain. An alliance with those who believe in a Morality that comes from an unequivocally unquestionable authority cannot ultimately support the traditional doctrines of the Republican party's primacy of individual freedoms. When one lives one's life according to a Moral scale (of assumed beliefs) rather than an ethical scale (of evaluatable behaviors), there is no compromise. So essentially what you did Karl, and those who enabled/empowered you, is tell the core small-government conservatives (who tend to be more of a live-and-let-live crowd, as in I think you gays are an abomination, but if you don't get in my face I don't really care), and pushed them aside for a force of people that are still a minority in overall numbers and geographically (and who also take stewardship of the Earth very seriously. It's one of those divine moral imperatives). Architect of what exactly?

Also Rove's divide and conquer the electoral map strategy did more to fan the partisan flames than Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, James Carville and Keith Olbermann ever could. And invading a country that was NEVER a threat to the United States based on lies you HAD TO KNOW would be exposed and then ordering inhumanly savage torture and finally not even taking care of the vets when they got home, all while giving in to your paranoia and spying on Americans without legal consent. WHATTHEFUCK did you think would fucking happen?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Raising a glass to the good fighters in Journalism

The Los Angeles Times has been sinking the past few years, but I've maintained to those who would attack it without remorse that there are still dedicated people there doing important work. Case in point, Sunday's story by reporter Robin Abcarian about a UCLA college student named Lila Rose who secretly video records deceptive visits to Planned Parenthood and then posts edited videos on YouTube of her receiving "bad advice" (say posing as a 13-year-old who got impregnated by a 31-year-old and having the nurse recommend she like about the guy's age, ergo shooing away the statutory rape charge).

In the story, Abcarian reports/writes: Rose's goal is to undermine legal abortion by showing that Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of abortions in the country, abets sexual exploitation by counseling pregnant minors to lie about the ages of their adult boyfriends.

Planned Parenthood officials strenuously deny the charge. Protecting minors is a crucial part of their mission, they say, but with 30,000 employees and volunteers and 850 clinics, they say, mistakes are inevitable.

... continued ...

Rose, she added, has refused to show Planned Parenthood her unedited tapes, so "it's very difficult for us to know what happened."

Rose said the full, 48-minute video of her encounter in Indianapolis is available at her website.

The conversation in the uncut version is more nuanced than the edited five-minute version, and includes a staffer stating emphatically, "We have to follow the laws," and another urging Rose to tell her mother about the pregnancy.

"I should also note that every time we release footage from a new clinic," said Rose in an e-mail, "we send complete copies of the footage to various state authorities, including the attorney general."

The kicker I see here is that her notoriety hasn't been gained through her website or even through the videos sent to the law enforcement agencies, but through YouTube. So her lies of omission are worth criticizing her for. She's right when she says that it's horrible that a volunteer would encourage a patient to lie about statutory rape/sexual abuse. And it's the emotionally-charged reaction that she's clearly counting on when posting an edited version on YouTube set to a dark soundtrack.

FOR THE RECORD FROM THE STORY: Laurie Rubiner, vice president for public policy and advocacy for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said it is a violation of the organization's policy to tell a young woman to lie about the age of a father. The well-being of patients, she said, is paramount. "And that means making sure that we are complying with minor-abuse reporting requirements."

Her co-hort/accomplice in this is James O'Keefe, a 24-year-old and fellow conservative activist. He essentially says that abortion is genocide and the ends (shocking people) justify the means (lying, deception, invading someone's privacy and trying to entrap someone).

Abcarian's story is excellent in how it does not take sides. It's the epitome of "fair and balanced" in fact. It's the mark of an excellent reporter to allow a subject the opportunity to explain him/herself and leave the judgment and criticism to the other voices and perspectives in the story. I have no idea what Abcarian's views are on abortion or on Lila Rose's deceptive methods.

Personally, using ethically wrong methods to capture someone else doing something you think is wrong offends me. And I would hope that she could be more Obama-like and try to find common ground rather than shock and awe someone into taking an action based on emotion rather than logic.

Her deceitful tactics have worked though: Last month, the Orange County Board of Supervisors voted to suspend a grant worth nearly $300,000 to Planned Parenthood that was earmarked for sex education, not abortions. A conservative Tustin businessman raised the issue with Supervisor John Moorlach after meeting Rose and seeing her videos.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I can't have kids, because I'll be a helicopter parent

If you're not doing anything else Saturday around lunch (EDT) make sure you go to wrgw radio and listen to one of my favorite L.A. Youth alums spin some tunes. Shannon is the host The Original Soundtrack her radio show on WRGW, the campus radio station at The George Washington University.

And in so doing Shannon is living one of my dreams—being a DJ. Her show is fanfuckintastic actually—waaaaaay more eclectic than KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic (which I heart). Tune in and you could get Kimya Dawson or Radiohead or Dean Martin or Frank Valli singing "Grease" or Yo La Tengo or hear her give L.A. Youth a shoutout followed by Henry Mancini or Jamiroquai. How fucking bad ass is that? Seriously! That's the show I would have done or would do now (well, except for the Yo La Tengo, I think. They just don't quite do it for me).

I have few regrets in my life, but one of them is not getting involved with the college radio station. Despite going to a college with 35,000 students, the University of Arizona's KAMP didn't have a presence. The signal was so weak that the station had almost no reach. I literally listened to it less than five times and never off campus. But I worry about my unrealized aspirations.

For the past few weeks I've been sending her one mp3 to play per show (so far Single Gun Theory's "From a Million Miles," Sara Craig's "Sparks Fly," The Pipettes' "Because It's Not Love" and finally Debbie Gibson's "Lost In Your Eyes"). I did this to share some music that I love, particularly older stuff like Single Gun Theory, which literally changed my musical life, and admittedly gave me some obscuria cred to outshine most. Well, that's mostly why I did it. But I think I also wanted to make her live out what I missed.

Seriously, I am not nearly good enough a writer to describe how hard it is for me to limit myself to sending just one song or preventing myself from typing out entire two-hour playlists. Along with owning a restaurant/bar and naming sandwiches after my friends, this is THE DREAM.

But though I've choked off that urge to live vicariously through her, the magical technology that allows me to email songs to her, also lets me IM the crap out of her. I usually request a song or two per show, once requesting Bobby Brown's "My Prerogative," which turned into a disaster when she found a remix version that lasted like seven gawful minutes.

And then the IMs get out of control, like when she mispronounces a band name, I IM her the correct pronunciation. When she says something incorrect about L.A. Youth, I'm not able to appreciate the shoutout but I have to send her the correct info. I'm a dick, basically. I'm not mature enough to be proud that one of my fave kids is having a great time discovering a new interest, I have to play in the sanbox, too and essentially tell her how to build a sandcastle the way I want to. Sorry, Shan!

Aside: another regret is related to the delay with this post. I should have blogged about this a few weeks ago so I could have given Shannon more of a shoutout for her really cool show. Sorry, Shan!

But in the end, I just want to say that your show is pretty fucking awesome and I'm really proud of you.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Loving Los Angeles and music

Carpe Diem. Seize the Day. The Romans had it right.

Living in megalopolis like Los Angeles/The Southland, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and to let the limitless options daunt you into a paralysis of missing everything the region has to offer. I work with high school students and I know tons who haven't been to the beach in months or have never hiked despite great mountains less than an hour away.

Thanks to a former student, M, I've done a better job of adhering to the Carpe Diem ideal. I've attended two Los Angeles Philharmonic performances this season. [After S&S moved, I feared that my high-culture experiences would wane, b/c they were the musical theater buddies.]

And last Tuesday night's performance was extra special because it allowed me to make up for a great oversight. Last fall, when M proposed checking out an LA Phil concert, it was a Eureka-moment! But we were getting such a late start that all of outgoing musical director Esa-Pekka Salonen's concerts were sold out. I don't know the man, and hadn't been to see the Phil except for a free preview mini-concert before the Disney Hall opened. But judging by how the L.A. Times raved about him and the orchestra, the coverage of the L.A. Phil's foreign tours (which won near-univeral lavish praise) the number of times I saw his face on posters, banners and billboards around the city, it was clear that he was one of cultural forces in the city and the world. And by all accounts, a very generous person, who had adopted Los Angeles as a home away from home.

Tuesday's concert was part of The Green Umbrella series, which is dedicated to debuting often-experimental music by younger, lesser-known composers. While reading the program, which featured an "exit interview" with Salonen, I saw a much more tangible example of his impact and influence when he shared what the first rehearsal was like in Frank Gehry's gem of downtown.

"... I remember when in Beethoven's Seventh the basses played a few pizzicatos and there was this whole beautiful, dark rin to this pizzicatos and these experienced, weathered bass players, they started crying because it was such an experience to hear oneself the way one always dreamed.

So, really, for many people, it was a totally overwhelming experience. And the reactions afterwards, when so many people came to talk to me. there were two kids of reactions, basically. There were the young ones, 'Oh, it's fantastic. How fantastic it will be to work in this building.' And then there were the older people who said, 'Well, I have wasted all these years, and now I finally hear it.' Of course, these years were not wasted by any means, because the Philharmonic has given so much pleasure to so many people over the years in all kinds of language. But it really was a magical day."

I actually got a little choked up reading that. To reach such a pinnacle by all outside measured standards (not just Salonen but all the members of the L.A. Phil), but to so value and appreciate the magic of the small moment. That's something we should all aspire to.

When he took the stage that night (following a short film retrospective), the audience rose to its feet for a well-deserved standing ovation. Though his direct impact on me has been smaller (this was just my second time seeing him), I feel as though he's one of the reasons I love this city. The Disney Hall would not have been built without his passion. But it's way more than the architectural model, obviously. But he's got a presence that literally makes me feel like the city is better because he has been in it. I don't know many others like that.

For the show ... I liked everything. Enrico Chapela's "Li Po" fused electronics, a sonically analyzed poem reading and surround array of nature sounds with a small chamber-sized ensemble to create a soundscape that challenged my notions of music.

My favorite piece was Anna Clyne's "With Her Arms." This was the most traditional of the pieces—composed for a small string ensemble. It was gorgeous and melancholy for much of, with an almost lush touch tempered by sadness. I kept imagining someone crying one's self to sleep in a velvet bed while being held and comforted by their mom.

Erin Gee's "Mouthpiece XI" was the most experimental and least enjoyable for me, but that's not to say it was bad. Gee used two microphones (backed by a small string and wind ensemble, including a BASS FLUTE), to emit all sorts of odd vocal sounds. It was an envelope-pushing exploration of the limits and capabilities of the human vocal instrument. Cool for what it was demonstrating, just less traditionally melodic.

The fourth piece was Fang Man's "Deluge," which matched its name brilliantly. The piece incorporated some recorded sounds of rain, but the genius came in Man's creation of those sounds using the orchestra. In the program notes Man wrote that she thinks of music and creations in terms of how they can help the world and bring value to it and people. So admirable. I felt like this evening alone completely justifies the existence of the National Endowment for the Arts; not that any of these artists has received funding from the NEA, but that the state should support art for otherwise who would be there to challenge, inspire, comfort, memorialize, mourn and celebrate us. That art can do all that speaks volumes.

The final piece was an older piece from Salonen titled "Floof." The piece was as whimsical as its name. It featured Hila Plimann on soprano reciting mostly semi-sensical phrases and lots of references to obscure for me, but once I stopped trying to read along with the text and just enjoyed the sonic picture, I was wowed. Just the brilliance of sound in a gorgeous building created by inspiring, hard-working people ... what a night?

In light of this post ... here's a link to VH1 Save the Music, which has a goal of helping keep music education in public schools.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Comedy is hard, because being smart is hard

So like most people I want to know more about why and how the economy got fucked, which would hopefully lead to me being able to better evaluate different proposals to unfuck it and also those that would prevent future fucks (is that pre-unfucking?). But honestly, I feel like this shit is waaaaay beyond me. And though I am often an apologist for newspapers and reporters, I like many others point a GIANT FOAM MIDDLE FINGER at the business journalism community which was too ready to wave the giant foam we're-no.-1 finger during the last 20 years rather than explain what a hedge fund was, how it worked and the complete lack of rules governing investment bankers.

Thankfully, there's Jon Stewart, The Daily Show and William Cohan.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
William Cohan
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