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...

Friday, September 11, 2009

World Gone Wrong

I was going to use the famous image of Peter Finch as Howard Beale, in Network. You know. "I'm as mad as hell... "

But mad doesn't seem to cover it. Oh, I am mad. Don't get me wrong. I think a lot of folks in America are mad as hell, and all for radically different reasons. They're mad because they have to pay taxes. They're mad because they have to pay health insurance. They're mad because they've lost their job. They're mad because the government won't listen to them. Some of them are mad enough to wear teabags. They're mad because the voices they listen to tell them to be mad. They're mad because they're afraid their president is a socialist, a communist, a Stalinist or a Nazi. They're afraid the country is going to hell. But most of all, they're mad because their president is black. Oh, God, I said it. They don't even see President Obama as biracial. No. That's too nuanced for the vox populi. He's black.

Just like Cleavon Little in Blazing Saddles, Obama is black. A schvartzer! How they hell is he going to clean up the country and make us safe, when he scares the hell out of us? (Well, not "us," but "them"). He's the worst kind of black man, too. He's educated and uppity. You can't trust a damned thing he says. He lies. Hell, ask the good representative from South Carolina, who saw fit to heckle the president during a joint house of congress Presidential address. Some think he did the right thing. Others find what Joe Wilson did to be a despicable, disgraceful act. The media and Representative Wilson himself claim he apologized. President Obama accepted the apology graciously... because that's the kind of man he is. The alleged apology was for the outburst, but not the content. The fact stands that what Representative accused the president of is inaccurate. The proposed health bill explicitly and in capitol letters states that illegal aliens will not be covered. But evidently, that's not good enough. The fact that the Bush regime lied about WMD's, the reason for going to war, Valerie Plame, threat levels, Gitmo, torture, domestic surveillance and so on and so on fell on deaf ears... or worse, uncaring ears. Why? Because the former president--that Cowboy from Fair-to-Midland, was born in New Haven Connecticut. He is as much of a Southern Gentleman as Teddy Kennedy was, for chrissake. But he is white. He told white lies. Barack Obama tells black lies. He has lied about his birth certificate-- and who can dispute that? He's black! He had to have been born in Kenya or Swaziland or whatever.

Lenny Bruce said that President Lyndon Johnson did not speak publicly for the first six months in office. Why? Because he couldn't pronounce the word "negro." He'd stumble and stammer over it, "ne... ne...neg...nig...niggero... niggero. Aw, shit I caint say it."

LBJ may have been a dyed-in-the-wool true Texan, but he also worked tirelessly on the voter's rights act and on his vision of the Great Society. He inherited a heavy mantle cast by John Fitzgerald Kennedy and in the end, fell under the weight. He also inherited racial unrest and an unwinnable war. President Obama, also inherited an unwinnable war, two of them, in fact. He won the election by a big majority and yet, when the dust settled in November and America woke up after the heady, turbulent and combative election on Wednesday, November 5th, the party was truly over. What began with hope and "Yes, We Can,' in shouts and prayers became, "Are you shitting me? We elected that uppity black guy? That nig... ?"

Who he is and how he's seen

It was said on the night of the election, during the celebration in Grant Park in Chicago, and during the inauguration that racism in this country had closed a chapter. It would soon be a thing of the past. And there is a Santa Claus and an Easter Bunny. Just the opposite happened. Obama was hung in effigy. People railed and cried out like never before. Scared and sanctimonious white folk. Anne and Rush, Sean and Billo--and let's not forget the most vile of them all, Michael Savage--We can't trust that mixed blood commie socialist. Most of 'em don't even know what a socialist is or stands for. They just know it's a bad thing. He's not a soccer mom like Mrs. Palin--and like Keith Olbermann, I refuse to call her Governor or former Governor or anything more dignified than Todd's wife. But somehow her lame-brained opinion matters. When she said that President Obama was proposing Death Squads in his health plan, she was laughed at... and then she was taken seriously.

This is why I am afraid as well as mad. On Monday, I turn 60. I have seen a lot of stuff in my brief time on the planet, from fallout shelters to coonskin caps, to separate water bubblers for whites and colored in Georgia to the racial tension in Boston during forced school integration and bussing. From I Like Ike to not having Nixon to kick around anymore, from those three assassinations to two impeachments, wars and invasions, Y2K and 9-11. Hell, I even saw the Red Sox win the World Series... twice!

But I never thought I'd see this.

I am afraid for the present and the future of this country. I don't like where we are going. There was a time when there were no red states and blue states. I remember during the fever of conspiracy theories after John Kennedy's assassination, a writer named Carl Oglesby wrote a book called the Yankee and Cowboy War that floated, as the subtitle implied, connecting conspiracies from "Dallas to Watergate." I don't know if Carl wrote anything about 9-11, but conspiracies aside, it is the divisiveness that scares me-- the polarization perpetrated by fear and lies. At times, I feel my head is going to explode. Am I alone in this? Does anyone else feel this precarious sense of collective mental imbalance?

I hate to pinpoint one source of the madness. And, truly, I don't believe an alleged media outlet has the power to instill such fear, hatred and intolerance, but tell that to Orson Welles after his broadcast of War of the Worlds. Look at the intimidating level of power Rush Limbaugh has. Or Adam's Apple bobbing Anne Coulter or multiracial lunatic, Michelle Malkin, or certifiable nutjob Micheal Savage. Collectively, these radio "personalities" have whipped the unwashed masses into a frenzy of hate, anger and mistrust like never before. Howard Beale was fictional... but not by much.

And they don't even have to tell the truth. Why should they? Joe Wilson called out "You Lie" to the president about something that is 100% true. Minority Tan-Man, John Boehner continually straight-face lies about the facts and no one calls him on it. No one. Chuck Grassley told his constituents that President Obama's health care plan was going to kill grandma. But maybe the best, most obvious example I can site is what Sean Hannity said on the air after President Obama's address.

President Obama said in his speech, "Insurance executives don't do this because they are bad people. They do it because it's profitable." That became, when quoted by Sean Hannity, "When he said tonight that insurance executives are bad people, it took me back, because it was so harsh and I think unfair, but it‘s part of their polling."

People (and I won't categorize them) donated a quarter of a million dollars to Jim Wilson today. They rallied behind him. There is a fever spreading in this country. It may not be fatal, but it is pervasive and clearly it fogs what little minds are left... or should I say "right." They are waging the insurance company's war. They stand up against... everything that the president is for. The do more than fear him. They revile him, because the radio voices tell them to. He is evil. He is big government. But most of all, he is black.

Did you ever see the movie, Scanners? You know, the one where people's heads are exploding from others throwing bad mojo their way? Just don't be surprised if your friends and neighbors' skulls arbitrarily smash into smithereens seemingly for no reason. We've already played out the road company version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The Pod People have taken over. What is going on is more than scary, it's insane. Kevin McCarthy has run down the streets warning those who were past the point of listening. They're here! I guess the key is to shut off the TV and radio, don't read the paper or news magazines and wait it out. I think I rambled a bit here and may not have hit all the targets I wanted. Suffice to say, I am not happy about the situation in this country and I am not all that confident about the future. I also don't know what to do. Really. I will, as I often do, end with Dylan. I've had this one in my head of late, which, I suppose is better than whistling Barry McGuire's Eve of Destruction. It's from one of Bob's most underrated records...

World Gone Wrong

1. Strange things have happened, like never before.
My baby told me I would have to go.
I can't be good no more, once like I did before.
I can't be good, baby,
Honey, because the world's gone wrong.

2. Feel bad this morning, ain't got no home.
No use in worrying, 'cause the world gone wrong,
I can't be good no more, once like I did before.
I can't be good, baby,
Honey, because the world's gone wrong.

3. I told you, baby, right to your head,
If I didn't leave you I would have to kill you dead.
I can't be good no more, once like I did before.
I can't be good, baby,
Honey, because the world's gone wrong.

4. I tried to be loving and treat you kind,
But it seems like you never right, you got no loyal mind.
I can't be good no more, once like I did before.
I can't be good, baby,
Honey, because the world's gone wrong.

5. If you have a woman and she don't treat you kind,
Praise the Good Lord to get her out of your mind.
I can't be good no more, once like I did before.
I can't be good, baby,
Honey, because the world's gone wrong.

6. Said, when you been good now, can't do no more,
Just tell her kindly, "there is the front door."
I can't be good no more, once like I did before.
I can't be good, baby,
Honey, because the world's gone wrong.

7. Pack up my suitcase, give me my hat,
No use to ask me, baby, 'cause I'll never be back.
I can't be good no more, once like I did before.
I can't be good, baby,
Honey, because the world's gone wrong.

Copyright ©1993 Special Rider Music

Friday, September 4, 2009

All the Sadder...

After Willy DeVille passed on, I listened to some of the more recent stuff I had never heard before. Following his pompadour Brill Building stylings, Willy went on a musical journey that took him through Native American music, New Orleans and the blues. Recent is a relative term. His last studio album, Pistola, came out last year. I have yet to hear any of it. I did, however, hear a cut from the live in Berlin CD, that was released in 2002, on Youtube. It also was released as a DVD so the quality was pretty good. I listened to Storybook Love and was pretty much blown away. I just got the CD (actually, a 2 CD set). It is revelatory. Willy's voice is ravaged, by time, cigarettes and the effects of drug addiction, but his range is something short of miraculous. His version of Ben E. King's classic Spanish Harlem is astonishing. On the blues, he sounds like an old black resident of the delta that no longer exists. On some of the early rock remakes, he sounds angelic and tender. And on Storybook Love, he is so vulnerable and convincing. What is more amazing about this CD is the recording itself. I don't know that much about recording techniques, but I know what's good. And this is beyond that. The piano, in particular, has such a vibrant presence it sounds like you are leaning on it, listening in. For the few that think of Willy DeVille as a novelty retro act at the onset of punk would be astounded by this. For me, I feel his loss all the more and appreciate what a giant talent he was. For anyone who likes music, regardless of genre, I cannot recommend this one highly enough. Requiescat in pace, Willy.