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.