Monday, September 29, 2008

Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.

(Quote attributed to Mark Twain.)

This is the second time in memory this has occured. I know I have a common name (for Members of the Tribe of a certain age/generation), and the middle name is wrong. Still, it gives one kind of a jolt.

The last time this happened, I was reading the Los Angeles Times while waiting for a flight at LAX. I saw my name and decided to visit the Mutual of Omaha self-serve flight insurance before boarding. As Woody Allen said, "It’s not that I’m afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Road to Hell

Honestly, even though it was the political climate that compelled me to begin this accursed endeavor, I really wanted to divest myself into areas of passion and avocation-- guitars... photography... hardboiled crime fiction. But, like The Godfather III's elder Michael, each time I try to get out, they pull me back in.

I am not going to rant about Sarah. Lord knows, she has gotten in way over her addled little head and will implode all by herself. I am not going to kvetch about lame duck Bushie and his dark partner, Cheney. When they make the movie (not by Oliver Stone, who used up his 15 minutes a long, long time ago), he will be played by the ghost of Goering. I have nothing to say about McCain. He is a pathetic little man, who uses imprisonment by the VC as cred to be pres. You vote for him, you deserve him. No, what ails me greatly at the moment is the fact that the senate overwhelmingly voted for offshore drilling and... throwing billions at the auto industry... in a Saturday session, no less. Certainly, this vote and the anticipated disaster as a result is bipartisan in nature. More than enough myopic blame to go around.

I debated starting off with a pic of anti-semitic Mel as Mad Max. Viggo as the protagonist in Cormac McCarthy's The Road would be more apt. I said to Bea tonight that I am glad we don't have kids and she replied that she has thought the very same thing lately. What we will be leaving the next generation? Fossil fuel is finite. The very earth we live on is also finite. Bea says that every day we live on the planet, we destroy it a little more. The ways of "civilization" prevents it from it replenishing itself. It has a limit and once it reaches it, that's it. Like a Looney Tunes cartoon-- at the end, it is "th-th-th-that's all, folks." Do I sit here and condemn the members of the senate for allowing--no, promoting--this horrifc bill to be passed? Why? I will leave that to the myriad bloggers, pundits and armchair generals. Me? I am glad I live where I live. I feel sometimes like the Michael Caine characer in Children of Men-- without the pot. Contrary to some opinions, I did not run from Los Angeles. But neither will I mince words: I left, of my own volition. The stagnant autmotive traffic, the air quality and general quality of life had deterioriated so during my 26+ year stay that it became increasingly uninhabitable. Way too many people. And the climate of fear and street violence has grwon to unmanagable levels. I am comfortably isolated now.

But back to the issue (today's oil/automobile bailout): Did Ford, GM and Chrysler not see this coming? Building cars that depend on fossil fuel is aimed at making the short bucks. It is more than short-sighted. It aids and abets the demise of the planet, pure and simple. Okay, yeah-- I drive a car that needs unleaded gas. Give me an alternative and I will be there like that. It's a little like when Saint Lenny said, "if you are going to pay me $50,000 to work the Fremont Hotel and $50,005 to work the Christian Science Reading Room, I'm in the Reading Room... like that." I am just picturing dropping what? Like $350.00 a night for an ocean view room at the Fontainbleau in Miami to be able to see the pool... and the oil platform from my room? Polar bears are committing acts of cannibalism to stay alive as their disappearing habitat, while the potential vice-president claims foreign experience because she can see Russia from her house. Where is Howard Beale when you need him? This is not a joke, people. This is some scary shit. The planet is at stake. This is much more than red state and blue state. You can bitch and moan that the Democatic candidate is (gasp) a black man, and we can't have that. But, you know what? It doesn't matter. Birds washed up on the shore covered in 10/30 weight is just the beginning. Every speculative/sci-fi novel you have read is coming true. This ain't no religious apocalyptic vision. This is much more banal. It is McCarthy's Road. A meltdown of morality and civility. The clouds will gather and the rain will burn...this is the beginning of the end. Fasten your seatbelts. This is going to be a bumpy ride.

A few lines from Chris Rea--

Stood still on a highway
I saw a woman
By the side of the road
With a face that i knew like my own
Reflected in my window
Well she walked up to my quarterlight
And she bent down real slow
A fearful pressure paralysed me in my shadow
She said 'son what are you doing here
My fear for you has turned me in my grave'
I said 'mama i come to the valley of the rich
Myself to sell'
She said 'son this is the road to hell'

Sunday, September 21, 2008

In Bob I Trust

It is probably safe to say that hardly a day goes by that a line, a lyric or title from a song by Bob Dylan doesn't pop into my head. Like the semi-Semitic put-down of Mr. Wisenheimer, he has an answer for everything. I have read a biography or three on Mr. Dylan and I think it is safe to say, he doesn't sound like an easy guy to hang out with, let alone know. But how many artists are? Hell, Caravaggio was a street punk. But he says things in song that stay with you... that echo in your head, shake around a little until they make sense like the crack of thunder in the midst of a windy dark night. I could be just another ranting voice in the blogosphere. I could shout and scream I could rail at all... wait a minute-- that's the Glimmer Twins. Let's stay on topic. The words to Love Minus Zero/No Limit ring as true as they did over forty years ago. As they did before they were put to the rhythmic strum. In they dimestores and bus stations, people talk of situations, read books repeat quotations, draw conclusions on the wall... they come directly from memory, emblazoned as they are in my synapses and my soul. The truth and nothing more, but never anything less. I watched the candidates try to convince the public of their worthiness on 60 Minutes tonight. Sound bytes and senselessness. I am left with the skeletal truth. I thank the stars that John Hammond had the wisdom and foresight to get young Bob into a studio. And I thank Bob himself, for the cryptic conflictive contradictions and ultimately the richness of his words. I could link you to Youtube, but the video lessens rather than heightens. The visuals dull the brilliant shine and sharpness of the tone. The words stand on their own. We're living in a political world...

We live in a political world,
Love don't have any place.
We're living in times where men commit crimes
And crime don't have a face

We live in a political world,
Icicles hanging down,
Wedding bells ring and angels sing,
clouds cover up the ground.

We live in a political world,
Wisdom is thrown into jail,
It rots in a cell, is misguided as hell
Leaving no one to pick up a trail.

We live in a political world
Where mercy walks the plank,
Life is in mirrors, death disappears
Up the steps into the nearest bank.

We live in a political world
Where courage is a thing of the past
Houses are haunted, children are unwanted
The next day could be your last.

We live in a political world.
The one we can see and can feel
But there's no one to check, it's all a stacked deck,
We all know for sure that it's real.

We live in a political world
In the cities of lonesome fear,
Little by little you turn in the middle
But you're never why you're here.

We live in a political world
Under the microscope,
You can travel anywhere and hang yourself there
You always got more than enough rope.

We live in a political world
Turning and a'thrashing about,
As soon as you're awake, you're trained to take
What looks like the easy way out.

We live in a political world
Where peace is not welcome at all,
It's turned away from the door to wander some more
Or put up against the wall.

We live in a political world
Everything is hers or his,
Climb into the frame and shout God's name
But you're never sure what it is.

©1989. Bob Dylan

Saturday, September 20, 2008

An Appreciation

James Crumley passed away, from complications of kidney and pulmonary diseases Tuesday at St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula, Montana, where he lived.

Those are the facts, and they only hint at a life lived hard and rich. The evidence of that hard-lived life is on Mr. Crumley's face for all the world to see.

To call Crumley a crime novelist--a writer of detective fiction--hardly scratches the insight and profound depth he brought to the human condition-- its dark sides and its absurdities. His name and work is recalled in the context of the Holy Trinity--Hammett, Chandler and MacDonald, but his influence went much further, to contemporary crime writers like George Pelecanos, Dennis Lehane, Michael Connelly and others.

I first encountered Mr. Crumley's work at the Mysterious Book Shop in LA. Shelley MacArthur. I started with "Dancing Bear," the first of the Milo Milodragovitch books. Dark as hell, but with the redemption of black, bleak, self-deprecating humor. The character studies overwhelmed the plot at times, which was just fine with me. I got hooked and read everything Crumley wrote.

Twenty years ago or so, I had attended a small party with my future ex-wife, in the hills above Pacific Palisades. She worked with a psychological counseling group who dealt with on-site crisis intervention. They were called into help the victims of the terrorist plane crash in Locherbie, Scotland. One of the attendees had doctorate degrees in both English and Psychology. He had studied under the influential Erik Erikson. One of the lessons this person came away from his studies with Erikson was that, if you want to learn about psychology, you read psychologists. If you want to read about the human condition, you read fiction. It was like being hit on the head with the Eureka stick. But, of course! And I find this no more pointed than in the writings of good crime fiction, from Dosteyevsky's "Crime and Punishment" right up to the current handful of masterful genre writers. Crumley is certainly in that category, near the head of the class-- and class fits him like a tarnished crown. I mourn his passing and can take solace only in that he will live on, in a body of work that will surely stand the test of time.

Indulge me. This is a brief passage from James Crumley's last book, appropriately entitled, "The Final Country."

... for the first time in my life, I had long stretches of solitude with which to consider my life, trying to connect everything from my father's lovesick suicide to my mother's aggressive lie that somehow forced me to endure three months of muddy Korean hell before a broken collarbone got me back to the States in time to hear about her drunken suicide drying out at a fat farm down in Arizona. I considered it all—and it only added up to anything when I was in the arms of this sad, redheaded woman.

But I couldn't make her happy. No matter how hard I studied. Hell, I knew better. A man can make a happy woman sad, but he can't finally make a sad woman happy. Then I studied her sadness until the burden of that became too much for either of us to carry.

James Crumley

Requiescat in Pace

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hypocrisy takes Apathy at the Far Turn...

I am still unsure of the concept. I have a natural aversion to blogs-- perhaps because I think it is all about chest thumping/proclaiming Me! Me! Me! Well, enough about me... let's talk about me. Having issued that caveat, let me also add that I don't know if anyone is reading or will read this. So, I will just consider this a chance to vent, if only to myself. I began this blog because of politics. It is now taking on that complexion. I hope that someday I will write about the virtues of George Pelecano's writing, Rory Gallagher's playing and Edward Weston's images. You know... things I am passionate about. Right now, I am unfortunately wrapped up in this thing we are calling a presidential election. It is, in the words of Zimmerman, a pig circus. And, you know, I don't care where you stand. If you are the least bit objective, you can see that McCain is running the most insincere, slanderous, and pandering kind of campaign. He promised in the first verse that he would take the high road. We've gotten to the chorus and it is the sound of lowdown. I heard him tonight slam Obama for partying with Streissand and the like to garner support and sheckels from Hollywood. Less than 3 weeks ago, he was on jay Leno's show, before going out to garner support and sheckels from Hollywood. Hypocrisy is not as bad as out and out deceit. He lives there at the moment. Tom Selleck and Sly Stallone support Senator McCain. Rick Caruso is campaigning for him. Rick Caruso! Now, there is a scumbag. He is one of the richest men in LA. He builds shopping centers like the Grove by Farmer's Market, etc. He is building one out by Santa Anita in the style of New Orleans. When he went to the Big Easy to pick up the influence, he was disgusted. His New Orleans won't have any of that nasty funk... no authenticity... no soul. He will create a Disneyfied Crescent City. But I digress. The point I am trying to make is how McCain slams his opponent for trying to raise Hollywood dollars while he is doing the same thing. He has been caught in more lies than Carl Rockefeller and yet, he flashes that stupid-ass grin as he looks up from the music stand that holds his canned speech. He is pathetic. BUT the public is buying it. I fear for this country. I fear for our future. The race is unbelievably close. I wonder how America can be so dumb. Even the National Enquirer is busting Sarah Palin for her indiscretions and lack of political acumen. I want to say, you get what you deserve, but I live here, too. I scoffed at my friend John Mann for his attitude toward this country and his desire to go back to Poland to live permanently. Now, I am not so sure.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Apathy & Red Shoes

The double feature at the cinema of the mind begins with Network and goes to the all-time classic (anti-Communist) film of paranoia and apathy, "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." As much as I like the work of Brook Adams, I will go with Don Siegel's original version every time.

The movie has been on my mind of late, if only because I think the population of America has been co-opted, kidnapped and replaced by thoughtless, feelingless "pod-people." I mean, how else do you explain what is happening?

Today's Oregonian, out of Portland, ran an AP piece headlined "McCain's 'straight talk' goes awry". In it, Sarah Palin's "no, thanks" to the infamous bridge to nowhere claim has been disavowed by her earlier (documented) support of the bridge. The article also states how the McCain/Palin ticket has "equated lawmakers' requests for money for special projects with corruption, even though Palin has sought nearly $200 million in such 'earmarks' this year." The article goes on to report on an internet ad the McCain/Palin campaign produced "implying that Obama had called Palin a pig when he used a familiar phrase, which McCain has used, about putting 'lipstick on a pig' to try to make a bad situation look better." And in probably what is the lowest point (so far) in the campaign, "the McCain campaign produced another ad saying Obama favored 'comprehensive sex education' for kindergarteners. The charge was debunked by the media."

The lies and smears are bad enough. But to me, what is worse still is the response. The sound of one hand clapping-- or worse. The dirty tricks and untruths are now being documented in print and here in the Blogosphere as fast as they are spun out... and people don't seem to care. The race is neck and neck. Do I gather from this that the voting public would rather have an old white guy and his gun-toting, hockey mom compadre over a young man with new ideas and a seasoned Senator? Oh, did I forget the word, "black?" I'll go there... later. For now, I cannot help but take note of the conclusion by Michael Delli Carpini, an authority on political ads at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School of Communication, quoted in the AP article as saying that, "... the very notion that facts matter seem to be under assault."

Is it irony or mere coincidence that there was also an article in today's Oregonian raising questions on the guilt of the Rosenbergs because of possible perjury?

The Red Menace has been replaced by "Islamic Terrorists." Ask Ms. Palin, who blathered on and on in the interview with Charlie Gibson, winking and smiling while not answering even the puffball questions.

So, the deal is to be afraid, but for heaven's sake, be quiet about it.

Obama is taking the high road, which I guess is like a monk taking a vow of silence. Kerry did that four years ago. We know where it got him.

And America is, by and large, more concerned with Dancing with the Stars or the next season of Idol, than they are with the fate of the election.

And, oh, by the way, did you know there's a war on? Our country is spending upwards of $10 billion dollars a month trying to "win" in Iraq, and not a word about it appears in the newspaper or on the nightly news.

I am reminded of a conversation Pat Riley, then the coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, reportedly had with one of the players. His performance on the court compelled Riley to ask, I don't know if you're ignorant or just apathetic," to which the player responded, "I don't know and I don't care."

All of which brings me back to wonder if all those people on the streeets, shopping in the malls and occupying the homes and apartments in America are really pod-people.

Oh, and the title of this post? Elvis Costello, of course.

I used to be disgusted
Now I'm just amused
Since the wings have got rusted
The angels want to wear my red shoes

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Network '08

The most anticipated film of the fall is the sequel to Paddy Chayefsky's Network, in which Howard Beale implores his viewers to go to their windows and scream out, "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore."

And nobody does.

Apathy is king and the ratings be damned.

Speaker Pelosi has backbone removed. Shows signs of Weaselism.

As if having to deal with McSame and the Hockey Mom from Hell wasn't enough, the Democratic Speaker of the House has just emerged from Walter Reed Medical Center after having her spine removed. Evidently, the procedure went well... the only side effect being signs of weasel-like behavior.

Fom today's New York Times...

Democrats Reluctantly Embrace Offshore Drilling
Published: September 11, 2008

WASHINGTON — For decades, opposition to new offshore oil drilling has been a core principle of Congressional Democrats, ranking in the party pantheon somewhere just below protecting Social Security and increasing the minimum wage.

But a concerted Republican assault over domestic oil production and the threat of political backlash from financially pressed motorists have Democrats poised to embrace a fundamental shift in energy policy.

Even more surprising, the turnabout is led by the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, who has a history of fighting oil drilling going back to the early days of her career in California.

Under a measure being assembled for a vote in the House next week, oil rigs could go up 50 miles from the shores of states that welcome drilling and 100 miles off any section of the United States coast — a stark reversal on an issue that has been a Democratic environmental touchstone since the 1980s.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bending your ear, part II (short form)

Welcome to the world of “If you don’t think you can beat ‘em, join ‘em.”

I read in this morning’s paper that Speak of the House Pelosi is now in favor of offshore drilling (albeit with some convoluted caveats that will be taken as seriously as Dennis Kucinich’s Articles of Impeachment). She said that she and the House will be ready for a vote by week’s end.

Why do I think that being a Democrat now involves having your spine removed?

Bending your ear

I sent the following out to some friends and acquaintances. I got a good response and thought it is as good a place as any to start...

Being a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan, I know “you gotta believe”—that it ain’t over ‘til it’s over, and all that…

But, Christ—I cannot believe (a) this presidential campaign is as close as it is and (b) it is becoming increasingly about the Governor of Alaska.

I am ashamed and embarrassed. But more… okay, I’ll admit it—I’m a little scared.

I was eleven when John Kennedy was elected. Fourteen when he was assassinated. I was in New York City when Martin Luther King was assassinated. I watched Vietnam on television every night. And yet, I believed we could change the world. With liberal doses of pot, piss and vinegar, I bought the dream. Woodstock Nation was borne out of Kent State, the draft and that damned war.

It is like déjà vu all over again. Vietnam, the sequel, starring John McCain. The man said his war experiences were off limits and then he builds his campaign around them. Fred Thompson—who lost his cred when he dated Lorrie Morgan, the 80’s skanky country singer (every boy’s dirty little secret) and when he tried to convince us he was the DA in New York—gave a speech at the RNC about McCain that began and ended with his stay at the Hanoi Hilton. Enough already. Is he going to make Lieutenant Wm Calley his Secretary of War Atrocities? Warden of Gitmo? What does it mean when a presidential candidate says he is going to win the war in Iraq by winning? I won’t play the old age card if you folks stop playing the race card. McCain is forgetful and has a nasty temper. And guess what? His opponent is… black!


It’s like the lyrics from Beatle John’s “Give Peace a Chance.” Christ, you know it ain’t easy.

And then, there’s Sarah.

The woman is being kept from the media. She just recycles her RNC acceptance speech, like—to paraphrase her words—some rabid pitbull with lipstick. Come on! She was for the bridge to nowhere before she was against the bridge to nowhere. She fired people serving Alaska for disagreeing with her. She claimed per diem compensation for staying in her own home. She goes to church and speaks in tongues, asking for god to grant the pipeline’s success (no shit). She shoots fucking wild animals from a helicopter. And she has given the old man a bump in the polls. I would laugh if I read it in a novel. But this stuff is real.

Let me quote one of my heroes—

Praise be to Nero's Neptune
The Titanic sails at dawn
And everybody's shouting
"Which Side Are You On?"
And Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot
Fighting in the captain's tower
While calypso singers laugh at them
And fishermen hold flowers
Between the windows of the sea
Where lovely mermaids flow
And nobody has to think too much
About Desolation Row

New Orleans wallows in fetid water. People are literally committing suicide rather than facing foreclosure and/or bankruptcy. Right wing radio nuts are calling the government’s bail-out of Fannie and Freddie the biggest theft in history and demanding to know who is benefiting and guess what? China wins! Gas is four bucks a gallon and you just accept it all, fillin’ your Hummer to the top and gunning it on the highway of broken dreams...

Can we, as a nation, go any further off-course?

Obama may not be the answer. But he’ll do until the answer comes along. He is bright. He is articulate and if you take a minute to actually listen to what he says, he will give you hope.


Funny word. Foreign to us at this juncture and a bit of an anachronism. But, you know what? Without it, we might as well go outside and get drenched in the dismal rain of disillusionment and despair. We are lost without it.

John McCain does not give me hope. Does he give it to you? Are you hopeful when you hear him speak? Do you feel hopeful when he threatens Russia and wages war on our perceived enemies? Does he even know who our most formidable enemy is?


George W. Bush gave us fear on a platter. He passed the leftovers on to this tired little man… with a side of hubris. Hold the humility.

Do any of these jokers understand what serving the country means?

I will freely admit. I dodged the draft. I was chosen number one in the lottery in 1969 and got out of it. Ron Kovic told me I did the right thing. I think I did. I will not demean John McCain’s ordeal, but his stay in the Hanoi Hilton a president does not make. Is he a hero or a survivor? Can he be compared to Barack Obama… and why should he? Apples and Oranges.

I apologize for bending your ear. I send this to you because I don’t blog and you are my friend. I think you share my concerns. If not, let me know. Tell me not to bother you with this tripe anymore. I feel like I am a twenty year-old, trapped in a fifty-nine year-old body. I worry like I did in 1969. It felt like we won then…

There’s nothing in the streets
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Are now parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
Dont get fooled again
No, no!

And, oh, by the way— the Red Sox lost tonight. We’re a game and a half behind Tampa.
You gotta believe.

Rules are made to be...

This is the first in what I hope to be irregular and semi-frequent postings. I swore I would never do this. Then again, I never imagined myself putting chickens to bed--another story for another time. So, as the one-hit wonder soul band (who once backed up the Rolling Stones) sang, "Let the sideshow begin... "