Sunday, September 30, 2007

Bill the Baffoon

A lot has been made recently about Bill O’Really?’s quasi-racist remarks regarding his visit to Sylvia’s Restaurant in Harlem and his attendance at an Anita Baker concert. The favorite flavor has been complete disapproval for his buffoonery. But the specials menu includes a “Give Bill a break for at least trying” entrĂ©e that looks quite savory.

In this age of instant public retort, it’s not surprising that I just finished reading a comment, written by a self-proclaimed black man, defending O’Defiley’s present pound of preposterous punditry.

Look, on balance black citizens have every bit as much right to make fools of themselves as do all other races. I neither defend nor decry this particular idiot’s right to the same. But the implicit understanding we have developed in our society that we are not allowed to question the motives of the perceived underdogs when they defy that status is simply ridiculous.

As is well known to those who know me (though I don’t believe I have written of it here), I grew up as a Caucasian recipient of what is quaintly referred to as reverse racism. Of course the term reverse racism is itself an idiotic term. Racism is racism (is racism).

I was brought up by forward thinking parents on a sugar plantation in Hawaii. Other “sensible” white parents sent their superior offspring to private schools for the best possible education … and distance from the unwashed. Not so my folks. I admire their egalitarianism. But the practical application was a little less to my liking.

I stood on the bus when 8 years old while others sat. I came home bloody-nosed without a champion to defend me. I was called all sorts of things that had nothing to do whatsoever with my name or my inclinations. I spent years friendless, hating the color of my skin and my “social” status.

That was long ago. The point is, I have a valid point of view as a white man regarding racism. And I can say with complete certainty that racism is racism (is racism).

Even the most progressive of us tend to give a free pass to things that are less than atrocious. We make, and really we all need to do so to keep from going completely off the deep end, exceptions for behavior that is not immediately threatening. What we fail to appreciate when we do so, however, is that in so doing we are playing the role of enabler. Racism is racism is … I think you get it.

I will not accept any apologies for Bill (even from those supposedly “entitled” to grant them). One thing I understand from the circumstances of my upbringing: children are the most ignored victims of the outrage of bigotry. No apologies are acceptable.

School Days are Here Again

This is the post I’ve really wanted to write. Brandy is going back to school. Ok, to be fair she has been going to school all along since she graduated from high school. But school has been a side line for her for a long time. She has taken just two classes a semester for the past two or three semesters, and focused instead on her job and her photography. I paid a little more attention to school at her age, but I also eventually let work supersede my devotion to an education. I didn’t get back to school again seriously until my early thirties.

But Brandy never quit school as I did. And she knows how she wants to make her living. She has a major leg up on me.

Bonnie and I spent two family intensive days last weekend in Claremont California. My siblings were there as well as my aunts and uncles, and my cousins were there with their children. Brandy, as one of the oldest of that generation, was working and could not be there. I wish she had been. She would have loved seeing all that family. Next time, hopefully in another year or two, I’ll make sure she gets to the reunion.

This family get-together was in celebration of my long gone grandfather who would have been 100. The centerpiece was a retrospective of his art in a building named for him, at the Los Angeles County Fair Grounds (largest fair in the country) in Claremont. The show included perhaps 200 pieces of his art. Our family met en mass there a week ago and spent two or three hours enthralled in our shared heritage. Much has been made of my grandfather in my lifetime. Our family elders (now down to one uncle and one aunt) laud him and his accomplishments. We all pay homage. And with good reason, for he was an undeniable talent and force. But he was human too, with his own foibles. And I tend to diminish his genius rather than indulge in hero worship. But I can handle a love fest in his honor from time to time.

And Brandy deserves to enjoy that as well. My grandfather was especially fond of his grandchildren who exhibited artistic talent. At one time he thought highly of me as I made a feint into that career path.

It was in that atmosphere that I sat and talked and thought and pondered last weekend, missing Brandy and thinking about how much she would have grown in her life had she been there. Bonnie started telling me how she had finally managed to convince Brandy to check out this art school in town. She had spoken of it before and I had listened with half an ear. I knew Brandy couldn’t afford the school. Brandy blew her state lottery scholarship her first semester in college, and I guess we all had come to the conclusion that she was on her own now. To buttress this conclusion, Brandy has made a point of becoming financially self-sufficient these past two years.

Then it suddenly dawned on me; why shouldn’t we send her to art school? I know this should have been obvious. She is after all an only child. But our shared paradigm made this seem like a revelation. Bonnie and I discussed this and both instantly knew we were on to the right path. Brandy was scheduled to visit this college the following day, so I called her to ask how much it would mean to her to earn a bachelor’s degree in photography. Her response was what I expected; she would die for it but couldn’t possibly afford it. I let her know she could dispense with that impediment, and that she should make her visit to the school a serious effort toward fulfilling that goal.

Brandy followed up as one might expect. She will be starting her new school this coming January. Bonnie and I will be putting some plans and dreams on hold. I can’t think of a better reason to do so.

In fact I am envious of Brandy. She will now have a formal art education, with a practical career; photography.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Favorite Season

I’m not obligated to in any way, but now that it is over, I thought I ought to say something about my survey on favorite seasons.

I was really pulling for Oregano and it lost. How sad. What really surprises me is that the survey produced four votes each for Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. My bet was that Autumn would win out. I don’t remember for sure what Bonnie’s bet was, but it seems she might have actually agreed with me. I may have merely referred to it as a wager because I wanted to get some responses.

My suspicion is that some nefarious somebody deliberately stacked the deck by voting so as to even out the field. Bastards. Assaulters of Science!

Well Autumn did not win. However neither did it lose. Fall will forever remain my favorite time of year.

And coincidentally we are one week into this best of all seasons as I write this. Deal with it you Summertime Suck-up’s.

By the way, does anybody know how I can archive the survey without losing it?

What's Up

I’ve been remiss in my postings of late. I blame it on my job; I’ve been busy dammit.

I do have a few things I want to post though. To be honest, I’m sometimes overwhelmed by how much I “need” to post, and often end up posting nothing at all.

I’ve added background music to this blog. Let me know if you like it. Yes, you’re right: you can’t turn it off without muting your system. It would piss me off too. But Brandy gave me the idea (and in fact encouraged me to do this). I won’t put any head banger or rap music here I promise. I’m sitting here listening to Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun as I write this and enjoying it. If you don’t like it, well then I’m not so sure I like you.

It’s late September. Where did the year go? I was thinking today that the next time the weather will be as warm as today should be about 8 months from now. For someone who hates the heat (and only lives where I do by coercion) that’s a happy thought.

Bonnie’s mom had her second heart attack this month, so Bonnie is over there now at Connie’s side where she belongs. It seems things are going to be manageable for the foreseeable future with the use of nitroglycerin. I’m glad. Connie and I have fought over the years but she is a really decent person.

I have never understood how they keep these pill bottles from blowing up. A couple of my favorite movies (Sorcerer and Wages of Fear) involve men moving hundreds of gallons of nitroglycerin in trucks over rough roads in remote places. Obviously some of the trucks (and their drivers) blow up. Good times. And actually really good movies. Sorcerer stars Roy Scheider, and enlists the music of Tangerine Dream. Wages of Fear is better. It’s an old French film – and worth reading the subtitles. Both movies have wonderfully developed senses of suspense.

I avoided foreign films for a long time. My excuse was that I could stand neither dubbing nor subtitles. And in truth I cannot stand dubbing, but subtitles really aren’t all that bad. I often find myself forgetting to read them as I get wrapped up in the movie. Once I realize I’ve allowed myself to drift off I go back to the subtitle and make sure I didn’t miss enough of the dialogue to lose the meaning. I rarely rewind.

The thing I really like is listening to the song of the other language. Americans are often chided for being illiterate with respect to other languages. I am guilty myself. I speak a little German and even less Spanish. But I love listening to the sounds even if I don’t know the language. Subtitles allow me to discern a little of the meaning of the sounds. That’s enough to get some sense of immersion into their culture. And it’s really what Bonnie and I love traveling for.

Tell me what foreign films you like and I’ll reciprocate.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Midlake - "Head Home"

I found this on my friend, Shae's blog. Thank you Shae. I've never heard it before. This band has wonderful harmony. I need to listen to more of their music.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Long Pier

Letting your kid go is a lot tougher than I had imagined it would be. I'm becoming the parent I wish I'd had. I'm sure if my parents had doted on me I would have begged them to chill out a little as I entered my twenties. But the fact is, I didn't have doting parents and I'm totally unashamed to be one myself.

I don't do it on purpose. I mean, I'm not consciously saying to myself, I'm going to be to my daughter what my parents failed to be to me. I just love my daughter, that's all.

I still remember how Bonnie and I argued over whether or not to let Brandy stay home by herself as we headed off to Colorado for the 4th of July weekend. She was 16. I argued in favor and Bonnie eventually agreed, and everything turned out fine. But that wasn't guaranteed at that age.

We spend our time as parents letting our grip slip a little at a time as our children dangle off the end of a pier. Let go too soon and they could drown. Let go too late and they may never learn to swim.

What I didn't realize is that that grip becomes habitual. You could gladly dedicate yourself to your child's safety, and letting go on purpose, when you know there might be an undertow, is hardest of all.

So Brandy is spending her first night in a hotel alone a couple hundred of miles away. Bonnie and I both remind her that unsavory men are attracted to women out on their own. Brandy resists the urge to roll her eyes and gently reminds us that she knows. And I let that be enough.

I managed to call her this afternoon. She was still on the road, a little past halfway to her destination. All is good. The drive is beautiful for photography. She and I discussed how even the air is golden in the Fall.

Have a great time Brandy.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Been a Long Time Since I Rock & Rolled

Led Zeppelin is having a one-time-only reunion in London on November 26th. My friend at Beth's Blog provided this link to Led Zeppelin's only official ticket site. She noted that tickets are in high demand and even the website isn't likely to let you in. I had found this to be true a couple of days ago, but I clicked on the link anyway and got right on in to the site. Once there I proceeded to sign up for the ticket lottery.

And now I am officially on the list for potential ticket buyers. The price is $250. Of course the plane ride would be another $800 to $1,000. If by any slim chance I actually do get to buy a ticket, I'm sure I could get a lot of money for it on eBay.

But if there was actually some way I could afford to go, I'd do it.

Friday, September 14, 2007

What I Did before Getting My Ass Back to Work

I've been wanting to post these photos for a long time now. The catch? I didn't get them until this past Monday. Unfortunately I neglected to take "before" pictures. Brandy was sweet enough to take these photos here with her wide angle lens.

This past Spring and early Summer I remodeled our upstairs bathroom. I had to. The toilet seemed as if it was about to fall through the floor and the vanity was a mass-produced piece of something you normally put in the toilet. So, apart from the tub/shower, I gutted the bathroom and started from scratch.
As it turned out, the floor had been rebuilt once before. Some water damage, primarily from the toilet, and a little from an earlier tub installation, had been cause for a previous effort to make things better. The sub-floor, luckily, was and is in very good shape. But the previous do-it-yourselfer pulled up a limited amount of floor where it was in the worst shape, filled it with a gypsum filler and installed the new vinyl on top.

I tore the whole thing out, leaving the subfloor behind. I installed 1/2" cement board on the subfloor and ceramic tile on top of that. I threw out the old vanity and built my own. I rewired for lighting, outlets and a wall heater (across from the tub - we used to have heat lamps - over the sink where they were much less effective). I built a medicine cabinet to replace the old metal one and put up a nice big mirror.

I found an abandoned, live, outlet inside one of the walls. I discovered that the toilet "closet" ring seal was nearly non-existent (my guess is the last "craftsman" decided to save $2 and used the old wax seal). I nearly panicked when I tried texturing the drywall work I had done, and ended up having to remove something like three gallons of "mud" from the walls before it dried on both the wall and in the damn texturer I rented from Home Depot (I resorted to canned touch-up texture in the end).

Bonnie is in love with this new bathroom. She takes a bath at the slightest provocation just so she can stare (honestly, this is what she tells me). I am waiting on cooler weather. It's too damn hot still to enjoy a bath.

But it is pretty.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Sometimes you're homeless because they take your home from you

I'm struck by how inappropriately gross the current mortgage market situation has become. Industry people, government officials and the "free" press are all acting out a great imitation of shock. Who coulda seen it coming after all?

I read about the inevitability of this months ago. I wish I could remember where. Some less-than-mainstream liberal rag or another. You know? The ones you can actually trust. May have been The Nation. It doesn't matter. The fact is this act of shocked surprise is a disgusting lie.

And of course our Dissembler in Chief has promised the industry to have the Fed do everything possible to lighten the blow on the mortgage industry. But there isn't so much as a whisper of promise for help for those poor bastards who were talked into taking out these mortgages in the first place. These people (with other bills to pay and children to feed and pride to salvage) are being scraped off into the garbage pail of convenient disposal. Real unemployment (not that reported by the liars in Washington) is on the rise. Wages are being assaulted. Nobody in government gives a damn about insuring the working poor (yeah, the working poor. Who else do you think the predatory lenders went after?).

Just wait. In a few months or maybe a year, the increase in the homeless will be blamed on (who else?), the homeless! They should have remained in rented houses and apartments. They shouldn't have had the temerity to think they were worthy of owning homes and taking out mortgages. A few lenders will fail (and that will be blamed on "bad risks" [meaning of course, "worthless" people]), but most will sail through fat and sassy. And nobody in the fucking Bush Bunker will lift a finger to make this whole practice illegal. And it god damned should be illegal. And don't hold out any hope that our pantie waisted Democrats in Congress will do anything.

You know, I am really pretty pedestrian when it comes to finance and the economy, and even balancing my own checkbook. But I foresaw the bursting of the Internet Start up bubble. I made this prediction to this very Republican CPA who worked for the same company that employed me at the time. He thought I was smoking pot (well I may actually have been doing so at the time, but that's beside the point). Now I actually liked this guy and he and I had lots of very interesting conversations. But I can't really believe that someone as smart as him couldn't see that crash coming. I just think he had his head up his ass. And I think conservative ideology is what stuffed it up there.

And I think the slavering sickos in their 3-piece Italian suits knew this mortgage crisis was coming. But I think greed has a way of sticking your head up your ass and making judgement (even selfish judgement) difficult. I think they just wanted to see how far they could push this before it all caved in on them. Of course they were all hoping to see the tell-tale signs of a collapse and ditch moments before the cave-in. But as I said, eyeballs behind intestinal walls are pretty useless. I hope some of them end up homeless.

Dream on Yar. When pigs fly.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Feist - 1 2 3 4

Feist's voice reminds me just a little of Maria Muldaur (she of Midnight at the Oasis fame. It's that vague throatiness. Her style however is nothing like. This song makes you want to sing or dance (for those of you who don't have two left legs and a tin ear).

Three x Seven

Three and seven are my two favorite primary numbers. I don't know why; I don't have any belief in numerology. If I had to choose between them, seven would win. But only if I had to choose. Three is pretty damn cool on its own.

And three times seven (3 x 7) produces twenty-one. Ergo 21 is one of my favorite non-prime numbers.

And my daughter Brandy turned 21 today, and she is my favorite daughter. Some would argue that one should not take favorites when it comes to your offspring. Brandy is an only child however so she shares the title of both my favorite child and my least favorite child. She spends time as the former much more than as the latter I am very glad to say.

Brandy has planned on having today revolve around her friends and their celebration of her 21-ness. We (Bonnie and I) were to take a back seat and wait until tomorrow night - the day after her birthday. Well she is 21; I suppose that's how things are supposed to progress. Nonetheless I was a little bummed that I wouldn't be able to celebrate with her (and give her presents) until tomorrow.

But she called this morning. Some friend who was supposed to have been there earlier failed to show (or some such, I can't remember for sure). Could she come over to watch Meet the Press and have pancakes with us?

So she came over (Bonnie and I had to rush and wrap her presents and I had to get to the store for a birthday card). We watched Meet the Press and we had pancakes. But the first order of business of course was her opening her presents. Bonnie gave her a purse (to join the 1,607 other purses in her collection). I gave her a very nice camera lens (to join the other two in her collection).

And we both gave her a ticket for a trip on the Durango-Silverton Railroad this October. We just so happen to both have tickets for the same trip as well. Bonnie and I took this train just after New Years almost two years ago and absolutely loved it. The train doesn't make the full journey in the winter so we are excited for the upcoming trip when the train will go the distance.

For anyone unfamiliar with this part of the world, the Durango-Silverton Railroad is a 150 (plus or minus) year old railroad that used to service the mining industry in remote Silverton Colorado, from its base in Durango Colorado. The railroad is now considered a national historical monument and is run for tourists. The scenery is spectacular as the train winds through high passes in the Rockies. In the fall the trees are a riot of color and the trip is a photographer's dream. So naturally we thought of Brandy.

Additionally, the last car on the train is a caboose of sorts with an old West bar and small tables and chairs the length of the car. The railroad has nostalgically dubbed this car the Parlor Car. The Parlor Car has the distinction of serving alcohol and not serving (or allowing) minors. So all the whimpering and wining children are herded with their parents onto other cars. And of course we are taking the Parlor Car. This is partially because Brandy is now 21 and therefore is allowed in the Parlor Car, and partially because it's just simply the nicest car to take the ride in.

I'll post photos after the trip. We are all quite excited.

Oh yes, and by the way, I want to "give a shout out" to Brandy. "Props" for turning 21 darling.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

A Wrinkle in Our Time

Author Madeleine L'Engle passed away this Thursday at the age of 88. Ms. L'Engle, a resident of Connecticut, wrote some 60 books in her career, but the most well known, and the one for which I remember her, was A Wrinkle in Time. The book written for young teens was a favorite of young people and "won the American Library Association's 1963 Newbery Medal for best American children's book."

I almost missed this story as it was in a list which also included Madeleine McCanns, the missing little English girl. I would imagine the odds of having two current stories, both about Madeleine's, are pretty slim.

A Wrinkle in Time is a science fiction tale of a small family who's father goes missing. The kids include a girl named Meg, her genius brother (very young, like three or four if I remember), and her boyfriend named (I think) Calvin. I don't remember the genius brother's name. It could have been something like Charles Wallace. They get summoned or some such to go traveling along a space-time warp (called a tesseract) and save their father from some terrible prison. I don't remember the specifics about that.

There was a "good witch" called Mrs. Who, and another called Mrs. Whatsis. Or maybe just one of them existed. One of the chapters, involving a mirthful fortune teller, was entitled The Happy Medium. This has always been one of my favorite puns.

If I remember, a tesseract is a real term. It refers to a dimension which includes both time and space. For instance, a piece of paper is two dimensional. You see a flat surface when you look at it. You can cut it out into paper dolls, but it's still flat. Then you have cubes, balls, pyramids, cylinders, and more and more complex shapes that we call three-dimensional. They're not flat. If you turn them around (or move around them) they present different faces. As you move toward or away from them, their perspective changes (That is also possible for two-dimensional objects, but only as seen in three-dimensional space).

Time is the fourth dimension. A point has zero dimension. If you move that point in one direction, you get a line, which we call one-dimensional. If you move that point or line in two orthogonal (at 90-degrees to each other) directions, you get a plane (a piece of paper) which is two-dimensional. Move a point, line, or plane in three orthogonal directions and you get an object which is three-dimensional.

But the fourth direction is that of moving an object in space. You can't see the continuum of the moving object. For instance, we see the continuum of a point which has been moved, as a line. But we have no representation for the continuum of an object which has been moved. We need time to see that. And we can only see that one instant at a time. But imagine if we could somehow see this fourth dimension. Or at least comprehend it. That is a tesseract. A tesseract is to an object what an object is to a plane, and a plane is to a line, and a line is to a point.

I'll admit I'm going by memory on all of this. I'm not avoiding research because I'm lazy. I just wanted to see how much I could remember about A Wrinkle in Time and tesseracts since I found both so fascinating when I was young.

Thank you for your contribution to my life Madeleine L'Engle.

Post Script: I found a much more in depth article about Ms. L'Engle than the one linked to above. My memory wasn't too far off. I may pick up one or two of her adult books (no not that kind of book) to read.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Death of a Salesman

Ever since Jerry Falwell coined the term Moral Majority, the Republican Party has taken on the mantle of protector of public morality. This was an ideological consideration, a religious revolution, and a painstakingly scripted socio-political strategy for raising votes and money. It has gained the conservative wing of American politics an upper hand by the pervasive cadence of Sunday school policy. All the converted have anchored their ships to this pier of permanence and "truth". The Machiavellian perfection of this coup is admirable for its audacious belief in the assurance of its own success.

Bill Clinton was nearly undone by the groundswell of indignation from that quarter. The mainstream press, pressed on both sides by the religious right, and the corporate grinder, has almost totally caved in. Appalling disregard for the law and the rights of human beings has been ignored and even sneered at. And this horde has ruled the day. In fact they have ruled the decade.

How fitting that this swarm of locusts should sweep back and eat its own kind. Or to be more accurate, they have bitten the hand that they have fed (and which for a while pretended to feed them).

Good Liberals have nearly shaken in fear at the grotesque caricatures of such men as embodied in Karl Rove and Dick Cheney. We have watched in disgust as they maneuvered "good Christian" pawns against sane policy and debate. We have sometimes been almost envious of their ability to master this juggernaut. But the juggernaut is out of control.

Those hungriest for power will seize it when it's offered to them freely and obsequiously. They will grasp the opportunity to take over when they see it arise. And in this case, they found the party that gave them that power to be wanting. They found them to be empty of the piety they professed.

And now the morally outraged Christian right, more indignant than ever at having been mislead and lied to, are descending for the kill.

Happy eating.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Hope from a Lead-Free Santa

In a story related to the one below, worried parents can buy their children toys for Christmas from some good alternate brands. These include Playskool, Brio and GeoMag says this story. Some companies haven't sullied their hands at the fountain of cheap labor.

What's Wong with This?

I've been trying to get around to writing this for the past two days. So we have this Chinese factory worker literally calling the stuff he makes for Americans, shit. And he's just the guy who's quoted. The story informs us that this is a common feeling among those making the crap we keep buying from supposedly American companies, because it's cheap!

No wonder they keep adding poison to the mix. Unscrupulous "American" corporations demand low prices. So factories not only hire children (the interviewed worker has been at the factory in the story since he was 12), but they use cheap (and coincidentally poisonous) substitutes for basic materials. Who could have seen that coming?

I heard an American mother on the radio complaining today about how hard it was to read the lot numbers on her kids' Mattel toys to see if they are part of a recall. Fuck it. Who cares? Boycott Mattel lady. I'm not going to say the Chinese are faultless here. Hell no. But Mattel and Wal Mart and McDonalds and - almost everybody it seems these days - are the most to blame.

Oh yeah, and Bush.

But I digress from the story. Read it
here. What the Chinese factory workers hate about us is our insatiable appetite for absolutely worthless junk. They really seem to despise us. I have to say it's hard to blame them. But think about it: this country, once considered a mortal enemy, holds most American debt.

And they despise us.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Wide Screen

Bonnie's boss took her and two fellow managers aside on Friday and thanked them for doing such a great job during such a difficult month. He then slipped them each "gas money." This turned out to be enough to fuel a big rig from coast to coast with money left over for a hotel and a car for the weekend.

So we went out and bought a wide screen TV. The spur-of-the-moment bonus wasn't enough for the TV, but it paid for half of it and that was enough to get us off the stick.

We love movies. We watch probably anywhere from 10 to 20 movies a month and we've been jonesing for a wide screen for some time. This increased significantly when I bought and installed a decent home theater sound system last year.

So we finally took the plunge. We have a 40 inch Sony LCD with 1080p resolution. In case you don't know what that is, neither do I. I just know the picture is much better than with a 720p resolution. We read up on Consumer Reports and compared pictures in the store, and ended up spending about $300 more than we had promised ourselves to get one we are really happy with. For the same size, we still could have spent double what we did, so we feel we were reasonably fiscally prudent.

It is so much fun to have this TV. Of course to make it really superior we need to get HDTV service from our satellite company as well as Blue Ray (I think that's what they call it) DVDs. All in good time. For the time being I just love the big picture.

Gotta run. More later perhaps.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Mika Grace Kelly

I love this song (the video is OK). It's very Freddie Mercury.