Thursday, December 31, 2009

Why I won't be watching the Rose Bowl.

When I was a kid, the family would get up and watch the Rose Parade on New Years Day. I didn't much care about the football game that followed it. Truth be told, I still don't. I used to love the floats and equestrians. The marching bands were alright but, man those palm trees along Colorado Boulevard. And the cloudless skies. I was watching from a dozen or so miles west of Boston and invariably there was snow outside. The weather was frightful. I was jealous and confused. How could there be such a place?

Look at that mountain
Look at those trees
Look at that bum over there, man
He's down on his knees
Look at these women
There ain't nothin' like 'em nowhere


I moved to LA in 1980 and lived there for 27 years. My outlook changed when I watched the Rose Parade on TV from where I lived, in Encino or Hollywood, Beverly Hills or Larchmont, Pico-Robertson or Atwater Village. I would see the spectators in shortsleeves and moan. Shit. The yokels from middle America (similar in ways to middle earth, but not as earthy), are going to see the palm trees, see the clear blue skies and sense the warm temperatures. You can say, well, there's smog and yes, there is, but there is also a city edict on the books in Pasadena forbidding any brown particulates in the air on New Years Day. The San Gabriels are clear. The majorettes smile wide Ipana smiles. The world is a good place, from the vantage point of colorado Boulevard. They'll see it. They'll be there. They'll want to move...

From the South Bay to the Valley
From the West Side to the East Side
Everybody's very happy
'Cause the sun is shining all the time
Looks like another perfect day


So tomorrow, Oregon is playing Ohio State. A lot of folks from around here are driving, flying and otherwise truckin' down to Southern California for the "Big Game." New Years Day is tomorrow... a Friday. I imagine a lot of folks will stay for the weekend. They'll go to Farmers' Market and Rodeo Drive. They'll go to Malibu and Venice. And there are those that will insist on going to Disneyland. There's always that. They'll shed their outer layers and expose themselves to the sun and the momentary irresistability of Southern California. And why not. It is forecasted to be in the mid 70's tomorrow in Pasadena. Here it is predicted to reach the mid 40's and rain, rain rain. Maybe they'll even look in the paper and check home prices. Maybe.

When I lived there, I'd dread the out-of-towners being lulled into buying the California Dream on New Years Day. Tomorrow, I won't need to see the proof of eternal sunshine and blue skies... the temptation of Pasadena and places adjacent. I will look out the window and see rain outside and I will be dreaming right with them.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Paying the debt to Mort Sahl in installments...

I've written about Mort before-- last may, in honor of his 82nd birthday. He is mostly forgotten and pretty much unknown to, say, Jon Stewart's audience. But Mr. Stewart owes almost everything he does to Mort. His influence is all over the map of political humor and satire. His only stage prop was a newspaper. I've extrapolated his routine to the maxim that truth is stranger than fiction... every day. Or to put it another way, I CAN'T MAKE THIS SHIT UP.

This line of thinking applies to almost everything that emanates from and represents Los Angeles. Take, for example, the story that ran in the Los Angeles Times that was picked up by the wires and ran in the Oregonian the day before yesterday, December 9th-- Buses will take tourists to the heart of L.A. Gangland. The article is about a company called L.A. GangTours, that had a "VIP preview last month" and "expects to open to the public in January."

Straight Outta Compton

Making a buck with a bus full of rubes from the Midwest is nothing new. Just spend a couple hours at the Farmers' Market on Fairfax some weekday in the fall when the busses filled with fans of the visiting college teams playing USC or UCLA pull up and open their wallets to bring home overpriced tchotchkies and trinkets, T-shirts of places they haven't been to and delicacies they don't need to eat.

The tourists who are savvy enough to rent a car discover that all Los Angeles has to offer invariably fall for the "maps to the stars' homes." About half the homes listed were the former residences of dead celebrities, who died of old age-- Lucy, Jack Benny, Cesar Romero and Lupe Velez. Never mind the other tours that take them to OJ's house, or the scene of "The Crime of the Century." The disappointment to some that learn that the house where Sharon Tate got butchered by the Manson girls was torn down is palpable. There are horror tours, noir tours, and cemetery tours. The Raymond Chandler Tour and a drive-by to the location where the Black Dahlia's dismembered body was found... on Norton Avenue, in what, up until recently was known as South Central. There is the Rock Walk of Fame and the famous Hollywood Boulevard of Stars, culminating with the hand and footprints of some of the biggest stars of all, right in front of Grauman's Chinese Theater. To get to see them, the tourists have to fend off the costumed crackhead look-alikes. Fat Batman and out-of-shape Robin. Numerous Spidermen and Superman, Oscar the Grouch and Star Wars Storm Troopers. Wonderwoman and Catwoman. Popeye and Chaplin. Groucho and Conan. Joseph Wambaugh does a wonderful and pretty accurate send-up of these costumed losers in his book, Hollywood Crows (recommended).

These strutting poseurs get in tourists' faces and insist on having their pictures taken with them... and then they demand the seemingly compulsory gratuity. Like it's not enough that these poor schmucks are all so disappointed that Hollywood Boulevard is not gentrified enough for their middle American sensibilities, or lack thereof. They may be heartened to know it will never be gentrified enough.

But back to the point of all this rambling... YOU CAN'T MAKE THIS SHIT UP.

photograph taken by me,
stating the obvious on a wall overlooking the L.A. River in Atwater Village

The gang tour is reported to be planning to include the sales of T-shirts "painted on the spot by a graffiti 'tagger,' but they have "decided against a plan to have kids shoot tourists with water pistols, followed by the sale of T-shirts that read: I Got Shot in South-Central."

cute.

Actually, everyone knows that the LA City Council and LAPD eliminated the gang violence and related crime in South-Central... by renaming the area "South LA."

Your friendly driver
for the early evening bus tour, Sgt. Rock"

According the LA Gangland Tour website (www.lagangtours.com), the tour plans to visit:

The Los Angeles County Jail
The Los Angeles River Bed
The Metropolitan Detention Center
Skid Row
Pueblos Housing Project
The Symbionese Liberation Army Shoot Out
Florencia 13
Birthplace of Black Panther Party
Florence District
Florence Avenue
Firestone Sheriff Station
Jordan Downs Housing Projects
Hall of Justice Jail
Pico Union Graff Lab (Graffiti Lab)

Skid Row! The SLA shoot-out location! the birthplace of the Black Panthers! Be still my beating heart!

Bobby Seale and Huey Newton, back in the day

Bobby, today

A colorful stop on the LA Gangland Bus Tour. A definite photo-opp, but be sure to keep your head up. The sounds you hear are from a 9mm semi-automatic.

For additional fun on the tour,
a game of Musical Chairs is planned


It's all well and good to poke fun at this insane idea of trying to cash in on the notoriety of ground zero of gangs in America. But, truth be told, I don't find a lot of humor in it. I had done a little gang intervention when I lived in the Atwater Village neighborhood of LA. Our house was in a section that was bordered by two long-feuding gangs. The sound of gunfire and helicopters at night became mundane and often repeated. I worked with the cops on one hand and the gang intervention teams on the other. Gangs are not anything to hero-worship, gawk at nor emulate. Tagging is not art. It's bad enough that the music, the clothing, the language and the actions are now part of youth vernacular. But when the former chief of the LAPD is good with the busses, depending "on their intent and how they balance it (the tours)," it is truly time to be afraid. This is not something that will help reduce the influence of gangs nor the death and destruction they cause. It will only enhance their outlaw status and celebrate their criminal behavior.

All things being equal (and they never are), I am relatively happy to freeze in Oregon.

Monday, December 7, 2009

And you thought the Boy Scouts were bad...

Jesuits in Northwest face more than 500 sex-abuse claims
By The Associated Press
December 06, 2009, 6:50PM

SPOKANE -- More than 500 people have filed claims accusing Jesuits of sexually abusing children across the Northwest.

The claims vary in severity and span decades and geography, from Native Alaskan village children to students at Gonzaga Prep.

People were required to file their claims by Nov. 30, a deadline imposed by the federal judge overseeing the Chapter 11 bankruptcy of the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus. That organization includes Jesuits in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska.

The Jesuits have settled 200 additional sex abuse claims. Among them were claims by 110 Alaska Natives, who settled for $50 million last year. Insurers paid about $45 million of that.

The Jesuits say they have so far spent about $25 million from the province treasury. In bankruptcy documents, the Jesuits say they have $4.8 million in assets and $61.8 million in liabilities.

Many of the 500 claimants seeking settlements say the province remains a wealthy organization that misstated its financial standing in bankruptcy court records. They contend that the Jesuits control and own Gonzaga University, Gonzaga Preparatory School, Seattle University and other schools and properties.

Much like the parish ownership dispute that played out in the now-closed bankruptcy of the Catholic Diocese of Spokane, the ownership of Gonzaga and the other schools could be the dominant issue in the Jesuit bankruptcy.

Attorney James Stang, who represented a creditors committee in the Spokane Diocese case, represents a similar committee of claimants in the Jesuit case.

He has won court approval to take limited depositions and conduct some discovery of internal documents.

"The judge gave us a toe in the door," he said. "We'll see what happens and if we can develop a viable theory" that Gonzaga and other properties are owned by the province and thus part of the financial estate available to pay claims.

Gonzaga University is fighting every attempt to link its fortunes to the province. The private college with 7,200 students, which was separately incorporated and registered 125 years ago, will not volunteer money or other resources to settle the bankruptcy, said Mike Casey, Gonzaga's corporation counsel.

"We are not willing to either participate in this bankruptcy nor help resolve it," he said.

The claimants and their attorneys are employing what Casey called the "big tent theory," which uses the threat of big-dollar payouts against organizations with any hint of liability to coerce smaller payments.

"Creditors have run this play before with success. But not this time," Casey said. "Sorry, but we won't fall for it."

The university denies any liability for the actions of Jesuits who sexually abused children, including former university President John P. Leary, who sexually abused boys until Spokane police gave him a 24-hour ultimatum in 1969 to leave town or face arrest.

Leary fled and the Jesuit hierarchy relocated him.

It took the Jesuits 37 years to reveal the scandal and coverup. Leary died in 1993, and the Jesuits have acknowledged paying money to settle allegations brought by his victims.

On a separate legal front, the Oregon Province is engaged in a dispute with insurers regarding the scope of policies.

It has hired James R. Murray, who was widely credited with wringing $20 million from insurance companies to help settle the Spokane Diocese bankruptcy.

That money, together with $10 million from parishioners, the sale of diocese assets, bank loans and promissory notes collateralized by parish property, brought the diocese bankruptcy to a close in 2007.

-- The Associated Press
- - -
What currency did the bankruptcy involve... monetary or moral?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What was I thinking? (part 2)

Balloon Boy Hoax: Falcon Spills the Beans.


Clearly, I am no Perez Hilton or Michael Musto. I don't work for Harvey Levin on TMZ nor the fictional Sid Hudgens, editor of LA Confidential. I am not plugged into the ways of public scandal, titillating tales from Tinseltown, DC party-crashers or your run-of-the-mill celebrity meltdowns and train wrecks-- I simply do not have the celebrity radar to have foreseen that the Tiger Tale had more legs than merely a report of smashed up Escalade, fire hydrant and a wife-wielding golf club.

You can bet your life I will follow this story with all he rabid fascination of, well, a tiger on the scent of its prey. I'll just do it on my own time-- in between trying to learn more about Tareq and Michaele Sahali, and their White House invitation.

The healthcare debate? The troop build-up in Afghanistan? The real-estate market and jobless rate? Too dull and depressing. The travails of the highest paid athlete in the world chasing tail... now, that's an uplifting story. Something to give us a smile.... kick up our collective cynicism a notch... or at the very least, amuse us. It's funny-- I was at friends' house last night for dinner and they had Entertainment Tonight on the tube. Following the extended coverage of the Tiger Woods saga, they had a brief segment of some recently discovered film showing Marilyn Monroe toking on a doobie and passing it on to some eager hemp-head off-camera. What? She's been dead for over 47 years. Cue Elton and light the candle. On second though, that is just too melodramatic and faux somber. Drop a quarter into the Wurlitzer and punch in G4...

Dirty little secrets
Dirty little lies
We got our dirty little fingers
In everybody's pie
We love to cut you down to size
We love dirty laundry

We can do the Innuendo
We can dance and sing
When it's said and done
We haven't told you a thing
We all know that Crap is King
Give us dirty laundry

Kick 'em when they're up
Kick 'em when they're down
Kick 'em when they're stiff
Kick 'em all around
Don Henley

What began innocently enough (or at least below the aforementioned radar) is turning into the outing and undoing of a certain professional athlete named Eldrick Tont "Tiger" Woods. By comparison, Ron Artest's admission that he swigged from a bottle of Hennessey during halftime has hardly caused a blip on the screen.The text of his warning call to Jaimee Grubbs is currently on countless websites. His own site is peddling Tiger merchandise. Hmmm. Maybe, in some twisted way, his caps with the TW logo will become the new fashion accessory for cocktail waitresses and beautiful people wannabees.

As of this moment, Gloria Allred can't seem to get Rachel Uchitel to spill the beans on Le Tigre. This does not bode well for the spotlight loving lawyer, particularly in light of the fact that at least one of the other implicated women, (Jaimee Grubbs) is releasing phone messages and emails like they were canapés at a private party at the Forge.


TW: Hey, um... it's Tiger--
JG: Who?
TW: Tiger. You know, Tiger Woods. The golf guy. You remember... I told you I was going to wear you out...
JG: Can you hold on a sec? (away from the phone), Okay, that'll be two Heinekens, a Bud, a Fuzzy Navel and Sex on the Beach?
(laughter in the background)
JG: Sorry. I'm working, you know...
TW: Yeah, right. Hey, listen... I need you to do me a huge favor. Can you please take your name off your phone? My wife went through my phone and may be calling you. So if you can, please take your name off that. Just have it as a number on the voicemail. You got to do this for me. Huge. Quickly. Bye.
JG: Hello? Hello?

The third "other" woman, Kalika Moquin
(seen here talking on her cell)
is for the moment, not talking.

At this point, this story is so out of spin control, beyond a train wreck that Michael Bay is planning on basing his 2012 sequel on it. It once again, shows why fiction writers have such a hard time of it... who could make this shit up? It has gone miles past HUSH HUSH and on the QT.

Thus far, my favorite line spoken about this was by Keith Olbermann, who said that Mr. Woods "was having a problem with his putts."

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

ALLRED ALERT

Believe me when I say that I was perfectly happy to let the Tiger Woods story run its course as I would with a case of the flu. Antibiotics may help but they don't necessarily alleviate the symptoms. Bed rest, plenty of fluids and a lozenge or two. Ah, but this little touch of media infection has now developed complications. While the story has not reached the critical mass of, say, code blue, it has, as of yesterday, reached an ALLRED ALERT.

Oy Vey.

The biggest yenta in Hollywood has now entered the fray. Call Barnum and Bailey-- the circus is in town. Gloria Allred is an attorney to the stars, sometimes, whether they want her or not. In another time, she would have graced the cover of LA CONFIDENTIAL magazine-- HUSH HUSH and strictly on the QT. She doesn't possess the dignity of a Jerry Geisler, nor the hang-dog tenacity of Mark Geragos. She does have all of the chutzpah, but none of the charm of the late Johnny Cochran. If her face was plastered in the tabloids instead of her clients of the last few years, she'd pretty much be the most recognized woman in America... let's see: Ms. Allred represented Nicole Brown Simpson's family in the OJ trial. She represented Paula Jones in the sexual harassment case against former U.S. president Bill Clinton. She represented Amber Frey while a "witness" in the Scott Peterson murder case. In 2007, she represented Tony Barretto, a former bodyguard of Britney Spears in the child custody case with K-Fed. And when she's not getting a retainer for flapping her legal choppers, she gets "pro-bono" air-time. She spoke out against the King of Pop. After Michael dangled his child outside a Berlin hotel window, Ms. Allred fired off a letter to the Child Protective Services, asking for a an investigation into the safety of Jackson's children. Asked for his opinion of her intrusive concern, Michael Jackson was reported to have said, "Ah, tell her to go to hell."

Rachel Uchitel, with Gloria Allred in tow (left)

And now, it seems, Rachel Uchitel has hired Allred to represent her amid allegations that Uchitel and Tiger Woods had an affair. Your intrepid reporter has tried doing some research into who this comely, swollen-lipped, alleged seductress is. All I seem to find is that she is a sometimes bartender and has run "the velvet ropes from Las Vegas to the Hamptons." Blackbookmag.com calls her a VIP Diva. She claims that "The Four Seasons in Thailand (Chiang Mai) is my favorite place in the world.” Since Celine, Diva has dropped down a notch or three from any significance. MEEEYEOW!

Rachel Uchitel, working the ropes.

Ms. Uchitel sounds like a real piece of work. The beautiful people just aren't that pretty anymore. I've seen better legs on the trans-gender mayor of Silverton. In one report, Ms. Uchitel vehemently denies ever having an affair with Tiger, and in another claims she's been sleeping with him. Maybe they've just been sleeping... you know, with pyjamas on. She has also been reported to have been sleeping with David Boreanaz, of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame (?), while his wife was in the family way. HUSH HUSH and on the QT.

Why so glum, Chum?

Nothing makes the rumor mill move like the silence of those involved. This Tiger chum is staying mum, even to the point of bowing out of his own golf tournament in T/O (Thousand Oaks to the uninitiated). Wait, that's not too far from where Ms. Allred and Ms. Uchitel have been kibitzing. Enquiring minds want to know...

And while minds are enquiring, let's ask about the former Swedish model, Elin Nordegren. She and El Tigre were introduced to one another in 2001, when she was working as an au pair for Swedish golfer Jesper Parnevik.

Now, maybe Mrs. Woods can't cook worth a damn. Maybe she has a gutter-mouth and swears like a Swedish sailor. Maybe she wastes her sunny Orlando days getting wasted on Punsch. Whatever. She sure looks damned good in very little, hip-deep in water...

And so. dear reader, we can enquire all we want. We can wonder why the former Ms. Nordegren would stand alone in the pool with only her skivvies and a tank top, while her hubby is AWOL. For the moment, all we have are scant facts and conjecture... El Tigre smashed his Caddy Escalade into a fire hydrant and a tree in his neighbor's yard, in the exclusive gated Florida community where he lives with his wife and kids at around two-thirty in the morning after Thanksgiving. His model wife comes running out of the house, "to help him" by smashing the windows of the Caddy with a golf club. El Tigre was rushed to the hospital with his lips cut... alcohol was not involved. On the advice of his agent and attorneys, all is HUSH HUSH and on the QT.

Oy vey.

(with apologies to James Ellroy)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Eloquent Nude


Inexplicably, The Oregonian ran an obituary--remembrance, really--by Bruce Weber (a celebrated photographer in his own right) on the illustrious and illustrated life of Charis Wilson a week after she passed away.

Ms. Wilson may be best known for being Edward Weston's wife and model, but she was so much more. She was the love of Weston's life, his inspiration and, in some cases his eyes and words. Ms. Wilson wrote the grant application for Weston that earned him the first Guggenheim Fellowship awarded to a photographer. It was that grant that supported his work in the Mojave Desert, including his definitive work in Death Valley. Weston didn't drive, so Charis did. One of my favorite stories is that while Charis drove through the desert, Weston dozed in the car. She spotted what she took to be a Weston photograph, pulled the car over, and woke up the photographer. The rest of the story was caught on film. She also wrote many of the articles attributed to him, including many passages in his secondDaybook. Above is probably the most familiar of Weston's photographs of Ms. Wilson. It was reprinted with the obituary in The Oregonian. Ironically, it was this very photograph that had caused quite a stir when it was included in Wesotn's first major retrospective, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. There is scant evidence of Ms. Wilson's pubic hair in the shot, or as Weston called it, her "public hair." He was little more than amused at the uproar.

To me, this is probably the most revealing of all of Weston's photographs of Ms. Wilson and one of my favorite. Her stare is riveting, almost as if there was no camera there at all. She was just looking through it to Weston. She shows such incredible nakedness while being almost completely covered. She exudes confidence and such a strong sense of self. Her hands are so casually posed. There is a tension to the image, a daring, an almost intimidating honesty.

A good friend asked me not that long ago why there has never been a movie of Weston's life. A good question-- I have always thought he is the perfect subject-- Bohemian, enigmatic, arrogant, sensual. A man who literally defined the art of photography. To read about Weston is to read about a life filled with imagery and discovery, of friends and lovers, and most of all, of the eloquent nude. It is not hyperbole to say that Charis Wilson helped bring out some of Weston's greatest work-- as a model, as a lover, and as a collaborator.

Helen Charis Wilson died on November 20, at the age of 95.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

watch this...

Health Insurance Providers' Sick Joke


There comes a point when the news and politics stop being this abstract thing that is there like a phantom mosquito, high-pitch humming at your ear, only it's not really there. Well, now it's there, and it's no phantom. The stories of those that are going without health insurance because they can't afford it have come knocking at my door, popping out of the mailbox and sending me into a tailspin of "me, too."

My wife and I moved to Silverton, Oregon from Los Angeles a little over two years ago. At that time, the only way I was able to get health insurance was because I had been enrolled with Blue Shield of California, allowing me automatic acceptance into Regence BCBS. This acceptance was AFTER I had been rejected by them for a "pre-existing condition." I then applied to Provident and HealthNet, both of whom rejected me. I was in the midst of applying to OMIP--the all accepting/high-risk/high-cost insurance coverage (which is also Blue Cross/Blue Shield), when I heard back from Regence BCBS, telling me that had to accept me.

My monthly premium was $476.00-- for just myself. My wife, who is younger and without pre-existing conditions, was able to get less expensive coverage. It is actually cheaper for us to be covered individually than together. We are both self-employed, which at this point is a euphemism for being out of work.

Last month (October) Regence BCBS raised my monthly insurance premium by more than $50.00, to $527.20. Having turned 60 years-old in September, the increase was high but almost understandable. This week, I got a revised PPO Portability contract (marked "PREVAILING"), where I was informed that my premium will increase in December to $629.00. That is an increase of more than 32% in two months. While I am sure this is legal on Regence's part, I believe it shouldn't be.

Like I say, once--not that long ago--all this healthcare jibber-jabber was abstract. Ooh, they're going to raise their rates to compensate for the government healthcare plan that is going to go into effect. Ooh, big business: BAD.

Wait a minute. The Republican right has whipped their unwashed masses into a frenzy of teabags and rejection. Big government is bad! Keep your nose outta my healthcare! Do these mindless sheep who are blindly following the call to revolution from Michelle Bachman and buying into the comparison of healthcare reform with Dachau like the idea of their insurance company raising premiums willy-nilly?

If I am being victimized and at the insurance company's mercy, I have to think others--including the moron right--are also being victimized. I guess they can all afford it, or just don't care about paying more and more to keep Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Kaiser, HealthNet, CIGNA and the rest of them fat and getting fatter.

I cannot go to anyone else for health insurance, as I have the accursed pre-existing conditions (high blood pressure and high cholesterol, both of which are monitored by my doctor and controlled by expensive medication). These pre-existing conditions are what keep big pharma in the big money. I am literally at the point of finding myself about to go without insurance.

And this is a socialist issue? The government is meddling in your right to pay whatever the insurance company demand of you?

My questions are, how much colder is Canada and what is the waiting period to get on their healthcare program?

Friday, November 6, 2009

News from the future... or Planet Stupid

The way things are heading, Mary Jane--the evil weed, will be decriminalized in our lifetime. Well, your lifetime. With my luck, the law will go into effect the day after I step on the rainbow. So, it's not inconceivable for a hapless soul--named, say, Calvin Hoover, to call the cops to report his stash had been stolen. But neither Calvin nor we are in the future. We are in the here and now, and calling the Marion County Sheriff's Department from outside the Freeloader Tavern to report--between bouts of projectile vomiting--that someone broke into your truck and stole 400 bucks, your favorite (read: only) jacket and 3/4 oz of pot qualifies you as being a resident of Planet Stupid.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Official End of Summer

When evil is the victor. Another baseball season up in smoke

Some say that according to the calendar, September 22 (give or take a day), signifies the autumn equinox marks the end of summer. I think summer ends when the last out is called, and it was called tonight. The Yankees won the World Series. I watched Mariano Rivera get the last out, but I didn't stay for the celebration. Forgive me, but though they may be the best baseball team money can buy, they are still the evil empire-- the team I don't particularly love to hate. I just hate them. If they had been playing the Taliban in the World Series, I would have rooted for the Taliban. Someone wrote in the New York Times last Sunday about changing his allegiance from the Sox to the Yankees. He obviously wasn't a true Red Sox fan.

Rooting for Cliff Lee, Chase Utley and Jason Werth of the Phillies was novel but ill-fitting. It was fun, but it wasn't the Sox.


We have a long winter ahead of us. What will be with the captain of the team? Jason Varitek has not played well for more than a season. Is Tim Wakefield past his injuries? Who will stay and who will be a free agent or a trade commodity? Mike Lowell? Jason Bay? JD? Que sera sera...

We have about four months to contemplate the summer before spring training starts in earnest. They're the longest four months in a baseball fan's year...

What was I thinking?

bound by smoke... and mirrors

I like to listen to right wing talk radio when I'm in the car during the day. Well, maybe "like" is the wrong word. My doctor told me it would be beneficial for me to try to raise the temperature of my blood to boiling. Rush, Shawn, Glen and Dr. Savage do the trick just fine. I admit to talking back to the radio on occasion. I've been known to curse and roll my eyes, taking my focus from the road. The time of day determines the genius I listen to. I do draw the line with Dr. Laura. Part of it is her tone. Another part is the content.

Today I caught myself listening to Lars Larson, he of the redundant moniker and less than major market syndicated status. From what little I know about Scandinavian genealogy and family names, I freely translate Mr. Larson's name to Lars Son of Lars. Kind of like being Junior.

Anyway, Lars--like his heroes--is a ranter. He brings topics up to incite his audience--friends and foes--and throw them back atcha. He seems to have enough factual information to argue (and win) the cases, like a lawyer with ADD reviewing his upcoming case as he walks to the courthouse. He wins the rest through bluster and volume.

Today, in addition to railing about ODOT (the Oregon Department of Transportation) toying with the idea of closing a couple exits on the 217 highway during busy times, Lars ranted on about Vice-President Al Gore being completely wrong on global warming and positioning himself as becoming the first "carbon billionaire." Lars compared the ignorant, misleading and money hungry Gore with the righteous, upstanding and generally misunderstood Vice-President Dick Cheney.

I found myself looking for my cell phone. I punched in Lars' number. What was I thinking? The fact of the matter was that I wasn't. I was thinking of the truth, as I know it. I was thinking of my last blog post, about the FBI report and the Dick's hazy memory. I was thinking of the fabricated and perpetuated tale of WMD's that has cost over 4300 Americas their lives in Iraq. I was thinking of how Dick's former company of record, Halliburton has electrocuted 18 or so soldiers in their shoddy showers in Iraq.

So, I got on the air.

"Barry, from Silverton. Welcome to the Lars Larson Show. What's on your mind?"

"Well, I have to take issue with you comparison between Al Gore and Dick Cheney... "

And it went downhill from there. Clearly, I am a novice and don't have the chops to debate with someone who earns his living with his forked tongue. Lars ripped me a new one for suggesting that Dick was responsible for American casualties in Iraq. He verbally bristled at my using the word "disingenuous" in describing the fact that Dick was mum for eight years and is only know flapping his sneering lips about the president dithering and the country going to hell. Lars told me and his listening audience how Dick had reinstated the value of the second highest office in the land, how he served his commander and how he fought for truth and justice not unlike Superman. The hand holding my cell was moist with perspiration. I hit END after I had clearly been dismissed by Lars. I felt really small and stupid.

What was I thinking?

As Eric Garcetti said at a committee meeting, "the loudest voice is not always the most correct."

The fact is that I went down in flames, torched by Lars Larson's incendiary tongue.

But that doesn't make me wrong.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

I don't Remember


Dick Cheney might be the most despicable man in America. He is certainly among those with the worst memories. What are his memoirs going to read like? Blank pages? The following article only hints at his obvious disdain for our country and the laws that govern it. His level of hubris is off the charts. And yes, he is no better than the nazis that he emulated and his lackey, "Scooter" was just following orders. No doubt about it. He was the fall guy to Dr. Evil. And, for the record, the Obama administration should be ashamed to have tried to block the release of the FBI documents, which are the subject of this article.
Cheney was hazy on role in CIA leak, FBI notes from '04 show

By Barton Gellman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Former vice president Richard B. Cheney told a special prosecutor in 2004 that he was unable to recall his role in most of the pivotal events that led to the uncloaking of a clandestine CIA officer in the run-up to the Iraq war, according to newly released FBI records.

A question-by-question summary of Cheney's May 8, 2004, interview with Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald, made public under court order after years of legal maneuvering to keep it secret, portrays a vice president in command of few clear memories about a case that led to great embarrassment for the White House and felony convictions for his chief of staff. Fitzgerald declared in his closing arguments that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's perjury and obstruction of justice left him unable to pierce "a cloud over the vice president."

Cheney neither denied nor acknowledged any memory of directing Libby, his chief of staff, to tell reporters that Valerie Plame, the wife of a prominent war critic, was a CIA officer. Nor did he recall any conversation with Libby in which either man referred to their mutual suspicion that Plame had helped dispatch her husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, on "a junket" to explore White House accusations that then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had tried to buy uranium from Niger for a nuclear weapon.

Dozens of questions from Fitzgerald produced the same result. Less than a year after a turbulent episode about which his contemporary notes display strong feelings, Cheney said he could not remember disclosing Plame's CIA employment -- which he learned from CIA Director George J. Tenet -- to President George W. Bush, Libby, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr., political adviser Karl Rove or five of the vice president's aides.

Asked whether he personally discussed the couple with any reporter, Cheney said he generally did not "take incoming calls from the media." He declined to sign a legal waiver entitling reporters to break any promises not to quote him by name. When Cheney brought the interview to a close, he also refused Fitzgerald's request that he promise not to discuss the case with any other witness.

Not all of Cheney's replies were opaque. He made several displays of animus toward the CIA and its handling of Iraq's alleged attempt to buy uranium, an accusation the vice president had placed at the center of his public case for war.

---

Both the Bush and Obama administrations made extensive efforts to block release of FBI notes of the May 8, 2004, interview. They were made public late Friday, with some deletions on grounds of national security and presidential privilege, after a lawsuit brought by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

Melanie Sloan, the organization's director, criticized Cheney's "near-total amnesia regarding his role in this monumental Washington scandal" but said the new document was a step forward in resolving the affair.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

My 2nd favorite story from The Oregonian (so far this week)

photo-montage ©Barry Shapiro 2009

I liked the original headline for this article much better, but in our world of the 24 hour news cycle nothing stays the same as it was. I can't even find a link to the original article/headline. I think the new (for now) headline is much weaker.


Oh, and my top favorite story from the Oregonian so far this week? The paper has announced their new publisher will be Christian Anderson III, formerly publisher and CEO of the Orange County Register. Can you say fair and balanced? NOT!

Hit-and-run driver claimed he didn't see 6-foot-tall orange rabbit on the pedicab
By Aimee Green, The Oregonian
October 28, 2009, 8:58PM

Pedicab driver Kate Altermatt still can't believe the driver of a Mercedes didn't see her pedaling down Northwest Fourth Avenue last Easter. Altermatt, who is 6 feet tall, was wearing a bright orange bunny suit, and the Cascadia Pedicab was lit up with reflectors and a blinking red light.

"I was very visible," she said.

The crash sent her flying and totaled the pedicab. She lay stunned on the pavement for a minute, then walked over to the driver's side window. She said she smelled alcohol on his breath.

"He was like '$100! $100 and I leave,'" Altermatt recalled. "And I was like, no. I started screaming. I said 'You're drunk! You're going to go to jail! I don't want your money!'"

Wednesday in Multnomah County Circuit Court, Altermatt finally got to confront the driver, who testified that he didn't see the pedicab because he was fumbling for a dropped cell phone.

After a daylong trial, Judge Karin Immergut found Edward Cespedes-Rodriguez guilty of hit-and-run driving for leaving the scene of the crash.

But Immergut cleared the 34-year-old Southwest Portland man of recklessly endangering another person. That disappointed Altermatt, who testified that Cespedes-Rodriguez looked her in the eye and intentionally hit her a second time as he sped away sometime after 2 a.m. April 12.

Altermatt said a second pedicab operator tried to get Cespedes-Rodriguez to step out of his car. Instead, Altermatt said, the driver jerked the car into reverse and backed half a block onto Davis Street. She said she and the other pedicab driver, Damon Kelly, managed to step in front of the car, and that's when Cespedes-Rodriguez stepped on the gas.

Altermatt testified that she rolled over the hood of the car, later suffering soreness to her head, shoulder and thigh and a jammed finger. She also said that Kelly, who didn't appear in court to testify, rolled over the hood, too. In the process, he must have cracked the windshield with the brass knuckles he was carrying for protection.

Defense attorney David Lesh tried to discredit Altermatt's testimony by questioning why Kelly didn't appear in court to testify. Portland police Officer Susan Abrahamson said she wrote in her report that Kelly told her he wasn't struck by the car, but that he hit the car as it was leaving the scene.

Lesh accused Kelly of bashing Cespedes-Rodriguez's car, causing $5,000 worth of damage. Lesh argued that his client had to choose between two evils -- sticking around to exchange information or fleeing for his own safety.

In the end, the judge agreed, saying the dents and cracked windshield must have been caused by someone purposely striking the car.

But the judge said Cespedes-Rodriguez could still have stopped his car at a safe distance and notified the police. He faces a penalty ranging from probation to up to one year in jail when sentenced next month.

Cespedes-Rodriguez was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving in 2005, but he entered a diversion program that required treatment, and a judge dismissed the case in 2006.

Prosecutors didn't charge Cespedes-Rodriguez with drunken driving for the April 2009 crash. Deputy district attorney Michael Schmidt said Cespedes-Rodriguez twice dodged the attempts of police to contact him later on the day of the crash, so no alcohol test could be taken. Authorities issued a warrant for his arrest in June.

"He hit somebody. He panicked because he was worried he was under the influence of alcohol," Schmidt said.

Altermatt said pursuing criminal charges against Cespedes-Rodriguez has been a struggle from the beginning. After the incident, when she ran to a nearby Portland police officer, she said, he dismissed her pleas for help. Perhaps, she thinks, because she was wearing a bunny suit.

About 45 minutes after the incident, she found another cop, who took a report.

Altermatt said the reason she pressed for prosecution was because she felt that Cespedes-Rodriguez treated her like a piece of garbage -- something that could be run over without another thought.

"This is probably the worst thing that has happened to me - being intentionally run over by a car. I felt like a Burger King bag."

-- Aimee Green

Sunday, October 25, 2009

This just in...

To counter concerns raised in front page article in the New York Times today, the President has appointed Lisa Leslie of the WNBA Los Angeles Sparks "Czarina of Half-Court Equality." According to the newspaper, the concerns have been raised by equal rights spokespeople and liberal bloggers that the President is running his administration like a "frat house" and has not included any women in basketball games.

Not really.

But I do think that this might be the most inane charge against the President yet. In the past, he has fluffed off accusations by Fox News and has made earnest though unnecessary attempts to "reach across the aisle." The charge of sexist exclusion, however, is coming from the left... or so the New York Times' article would have its readers believe.

If you've been following this blog, you no doubt know I took issue with the Times a few weeks ago for a misleading piece in the business section. Today's article also is a bit misleading. It seems the person who has raised concerns about the all male basketball game is Savannah Guthrie, NBC White House correspondent.

According to the Christian Science Monitor's website, Guthrie "asked him (the President) if his preference for all-male hoops sends the wrong signal. Or as she put it, 'Some people might look at it and say, Gosh, there’s the old boys club again.’

That’s something the president dismisses.

'I gotta say, I think this is bunk,' Obama told Guthrie. 'Basically, the House of Representatives has a basketball game and they had wanted to play here at the White House court and we invited them.'”

So, in addition to being a foreign-born, Muslim socialist with Nazi leanings, hell-bent on tax and spend policies, the President is a sexist.

The CSM article goes on: "Comparing the topic to flaky 'balloon boy' coverage, (MSNBC host Joe) Scarborough told Guthrie, 'Speaking for all men — that was bunk. That question was bunk. What were you thinking?'

'This is a really interesting issue,' Guthrie began.

'No, it’s not,' Scarborough interrupted.

(insert Monty Python's "Argument Clinic" routine here)

Guthrie explained that the disagreement over the issue seemed to break down across gender lines. 'Most men I talk to say, What’s the big deal? So a guy can’t play basketball?' she said. 'But many, many serious thinking women say, Let’s call this for it is: This is a networking opportunity. This is a political event.'"

And this is when my head starts to explode...
painting by Keith Haring


... oh, and the Yankees won the AL championship tonight, aided in no small part to sloppy defensive playing by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (don't get me started). Another reason for my head exploding.

* * *

postscript (10.26.09) In the broadcast dead-zone of post-sports wrap-up late Sunday night, CNN moderated two "experts" on the male-dominated basketball fracas and all it infers. I can't help but think CNN has too many hours to fill with "news." As it is, just as MTV used to be Music Television, showing music videos with veejays, Headline News used to focus on news-- they're now filling their schedule with Nancy George and Entertainment. But I digress...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

why facebook is probably not such a good idea for me

exhibit A: Alison Lohman

exhibit B: Alison Lohman
(revealing in a wet black T-shirt)
in "Drag Me To Hell"


So we got the movie "Drag Me To Hell" from Netflix, based on the fact that it got good reviews and Sam Raimi is supposed to be a good director in the genre and blah blah blah. The fact of the matter is, it is a terrible movie. It has one saving grace, and that is Alison Lohman. She of the full eyebrows, perfect lips and, uh, other attributes, none of which Justin Long, the Mac guy in the ads and the male lead in the movie can hold a candle (or anything else) to. Alison is, in short, dreamy.

Maybe it's me, but facebook leads one to wander. Old girlfriends, high school sweethearts... and even (barely) post-pubescent movie starlets.

Alison is on facebook. Twice. In different places. I only wrote to her on one of them. I tried to keep my erectile dysfunction to myself as well as my juvenile crush-like feelings, but okay... I wrote to her. Great acting. Bad vehicle. Love you. Will rent every other damned thing you've been in. No, I'm not stalking you, but it all comes across as a mix of The Lovin' Spoonful (a Younger Girl) and Root Boy Slim and his Sex Change Band (I'm Not Too Old For You). Nabakov meets TMZ in a messy, compromised position.

But I digress.

The point is, my thinly disguised gushiness is now on facebook for all the world, including old girlfriends and high school sweethearts, to see. I outed myself as a closet adolescent, living in the body of a pathetic old man. What is thrown on facebook is there for all of perpetuity, or for as long as Al Gore decides to leave the internet up and running.

Please Al, pull the plug. I made a mistake. I revealed myself. I can't hit erase and soon everyone from Roman Polanski (God bless his incarcerated 74 year-old ass) to my wife will find out that I am a sexual retard.

Alison, I love you, I scream as they cart me away to virtual jail.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The case to reopen all the mental institutions in Oregon-- part one.

Portland, Oregon is a bit of a schizophrenic city. In February of this year, BusinessWeek ranked Portland as the unhappiest out of the fifty largest cities in the country. It also ranked it first in depresssion and 12th in suicides. The accompanying article reported that "The Oregon suicide and drug and alcohol help lines received 71% more calls in January 2009 than it did the previous January, including more calls from people having suicidal thoughts because of severe financial stress."

getting warmer


Then, there is the number of homeless in the Rose City, that is not only high but comprised of loud and indignant people who demand housing and employment. Maybe I should try demanding a job instead of just looking for work. See how far I get. Portland likes to think of itself as Austin with weather. Bumper stickers abound imploring we KEEP PORTLAND WEIRD. Oh, and the weather? BusinessWeek claims the 222 days of rain contribute to Portland's premier unhappiness level.

And just think, only 7 more months of this.


Portland also has sort of a reputation for having a bright, educated and well-read population. It is home to the largest independent bookstore in the country-- Powell's City of Books, where, before entering the store, you are invariably assaulted by homeless people trying to sell you their newspaper or ask for a plain old handout. I know what your thinking. How do homeless people publish a newspaper? Maybe that' another part of the weirdness.

Portland is the 29th largest city in the country, squarely situated between Las Vegas and Louisville, Kentucky, with a little more than half a million residents. Doesn't sound like much, but it accounts for about 42% of the population of the entire state of Oregon. Interesting, but what does it mean?

Well, I'm getting to that.

Portland, like a lot of other cities around the country, has only one daily newspaper. The Oregonian. They try real hard to be fair and balanced, just like what Fox News says about itself. They used to have a columnist named David Reinhard, who, for all the world, seemed like a right-wing plant-- at the paper and in print--just to raise the blood temperature of clear thinking readers. He was to the right of Atilla, and possessed that right wing characteristic of condescending hubris. Is that redundant or does 'condescending' reinforce 'hubris?' He retired from the paper a while back, admitting to have gotten tired of the verbal assaults he had to endure from pinko-commie, wet-behind-the-ears, pansy-ass liberals. Maybe he took to the woods and became a survivalist. Maybe he fetches coffee for Rush or Doc Savage.

But the paper continues its attempt at balance, especially on the Opinion page. One day you'll find Charles Krauthammer and the next you can read E.J. Dionne, and so on. And the same effort goes into picking which readers' letters to print.

Yesterday, the scales seemed a little tipped to the right.

Out of eight letters published on the subject of President Obama being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, three were in favor. Of the five that weren't, one, written by a Michael Trigoboff, of Tigard wrote that, "The Nobel Committee would have been more honest if they had built a giant gold statue of Obama and sacrificed a few virgins at its feet."

And who said the right wing has no sense of humor?

I nearly fell off the floor when I read that one. Nearly, I say, because I saved my spill for the letter from Marion Bogden, of Corbett, Oregon.

Corbett has a population of about 4,000. It's about 95% white and looks, from the map to be pretty rural, resting about 25 miles west of Portland. According to www.city-data.com, the income is above the state average and the renting percentage is below. Still things and folks can certainly fall through the cracks. I found at least one trailer park in Corbett in a cursory Google search. I can't imagine that some people with a Corbett zip code don't live back off some of the roads, deep in the woods. There are a lot of woods surrounding Corbett.

I found a picture of two of what I imagine Ms. Bogden looks like...

my impression of Marion Bogden


Marion may not be doing meth... THIS WEEK! She may not be a skanky white-trash whore whose blackened teeth are hanging on by diseased threads. She could actually be clean and sober... and as big as a house, wearing inappropriately revealing clothing and stuffing Doritos in her mouth constantly while glued to Springer or Morrie, keeping up with Jon and Kate or whoever's life is currently in shambles and splattered all over the tabloids and TV. She may not have tattoos on her upper arms and ankles, nor have a navel ring embedded somewhere deep in the recesses of her fat belly. She may not be able to pack her entire wardrobe in a Safeway plastic bag. She may not fuck for drugs while listening to Rush or Glen or Doc Savage on the AM radio. She may not live in a trailer, broken down in the woods with her skinny-ass burnout "man," clad in dirty camo and a constant 5 '0 clock shadow. She may have graduated high school. She may not be a hick, although, given the general population in Oregon, the likelihood is extremely high. Hicks, like zombies, roam the outskirts of the city and the outlet malls. I've seen them in Salem and that's the fucking state capitol. I've sworn at them under my breath just for being hicks and contributing to global warming and the eventual death of the planet from their foul breath and toxic stupidity. Maybe Marion reads the paper. Maybe not. She must have gotten a hold of a copy recently and wrote in. Maybe she emailed from the library. I want to give her the benefit of the doubt. From a distance...

"In 1939, Adolf Hitler was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Y'all knew that, right?"

Her words, exactly. The "Y'all" is verbatim. I swear on my mother's eyes. Which, I think only an Italian could have come up with, but that's another story. And Lord knows, I don't want to besmirch the Italians. Especially, when I'm in the midst of a rant against offensively stupid white people.

Come to think of it, after rereading her words, I don't see Marion as one of those ubiquitous overweight Aryan women that seem to populate Oregon like spawning salmon. She has to be rail thin, kept alive with mean drugs and a meaner streak against anyone not like her, which is mostly everyone I know. In this America, it's them against us. And they're louder, angrier and armed. They like to call themselves teabaggers and patriots. They carry signs and placards with President Obama defiled with a Hitler mustache and posters imploring him to follow Ted Kennedy over the rainbow. I've written about the loss of dignity and the animus that has infected the vox populi. But it seems to be getting worse by the day. The anger and hostility and the complete lack of respect for the president is both shameful and frightening.

I not only have trouble imagining someone writing the kind of obscene filth that Ms. Bogden did, I have a more difficult time comprehending why the Oregonian would see fit to print it.

Oh, and for the record, Adolf Hitler, was indeed nominated once in 1939. E.G.C. Brandt, a member of the Swedish parliament nominated der Feuherer, before changing his mind. The nomination was withdrawn in a letter dated 1 February 1939. So, technically, Hitler wasn't nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Y'all knew that, right?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Official End of Summer


My beloved Red Sox went down 3 straight against the Angels. And so begins a long, long winter. I now find myself torn between rooting for the Angels to beat the Yankees or a world series between the Bronx Bombers and the former residents of Brooklyn's Ebbets Field. It would be an exciting series, to be sure. I just don't think my heart will be in it.

See you in the spring, Heidi...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Gray Lady Down

I have often made reference to my thinking that I am a bit of a Luddite. I guess what I mean is that I am a selective Luddite. I have embraced the iPod, for example, over discs (though I still bemoan the long-ago sale of most of my vinyl). I shoot with digital cameras and can't really bear the thought of shooting film. Hell, I even use a computer. But I have been slow to abandon print media. Reading a newspaper is ingrained in me. I seem to have AADD (acquired attention deficit disorder) when I try to read the news on the internet. I'v also noticed it's affected my regular reading. I'm skipping sentences in books, and magazine articles. I need to hit the mental REBOOT button and get properly rewired for the time before the Information superhighway. Does anyone call it that anymore?

One of my other quirks is--and here is a case of biting the hand that is allowing me this forum-- I don't trust everything I read on the internet. Anyone can blog. Not everyone can be a journalist. There are blogs that have real live journalists with credentials. But a lot don't. I have always accepted as a given that those that write for a newspaper have not only the credentials but a code of ethics to be fair, accurate and as objective as possible. Not quite a Hippocratic oath but an adherence and belief in honesty and comprehensiveness. Alas, it is not the case. Now, along with questioning the existence of the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, I must question what I read in The New York Times... the Gray Lady.

Now I know that in recent years there have been charges and admissions of plagiarism, sloppiness and unchecked sources at the Times. But what I found in Sunday's Times was tantamount to omissions and indifference. Not punishable offenses, certainly, but enough to make me question what I read in the paper and whether or not I should save my sheckels for a more reliable source of news. Is Mad Magazine still being published?

Some may think I am making much out of nothing, but an article on the front page of the Sunday Times' Business Section doesn't seem like nothing to me.

The article in question is "Where the Hotel is the Hub-- In Hollywood, the Big Names are Opting for Class, Not Flash." (10/4/2009)

It is (ostensibly) an article about the Sunset Tower hotel in Los Angeles, its policy of protecting its superstar guests from reporters, the papparazzi and so on, and its owner Jeff Klein.

Jeff Klein–"New York society brat turned serious hotelier and restaurateur."

The article, written by Brooks Barnes, states that, "The Sunset Tower, perched on the Sunset Strip, has oscillated between a well-heeled apartment building and a hotel — of various names — since opening in 1929. It was not an immediate hit in its latest form. People didn’t quite know how to take its quiet elegance. And by the way, who was this bubbly but neurotic New Yorker running it?"

Mr. Barnes answers that compelling question after a bit of background on the hotel's history: "As Mr. Klein likes to say, the property has “good bones.” Elizabeth Taylor, Diana Ross, Howard Hughes and Bugsy Siegel have all called it home at various times. Legend has it that John Wayne kept a cow on his balcony.

But by the 1980s, the 15-story building had fallen into disrepair. Mr. Klein and a business partner, the developer Peter Krulewitch, bought it for $18.5 million and spent about $15 million redecorating."

Now, would you assume that Mr. Klein and his business partner bought the property for $18.5 million in the '80's? If you did, I think it is quite understandable. But for those who know, know that about twenty years' worth of history was omitted. It was the last paragraph that prompted me to write to the New York Times.

"I was more than a little taken aback at reading the article "Where the Hotel is the Hub" in the Sunday New York Times' Business section. Either Brooks Barnes, the author was misinformed, got dazzled by the “New York society brat” who “owns” the Sunset Tower Hotel, or he just didn’t do his research."

I quoted the paragraph, verbatim, and then finished by writing, "In the mid-80’s the Sunset Tower did indeed go through a major renovation/restoration, but not under the auspices of Mr. Klein. It opened as the St. James’s Club. I know— I designed all the printed materials, from menus to matchbooks while a freelance graphic designer in Los Angeles. It changed hands and names in the 90’s when it became the Argyle. It was under that name and ownership that Tim Robbins was seen on the outdoor café in the film, “The Player.” The photograph of Mr. Klein in the article shows him resting on a railing... installed when the hotel was the St. James’s Club."

I concluded by writing, "Mr. Barnes might do well to go to www.seeing-stars.com/Streets/SunsetStrip.shtml for a very brief history of the building. And the Times might do well to do a bit more fact-checking."

Lo and behold, I received a reply from Mr. Barnes:

pipsqueak celebrity profiler, Brooks Barnes


Dear Mr. Shapiro,

Thank you for your letter about the Sunset Tower article (10-4-09). We take claims of inaccuracy extremely seriously.

The facts of the article are correct. By the 1980s, the hotel had fallen into disrepair; Mr. Klein and a business partner bought it in 2004 for $18.5 million and spent $15 million redecorating.

As you point out, the 80-year-old property has gone through multiple renovations over the years, including the one involving the St. James name. In weighing whether to include this information, we looked at length and focus. This was a story about Jeff Klein and the hotel’s current form, and a decision was ultimately made: We had to live without paragraphs recounting more details of the property’s construction history.

It would certainly have been nice to include the information – we try very hard to give readers a full accounting of the subject matter – and we probably would have given unlimited space.

Thank you again for your careful reading.

The "dilapidated" Sunset Tower apartment building in the process of becoming the St. James's Club, Los Angeles.


Which entry is The Sunset Tower and which is The Argyle?


So, the article on the front page of The New York Sunday Times was a fluff piece on "socialite" Jeff Klein. It wasn't about the hotel at all. I started thinking I missed something.

Maybe I'm living in Gotham and Jeff Klein is the Jewish Bruce Wayne. He may not be cut or talk in a whisper like Christian Bale, but I can almost see him in a Batman outfit. But shouldn't this piece have been in the Style Section, along with wedding announcements and hip bars?

Not like I thought it would do any good, but I wrote back to Mr. Barnes: Thank you for your response.

While the facts of the article may indeed be correct, they do not give readers a “full accounting of the subject matter.”

I am still a bit troubled by the inference that “By the 1980s, the hotel had fallen into disrepair; Mr. Klein and a business partner bought it in 2004 for $18.5 million” gives. It implies the building lay dormant for twenty odd years and Mr. Klein and Mr. Krulewitch salvaged it and restored it from its state of “disrepair.” This is simply a false and misleading inference. I don’t know the cost of the St. James’s Club investment in the property, but it was they that brought the building back from the shambles it was in, reducing it to a skeleton so that it could be both structurally reinforced and reconfigured from an apartment building to a hotel.

As you say, the article was about Jeff Klein and the hotel in its current form. If that is/was the case, all references to costs and history should have been excluded. By mentioning dates and costs, however, the omission of the St. James’s Club and the Argyle distorts the role of Mr. Klein, making his investment and contribution to the current condition of the building somewhat less impressive. The fact remains that he and his partner would have had to spend much more had St. James’s Club never existed, or for that matter, the Argyle. An additional line or two would have sufficed."

And there it sits. A trivial matter, perhaps, but less has caused me undue strife. T?here have been times when I have been reading a crime novel and the protagonist takes the safety off his revolver. I have stopped reading at that point. The author simply has such little regard for his reader that he has chosen not to be accurate. There was one book, by Robert Ferrigno, that I stopped reading after finding a half dozen such inaccuracies. I wrote him an email. Oddly, I never heard from him. Learning that Mr. Barnes wrote a piece about Brangelina's twins for People Magazine didn't surprise me. Nor that, according to the New York Observer (who's tagline is "Nothing Sacred but the Truth.") Mr. Barnes "offered a hard-hitting A1 investigative report on how Angelina Jolie manipulates the press... "

Where are the Pulitzers when you need them?

I found a couple other celebrity profiles Mr. Barnes has written.

And so it goes, yet another example that we are blithely plunging into a cultural abyss, led by the likes of Harvey Levin and TMZ, the fetid interest in Jon and Kate and God knows who else... and the New York Times seems to be picking up the rear. Cue REM... again.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Your Tax Dollars at Work


Man charged with golf ball littering

PALM SPRINGS, Calif., Sept. 20 (UPI) -- A California man has been charged with tossing thousands of golf balls out his car window in Joshua Tree National Park.

Douglas Jones, 57, of La Quinta was given a summons by park rangers in August, The Palm Springs Desert Sun reported. Rangers say he not only threw the golf balls out into the desert but tossed some tennis balls as well and left cans of food in the park.

Jones has a hearing before a federal magistrate scheduled for next month.

Joe Zarki, a spokesman for the national monument, said rangers have spent hundreds of hours cleaning up after Jones.

"It wasn't daily, but frequent enough that rangers were aware of it and keying into looking for this individual," he said. "It was a time-consuming and fairly expensive issue for us."

Rangers said they finally caught Jones in the act. He allegedly admitted his extensive littering, describing the golf balls as memorials to dead golfers and the food as emergency provisions for stranded hikers.

Original photograph of Barker Dam, Joshua Tree, tinting and photo-manipulation ©Barry Shapiro

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pissing in the wind...

Who's next?

Sometimes you know what you are about to do is wrong or at the very least ineffectual but you can't help yourself. You go ahead and do it. Maybe it was Eric Cantor or maybe it is the inner Howard Beale. The following is a letter I sent to Senators Jeff Markely and Ron Wyden and Representative Kurt Schrader, all of Oregon:

I have held back on writing you and others in Washington whose job it is, ostensibly, to represent me. I naively have kept thinking the bluster and bullying would subside and give way to common sense and common decency. It hasn’t and it’s not. Since President Obama has been called everything short of the “N” word. He has been maligned, attacked and even accused of lying in an outburst in a joint session of congress. Never mind that his predecessor did lie, costing thousands of Americans their lives. The rantings on right-wing talk radio and on Fox news has so riled up the unwashed masses that the fear and anger is palpable. The conservative Republicans continue to raise the temperature of the rage, disrespecting a sitting president like never before. They lie and slander, but worse than that, they pander to their constituents with hubris and condescending nonsense. When Patricia Churchill relayed a story to Representative Cantor — in his first town hall meeting —about a family member who is dying of stomach tumors, he responded by suggesting her relative should seek “existing government programs” or find charity. This would be laughable if not so horrifying. How unconscionable! How despicable! And yet, it slips under the radar as America is glued to their televisions watching indicted Tom DeLay on Dancing with the Stars. I would like to believe in the dictum that the loudest voice is not always the correct one. I can’t ask you to stop the hate in this country or to end the divide, but I can ask you to please vote your conscience in the heathcare reform bill and represent those who voted for you now out of work, out of insurance and underinsured. Please convey to the President and to your fellow Democrats. This is not the time to “cross the aisle.” You cannot placate this contentious, negative groundswell, led by the conservative Republicans in both houses of congress. They do not want conciliation. Stop offering it to them. They are, as it is often said, “the party of no.” We voted for the President because he told us, “Yes, we can.” Now, we find ourselves stymied, stalled and scared. Please, please—stand up. Do the right thing. History is judging you today. Long after Mrs. Palin is a footnote and Rush Limbaugh a Trivial Pursuit answer, you and your fellow congressmen will be held in high regard for standing up and for affecting change when it was needed… the alternative is simply not acceptable.

Thank you for your time and your service.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

I was so much older then...

One of my favorite Dylan songs, sung and played by some of the best. A birthday song, looking back looking forward--

Monday, September 14, 2009

Have a Good Time


Yesterday it was my birthday
I hung one more year on the line
I should be depressed
My lifes a mess
But I'm having a good time

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Saturday Night, September 12, 2009, 10:15pm


You know I'm going insane
And I'm laughing at the frozen rain
And I'm so alone
Honey, when they gonna send me home...