Monday, February 28, 2005

Things I Like Vol. 14

Ten People/Places/Things, etc. That Rock My World

1) The way everything gets muffled when it snows
2) Egg drop soup
3) Pachelbel's Canon in D
4) The Remains of the Day - Merchant/Ivory film
5) Getting flowers
6) Craig's List
7) Frederick Douglass
8) "Fly Me to the Moon" - Marah live version
9) Late night phone calls from good friends
10) Pizza - NY style or not at all

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Sometimes It's Hard to Be a Woman

I recently watched the film classic "All About Eve" for the umpteenth
time, and it got me to thinking about what has changed for women
since its 1950 release.

At the time, Bette Davis' career was in decline, a trend that was
happily reversed with the overwhelming success of her outstanding
work in the film. This turn of events is, of course, ironic given her
character, Margo Channing's central conflict: how does a woman
maintain her identity as such while pursuing a career in a man's
world? Who is she when she looks in the mirror, alone in her
dressing room after the day's tasks have been accomplished?
Channing, of course, has chosen a career (one of the few
available to women at the time) that has afforded her great
power and prestige, yet has left her uniquely vulnerable to the
realities of the passage of time. In the film, Davis' character
resolves this conflict not by fighting the prevailing values of the
times but by surrendering to them; she chooses to pursue a
relationship with her significant other, without which, she famously
states, no female can truly be a woman. It is not clear at film's end
whether she completely abandons her stage career, but it is not
difficult to see that it has now assumed a lesser role in her life. (In
one of several ironic plot twists, it is the sociopathic Eve, a person
possessing no recognizably human qualities, who supplants her as
the first lady of the stage.)

Despite the film's domination by strong female characters, its
underlying message seems to be that no matter how much
power women like Margo Channing get, they are still less than whole
without a man to roll over in bed and gaze adoringly at each
morning. As for people like Eve Harrington, a human being
completely lacking in humanity, those are the females that have
successful careers. There is no middle ground here, no balancing
act--one is either a career or a woman but never both.

It is startling to consider how little has really changed for women
in the 55 years since the release of "All About Eve." In the movies,
as in popular culture in general, we are still cast aside once we hit a
certain age, made virtually invisible by a society ever more obsessed
with youth. Worse still, our culture continues to demand that we face
Margo's dilemma: that we choose between relationships/marriage
and career. It is,according to the powers that be, an either/or
proposition. Though we see women doing everything from boxing
to microsurgery on screen, we never seem to see them grow old.
In fact, as far as society is concerned we don't age at all, we simply
disappear (unless, of course, one counts those ubiquitous ads for
various geriatric medications). And without much significant change
in the socioeconomic value placed upon homemaking/relationships/
domesticity, we still seem to be handed the career/woman roles and
forced to choose. We often attempt to do both--to be Superwoman--
usually with disastrous results. And should we have the temerity to
assert that there are, in fact, other alternatives, we are typically
either dismissed as "quirky" or ignored altogether.

As we found out in the '70s, Superwoman doesn't exist (not
even in the comics)--we can't be all things to all people. So we often
give in to the pressure, suppressing a core part of ourselves (either
the desire to love and be loved by another or the desire to achieve
creative/intellectual fulfillment) in order to survive. Indeed, as I and
my close friends get closer to that "certain age," we have found
ourselves increasingly confronted by these issues. Who are we
as women if we are not subsumed by a relationship or consumed
by our careers? Who is that person staring back at us in the mirror?

Of course, at some point, most of us achieve some sort of tenuous
balance in our lives without sacrificing our individuality,
but these are not the heroines portrayed on stage and screen. We
who live in the real world know that being a woman is not an
either/or proposition--it is a balancing act on a high wire (in stilettos
or combat boots) without a net. Someday our culture (and Hollywood,
its mirror), will catch up to who we really are and what we
really want, but only if we stand up and fight for it. Fasten your
seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Running On Empty

Lately I've been thinking quite a bit about my
life and the odd directions it's taken. I have
always seemed to be behind life's curve, so to
speak. If there's something adventurous, just
a little edgy or out there, I have always been
slow to embrace it. I suppose one could say the
flip side of that is that once I have done so,
I do it passionately and intensely. Perhaps
that is why it takes me a bit longer -- the fear
of sinking in too deep, of giving my heart and
soul and being burned in the process.

It may seem contradictory that I am a
"question authority" type person who played it
by the book during my adolescence and
young adulthood, but immersing myself in academia
was my refuge from the chaos surrounding me at home.
There was such turbulence, insecurity, anger and
pain, so little support, understanding, and communication.
We all turned inward on ourselves instead of outward
to where we could help one another.

So I have never really been one to leap into the
unknown, have always wanted to stay behind, alone
in a warm, safe place with a good book. So often
the characters in those books are more than
familiar--they have, in a sense, become my only
real friends. I turn to them for comfort
and reassurance that I am not alone, that
there is someone else who has felt the things
I am feeling, that my pain and fear are not unique.
After all, we all need to be loved and understood
for who we really are, and so few of us ever achieve
that true connection with anyone. But the books are
there waiting, unchanged, without judgment.
So I return to them whenever I am downhearted,
lonely, sad...which is more often than I'd like
to admit.

It has always been terrifying to me to face the
unknown when the known is so unsettling. Yet I
look at what others have done and I feel such
regret, such longing to go back and be the
adventurous person I never really was. But I
am doing things now that would have been
impossible for me even a few short years ago,
so there is change, there is progress. There
is that human stereotype of youth misspent
followed by settling down, but I feel as though
I am, in an odd way, doing the opposite. In so
many ways, I feel as though my life is just

Yeah, there is that old cliche
about life being a journey, that we should
accept ourselves and the choices we have
made in life because without them, we would
not be the people we are now. But I am haunted
by the past, by the roads not taken.
On spring evenings, as the sun begins
to sink in the west, the moist air filled with
so much fragrance and promise, I feel such
overwhelming longing, such sadness. As life
renews itself, it sometimes feels to me like
mine is too screwed up to salvage.

So I keep on running, sometimes on empty, trying to
hold on...

"So we beat on, boats against the current,
borne back ceaselessly into the past."
--F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Monday, February 21, 2005

In Memory of Malcolm

Malcolm X was a complex, brilliant person
with a unique eloquence that sometimes shocked.
He wasn't afraid to confront, to challenge.
He was a self-educated man who was controversial
and outspoken. He became a cultural icon after
his death, yet many people remain unaware of
the intellectual evolution he underwent toward
the close of his life, a transformation that
that led to his embrace of a multicultural,
progressive Islamist philosophy that had the
potential to significantly reshape the American
civil rights movement.

He was murdered on this day in 1965, in a crime
the F.B.I., which had him and his family under
surveillance, did nothing to prevent.(It is ironic
that on the 40th anniversary of his death, we are
hearing details of the death of another questioner
of the status quo, Hunter S. Thompson.)

With the American "mainstream media" increasingly
shirking its responsibility to tell us the pure,
unvarnished truth, we feel Malcolm's loss
more keenly than ever. This country could use more of the
kind of intellectual bravery that once made him
one of the the nation's most sought-after speakers.

R.I.P. Brother Malcolm. You are missed.

"Human rights are something you were born with.
Human rights are your God-given rights. Human
rights are the rights that are recognized by all
nations of this earth."
--Malcolm X

Things I Like Vol. 13

Ten People/Places/Things, etc. That Rock My World

1) Reds - Warren Beatty's greatest film work
2) Bob Herbert, the moral voice of the New
York Times

3) Ingrid Bergman
4) L.A.M.F. - The Heartbreakers
5) "Real Time With Bill Maher" on HBO
6) "Ode to Billie Joe" - Bobbie Gentry
7) Schuba's Tavern, Chicago IL
8) diet Mountain Dew - lemon caffeine, mmm
9) Ken Burns, prober of the American psyche
10) Ishkabibble's chicken cheesesteaks,
Philadelphia's secret weapon

Hero of the Week: Bob Herbert, for his
hard-hitting columns on the new
American "morality"

Villain of the Week (3-way tie):
Commissioner Bud Selig and the
other fools ruining baseball AND
Howard Kurtz and Wolf Blitzer, media
shilling never goes out of style...

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Sad But True

Now, in the "I don't know whether to laugh or cry" category:

Q: How many Bush Administration officials does it take to screw in a
light bulb?

A: None. There is nothing wrong with the light bulb; its conditions
are improving every day. Any reports of its lack of incandescence are
a delusional spin from the liberal media. That light bulb has served
honorably, and anything you say undermines the lighting effect.
Why do you hate freedom?

Monday, February 14, 2005

Things I Like Vol. 12

Ten People/Places/Things, etc. That Rock My World

1) Sunday night house concerts, Ringwood NJ
2) Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL)
3) The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
4) "Russian Roulette" - Lords of the New Church
5) the New York Times
6) homemade Italian Wedding soup
7) The Stephanie Miller Show on Jones
Radio Network
8) IOTA Club and Cafe, Arlington VA
9) "Sin City" - Gram Parsons
10) Jon Wurster - drummer extraordinaire

Hero of the Week: Al Franken, for calling
out Fox's Brit Hume on his misrepresentations
of FDR's legacy

Villain of the Week: Jeff Gannon (or
whatever his name is) of Talon News for
allowing the Bush Administration to use
him for political purposes, especially
in the Valerie Plame case

Friday, February 11, 2005

R.I.P. Arthur Miller (1915-2005)

Arthur Miller, Legendary American Playwright, Is Dead at 89

February 11, 2005

Arthur Miller, one of the great American playwrights, whose work exposed the flaws in the fabric of the American dream, died Thursday night at his home in Roxbury, Conn. He was 89. The cause was congestive heart failure, said Julia Bolus, his assistant.

The author of "Death of a Salesman," a landmark of 20th-century drama, Mr. Miller grappled with the weightiest matters of social conscience in his plays. They often reflected or reinterpreted the stormy and very public elements of his own life, including his brief and rocky marriage to Marilyn Monroe and his staunch refusal to cooperate with the red-baiting House Committee on Un-American Activities.

"Death of a Salesman," which opened on Broadway in 1949, established Mr. Miller as a giant of the American theater when he was only 33 years old. It won the triple crown of theatrical artistry that year: the Pulitzer Prize, the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award and the Tony Award.


This country needs more voices like Miller's--people who are unafraid to probe beneath the shiny veneer of contemporary life and expose the lies and hypocrisy, the half-truths we tell ourselves to get through the day. Who has not looked in the mirror and questioned his own existence? Who has not wondered about his or her place in the world, whether he or she will be remembered or forgotten? "Death of Salesman" reached down into the souls of every American and laid bare our inadequacies, our fears, our desires.

He was a huge talent. He was uniquely American. He will be missed.

"After all the highways, and the trains, and the years, you end up worth more dead than alive."
--Willy Loman

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Budget Cuts Affect YOU

If you are a student, small business owner, veteran or migrant worker, or if you are poor or disabled and need food and/or health care, you are screwed. The new Bush budget takes a sledgehammer to a whole host of social programs (150 to be exact) while making permanent the tax cuts (aka welfare for the rich) that were enacted several years back--and all this while not including spending on the Iraq war or the Social Security nightmare in the budget at all, and leaving a deficit of some $400 billion. These people are all heart, I tell you. Perhaps we should consult our dictionaries...


Function: adjective
1 : having or showing compassion : SYMPATHETIC
2 : granted because of unusual distressing circumstances
affecting an individual.


Function: adjective
3 : tending or disposed to maintain existing views,
conditions, or institutions : TRADITIONAL b : marked by
moderation or caution [a conservative estimate] c : marked
by or relating to traditional norms of taste, elegance, style, or
manners [a conservative suit]

Did I miss something here??


Monday, February 07, 2005

Sucking in the Seventies

What is it about 1970's radio? Lately I have been bombarded with
those bastions of K-Tel, Jim Croce and Cher, and I have been
(to borrow from the evil McD's) loving it! And it's not just the
insipid nostalgia involved (though that plays a part, I'll admit.)
What is it about this decade--at the time it seemed so hostile and
unsettling--that allows us to see it now through the rose-tinted
glasses of warm remembrance?

Well, for one thing, the music was better. We actually had Top 40
radio, and aside from the occasional Paul Anka song, it didn't suck.
You could hear out and out genius like the Beatles or Marvin Gaye,
followed by one-hit wonders like Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show,
followed by country gems by Tanya Tucker, followed by
WTF-are-they-doing-on-pop-radio classics like "The Lord's Prayer"....
well, you get the idea. No more. The geniuses of today are (with
apologies to Conor Oberst) mostly toiling in obscurity, and music
of and for the masses is segregated worse than a Bill O'Reilly

I wonder how "the kids" find the music anymore. How do they
know where to look? Where do you hear something new? Is there still
that thrill of discovery, that rush you got from hearing something
really cool for the first time, that classic "summer" song you heard
from May to September, that song that made you want to get in
your car, roll down the windows and rush headlong into the night
with the radio blasting?

It's not quite the same sampling a download on your iPod. There's
not the sense of shared discovery, of knowing that though you
may be alone in your room, there are thousands out there
like you also hearing this great thing for the first time at the
exact same time you are. And ironically enough, this incredible
diversity, this vast selection that we have nowadays really seems to
do nothing so much as push people farther and farther apart
as the "mainstream" disappears and everyone retreats into his or her
own favorite genre. There will be no more Elvis Presleys, no more
Michael Jacksons.

And what about the thrill of going into your favorite record store and
discovering some new band, meeting a new friend, hearing
a great new tune? The excitement of waiting for the
release of a brand new single or album by your favorite artist?
Saving your money, waiting for the store to open, rushing
down after school and standing in line, then rushing home to
put the record on your turntable? Sneaking a listen with your
headphones when your parents thought you were asleep?

What of all that?

Well, it's gone, and it's never coming back. And that's a big,
big loss my friends, no matter how cool the gadgets are.
At the time, the Seventies really sucked. Nixon. Gas lines. Vietnam.
Watergate. Energy crisis. Farrah Fawcett. Yeah, they were all
pretty darn putrid.

But man, was the radio cool.

Walmart Sucks

If you agree (and you should), click the link
to join this really cool anti-Walmart campaign:

Fight the Power, baby!

Things I Like Vol. 11

Ten People/Places/Things, etc. That Rock My World

1) Confederates in the Attic - book by Tony Horwitz
2) - the blogger's blog
3) "Magnolia Mountain" - new(!) Ryan Adams
4) Ecco Domani pinot grigio
5) Mr. Chen's Organic Chinese Restaurant, Washington DC
6) Janeane Garofalo - comedienne and talk show host extraordinaire
7) baseball in DC - at long last!!
8) "When the President Talks to God" - new (and free on
iTunes!) from Bright Eyes
9) "The Dreamers" - Jesse Malin
10) Unscripted on HBO

Hero of the Week: (tie) Ossie Davis and Howard Dean (new
chairman of the DNC-congrats and good luck!!)

Villain of the Week: Donald Rumsfeld, evil incarnate

Friday, February 04, 2005

R.I.P. Actor and Activist Ossie Davis (1917-2005)

The world has lost a true hero:

from The HistoryMakers

"Writer, director, actor and producer Ossie Davis established
a phenomenal career, remaining throughout a strong voice for
artists rights, human dignity and social justice.

Davis was a leading activist in the civil rights era of the 1960s.
He joined Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the crusade for jobs and
freedom and to help raise money for the Freedom Riders. He
eulogized both King and Malcolm X at their funerals.

Davis received innumerable honors and citations throughout
his life, including the Hall of Fame Award for Outstanding Artistic
Achievement in 1989, the U.S. National Medal for the Arts in 1995,
the New York Urban League Frederick Douglass Award, NAACP
Image Award, and the Screen Actor's Guild Lifetime Achievement
Award in 2001. He enjoyed a long and luminous career in
entertainment along with his wife. They recently published a
joint autobiography, With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together.

Davis passed away on February 4, 2005, at the age of 87."

It's Fun to Shoot People

Your U.S. tax dollars at work:

Marine General Counseled for Comments
'It's Fun to Shoot Some People,' Said Veteran of Iraq,
WASHINGTON (Feb. 4) - A decorated Marine Corps
general said, "It's fun to shoot some people'' and poked fun at
the manhood of Afghans as he described the
wars U.S. troops are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
His boss, the commandant of the Marine Corps, said Thursday
that the comments reflected "the unfortunate and harsh
realities of war'' but that the general has been asked to watch
his words in public. Lt. Gen. James Mattis, a career infantry
officer who is now in charge of developing better ways to train
and equip Marines, made the comments Tuesday
while speaking to a forum in San Diego. According to an audio
recording, he said, "Actually, it's a lot of fun to fight. You know,
it's a hell of a hoot. ... It's fun to shoot some people. I'll
be right up front with you, I like brawling.'' He added, "You go into
Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for
five years because they didn't wear a veil. You know, guys like
that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of
fun to shoot them.''

Yeah, it's lots of fun. Shooting. Human. Beings.


“I want to make a connection with my audience.”

What is the truth?

from Jesse Malin turns up The Heat

"For the coup de grace Jesse finished with a statement almost every
politician has said at some point in their life, only he was talking
about his aim in making music and he meant it;

'I want to make a connection with my audience.'"

That article got me to thinking. What does it truly mean to
connect with people? Because some of the biggest liars in the
history of mankind have made that "connection." That is the
hardest thing, knowing when to believe someone, trusting them
to tell the truth. Our fearless leader "connects" just about every
time he steps out the door. Should we believe him? How much is
truth and how much is performance?

While words can prove false, the emotions with which
they are expressed can be honest. Conversely, when the words
are true, the emotions that express them can be insincere.
Do we believe the emotions behind the speaker? Or
do we believe the words he or she speaks?
If, as we are told, we should trust the art and not the
artist, let the art speak for itself, are we not required
to place it in some sort of context?

Actions speak louder than words, or so the saying goes.
Watch this president. Watch him very carefully. Because
the truth is not in the connection, it is in the behavior.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

FDR's Four Freedoms Speech

In times like these, it is often instructive to revisit the wisdom
of the past and embrace its simple truths. Tonight, our president
invoked the legacy of FDR, the man who saved this country
from economic and political ruin. Love or hate him, you
cannot ignore his legacy of social programs, among them the Social
Security Administration, that have become the
essential fabric of our country. Bush may speak Roosevelt's
name, but he doesn't grasp his message:

"The basic things expected by our people of their political
and economic systems are simple. They are:

Equality of opportunity for youth and for others.

Jobs for those who can work.

Security for those who need it.

The ending of special privilege for the few.

The preservation of civil liberties for all.

The enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider
and constantly rising standard of living.

These are the simple, the basic things that must never be
lost sight of in the turmoil and unbelievable complexity of
our modern world."

FDR, State of the Union Address, 1941

How far we have traveled from these principles, and how lost we
have become...

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Things I Like Vol. 10

Ten People/Places/Things, etc. That Rock My World

1) The Living Room, NYC
2) Conor Oberst, the boy genius
3) The Human Stain - novel by Philip Roth
4) Katherine Hepburn
5) The Melting Pot restaurant - cheese rules!
6) Howard Dean
7) The Memory Hole weblog
8) The Al Franken Show on Air America Radio
9) Town Hall, NYC
10) New York City in the snow

Hero of the Week: William Pitt of Truthout, for telling
it like it is about the gross display of arrogance that
was the 2005 Presidential Inaugural

Villain of the Week: Condoleezza Rice, Liar in Chief