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Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Deadwood Mac

The Leptard writes today,
“I think we'll be putting Fleetwood Mac under the microscope. The real Fleetwood Mac...”

By the “real” Fleetwood Mac, I assume Brendan is referring to the full band. The latest album and accompanying tour is missing the graceful presence of Christine McVie. It’s like kicking one of the legs out from under a three-legged stool.

I happened to see them on the "Today" show the other day (disclaimer: my wife is the one who watches it. I just happen to be in the room sometimes). It was part of their US promo tour for the new album--sans Christine. It ain’t the same band, folks.

In fact, it managed to be downright boring--even though Fleetwood remains one of the most solid drummers in the business, Buckingham's guitar still soars, and Stevie Nicks’ voice seems to be improving with age. But it just doesn't come together.

Why is Christine sitting this one out? One breathlessly awaits the Leptard’s expose.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Can It Really Be This Bad?
(0r, Thank God My Kids Have Completed Their Schooling)

I knew it was bad. I just didn’t know how bad. The excessive influence of the Christian Right is no mystery in these days of the Bush regime, a swill deceptively marketed to unsuspecting voters as “compassionate conservatism.”

What’s not so apparent is the influence of the Radical, Absurdist Left. One assumes that their day has passed. Not so. The more-correct-than-thou zealots are apparently wielding equal havoc on the public education of this country—in lock-step with their right-wing, protectionist counterparts.

As evidence, I cite some frightening quotes from a truly disturbing review of a new book, “The Language Police,” by educational authority, Diane Ravitch, appearing in today’s New York Times:

”some of the things students aren't supposed to find in their textbooks or tests:
Mickey Mouse and Stuart Little (because mice, along with rats, roaches, snakes and lice, are considered to be upsetting to children).

Stories or pictures showing a mother cooking dinner for her children, or a black family living in a city neighborhood (because such images are thought to purvey gender or racial stereotypes).

Dinosaurs (because they suggest the controversial subject of evolution).

Tales set in jungles, forests, mountains or by the sea (because such settings are believed to display "a regional bias").

Narratives involving angry, loud-mouthed characters, quarreling parents or disobedient children (because such emotions are not "uplifting").

Owls are out because some cultures associate them with death.

Mentions of birthdays are to be avoided because some children do not have birthday parties. Images or descriptions of a mother showing shock or fear are to be replaced by depictions of both parents "expressing the same facial emotions."

Mentions of cakes, candy, doughnuts, french fries and coffee should be dropped in favor of references to more healthful foods like cooked beans, yogurt and enriched whole-grain breads.

And of course words like brotherhood, fraternity, heroine, snowman, swarthy, crazy, senile and polo are banned because they could be upsetting to women, to certain ethnic groups, to people with mental disabilities, old people or, it would seem, to people who do not play polo.”

Thank God for the openness of today’s cinema so that these poor kids can get some glimpses of reality. In my day, back in the middle of the Twentieth Century, our cinema was nearly as protectionist as these Left/Right literary and social studies thought police of the current day.

But at least our lit and social studies teachers had degrees in the fields they taught, and selected, in consultation with their colleagues and department chairpersons, their own reading lists.

Today’s kids, apparently, are highly unlikely to have the kinds of stimulating experiences that I enjoyed in some of my better classes. We took it for granted. Little did we know the mischief that was coming.

Along the way, another bill of goods got sold to this country--the rise of the Educational Hierarchy—bloated administrations sucking the life blood out of our meager educational budgets, and now, from our curricula.

Monday, April 28, 2003

Say It Isn’t So

I learned through Richard Cody that Sinead O’Connor is hanging it up in a couple of months. However, in a comment on Richard’s blog, Irish blogger Brendan points out that David Bowie announced his official retirement in 1974!

Here’s hoping that Sinead’s retirement turns out to be as Illusory as the Thin White Duke’s.

Brendan (no last name provided), by the way, writes a damn fine blog, Letting Loose With the Leptard (whatever the hell a "leptard" is). Obviously, there's a spirit of Irish mischief going on here. Glad to have made the discovery. He’s my latest addition to the blogroll.

Sunday, April 27, 2003

Underwater Secrets

On the first night of Passover, my good buddy, Bill Brand, a reporter for the Oakland Tribune, was late in arriving for the Seder we were hosting for a number of guests. We didn’t want to start without him, so we filled the wine glasses, and enjoyed some pre-ceremony imbibing while waiting for Bill to show up.

In due course, Bill arrived, explaining that he had just come from the Bay shoreline where he was covering the story of the woman's body that had washed ashore just two days previously—coincidentally, right next to a trail that I hike regularly. Glad I wasn’t down there the day it floated in.

Bill took a seat next to me at the table, and we got underway. When the ceremonial part of the evening was concluded, we began the main dinner and socializing part of the evening.

Bill started to unload a little bit to me about his busy time down at the grim shoreline scene. The corpse had not yet been identified, but Bill knew more than the rest of us.

“We can’t report it yet, but the police know that it’s Laci Peterson. I’m not at liberty to tell you how they know. But look for an arrest tomorrow.”

Sure enough, the arrest followed, and yesterday, the Trib broke Bill’s story about what the police knew and how they knew it. An interesting, if sad piece of reporting.

Saturday, April 26, 2003

New Days Dawning For Advertising?

As if Doc Searls doesn’t have enough talents! You can add keen insight on the advertising scene to the list. As a former player in this game myself, I particularly enjoy his perspective.

Latest case in point, his just-released article, "The New Advertising Business," published in his newsletter, "suitwatch."

Doc offers an interesting analysis of Google’s new innovations in advertising, and speculates on how their promising new model just might lead to a shakeup in how the ad biz is done. Hope you’re right, Doc. It can’t happen too soon.

U’re Welcome

Welcome to the latest addition to my blogroll, Ubaid of Ublog. Ublog is a good source of refreshing, personal perspectives on Islamic culture and politics—something we could use a lot more of in this society.

I’m so sick of the one-sided, narrow, xenophobic focus of the news coverage that we’re saddled with in this country. Thank God for blogging, so that we can get other viewpoints like Ubaid’s.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

A Worthy Tin Cup

Given all that I’ve received from Shelley Powers’ writing efforts, I’m happy to respond to Jonathon Delacour’s pitch for funds to help keep the Bird’s powerful blog presence alive and well.

Congratulations to Jonathon for setting this up. He’s offering to email a logo to add to our blogs for easy click-to-donate action. I’ll take him up on that as well.

This is one tin cup that deserves to be extended and filled.

More Good Southern Stuff

Many thanks to George Partington for the tip about the free CD available in the current special music issue of Oxford American.

Check out G’s blog for the playlist. I always trust his recommendations.

Bare Dixie

Here’s another reason to love the Dixie Chicks besides their wonderful music and their belittlement of fellow Texan, Dubya.

Chutzpah. The Chicks have thumbed their noses and their bare skin at their flag-waving critics by baring all on the cover of the current Entertainment Weekly.

Never has the purchase of this pub even entered my mind. This week, I just might make an exception.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Pure Heat

Mark Woods said it first, “Mike Golby is on fire.” He certainly is. When Golby’s burning, it scorches.

He’s been so consumed lately with indignation over Bush, Iraq, and the whole scary mess that I’ve been missing his more personal pieces. When Mike delves into the personal, his searing prose gives us the best the blogosphere has to offer, imho.

Today he offers up an amazing reminiscence of a drug-crazed friend. Mike gives no hint of what inspired this post, but it doesn’t matter. Whatever the stimulus, it’s pure poetry.

Back From the Void

No sooner did I take Stanton Finley down from my blogroll (his site seemed to have vanished into thin air) than he’s reappeared with a new look and new URL. Same old mellow photos, I’m happy to say. Welcome back, Stan! Back to the roll you go.

Monday, April 21, 2003

Catching Up

A new week is here and it's high time I tried to breathe some life back into this blog. The early part of last week was totally lost in the quagmire of tax preparation. Tuesday Apr. 15 was the lowest hit count I've ever had on a weekday. I must have had some company in the tax grind.

Then followed Passover. We hosted a big Seder this year and it was a lot of effort, but very much worth it. Jill puts on a damn fine Seder, I must say. People raved about it. She's written her own Haggadah (the text for the ceremonial dinner), and given her bent, it 's heavily oriented toward the psychology of liberation, and the historical event of the Exodus as metaphor for the personal.

It adds a lot of meaning and significance to the occasion and people appreciate it--especially this year. There was a lot of mixed emotion at the table--happiness for the liberation of the people of Iraq; sadness over the death and destruction; anger over the disturbing new directions of this country's foreign policy. The famous question that the Seder asks, "why is this night different from all other nights?" could have had a companion question this year: "why is this Seder different from all other Seders?" One word answer, Iraq.

What a great thing it is to create your own Haggadah--to shape it in ways that bring special meaning to your life as you're living it now. If you're going to celebrate liberation, as this holiday does, where better to start than freedom from orthodoxy?

Adina Levin weighs in very eloquently on this:

"With cheap printing, photocopying, and now internet connections, there's a new tradition of compiling custom Haggadahs.

Humans interpret and remake culture. That's what we do to make life interesting and meaningful.

Except (under the current US legal scheme), where a few people have copyrights on the myths of our culture, can extend those copyrights forever, and can prosecute people who want to share and modify their culture.

Imagine if the Rabbis took a copyright on the Haggadah, and the copyright was extended forever.

Passover's a festival of liberation.

Next year, free culture."

Hear, hear, Adina!

Well, I have a lot of catching up to do in the Blogosphere. Among other things, that would include more Alpha Male talk from Halley and an absorbing discussion between Jonathon Delacour, Dorothea Salo, Shelley Powers, Steve Himmer, and others, on persona, fact vs. fiction, and context in blogging. This conversation had its genesis a while back with Steve’s look at blogging as literature.

And speaking of catching up, Steve’s been another one of those unexplained absences from my blogroll. Onepotmeal is a great blog. Sorry for the oversight. On the roll it goes.

Saturday, April 19, 2003

Barbie and Ken of Troy

Do you ever click on banner ads? I have to confess that once in a while I do. The one that caught my eye today was for an upcoming TV mini-series, “Helen of Troy.” So I clicked and the network promo that came up smelled suspiciously tacky.

However, before I dismissed it out of hand, I decided to check in with some trusted reviewers like, for example, Howard Rosenberg of the LA Times. When I saw that his subhead was “Barbie and Ken of Troy,” I knew that my suspicions had been confirmed. For a brilliantly hilarious review, read on.

Monday, April 14, 2003

In Brewski Reducto

Regarding the political squabbling in which I was involved last week, Wonderchicken, in a comment to Jonathon Delacour, wisely observes, “A few beers in the same room together, and this bickering would be a bad memory, I suspect.”

This elicits the comment from jt that it’s an “example of reduction of complex issues to a false simplicity.”

To which I say, “Here’s to a little simplicity and soothing! Hoist your glasses, Frank, Jonathon, jt, Doc, Bb, et al.”

Return To Normal?

Back to the blog after a weekend hiatus—a notably unpleasant weekend consumed with tax preparation. There were two exceptional moments of relief, however. One, seeing the delightful British movie, “Bend It Like Beckham.” Two, watching the final round of the Masters Tournament, one of the premier events in all of sports.

As for the movie, don’t make the mistake of assuming that it’s just a girl-soccer flick. It’s much more, e.g., a struggle between generations and cultures--but never heavy–handed, as such themes can often be. It’s a feel-good movie, but without being the least bit schmaltzy.

The Masters was great drama as it so often is. Congratulations to Canada’s Mike Weir for his gritty performance. He showed the cool-headed resolve and intelligent play-making that a championship performance requires at this level of competition. .

It was a great pleasure for us average-size guys to see one of our own beat the more physically imposing, jock-strappy, long-ball power hitters. He was able to do so by virtue of his remarkable composure in the face of almost unbearable pressure—pressure which ultimately wilted his bigger opponents.

I hope I can stay away from politics this week. Perhaps I derived a modicum of pleasure in my sparring with Frank Paynter. It certainly brought a big spike in my hits. But hit count is not my raison d’etre for blogging.

However, I can’t avoid stepping into the political dialogue once in a while. After all, my political feelings are a part of who I am. And they’re much more in the forefront of my consciousness at such an agonizing time in the history of world affairs. But, when I do the political blogging, I never experience the level of satisfaction or the warm comments from others that I often experience from my more ordinary, personal posts.

Friday, April 11, 2003


I’m grateful to Doc Searls for stepping into the political exchange I’ve been having with Frank Paynter. Frank had taken the conversation to a level beyond which I wasn’t interested in going. But in some respects I was reluctant to drop it because I was leaving it in a state of sharp disagreement. I simply get tired very quickly of engaging in political argument. It isn’t my strong suit.

Doc comes to the rescue very adroitly, and with a single, cleverly coined word, puts his finger directly on what, for me, was the sore spot. It’s that either/or, black and white, with us or against us cant of thought, the practitioners of which Doc labels “Certidudes:”
“To me all the certidudes are equally off base because they're convinced the Other Guys are part of some big-ass Conspiracy, or are what Craig Burton calls EWBU: Evil, Wrong, Bad and Ugly. That's how Michael Moore sees the Bush and the Administration. And that's how Andrew Sullivan sees Howell Raines and the Academic Left. Their rants make for great reading; but they're not fully engaged with Reality, which includes, let's admit, the possibility that the other side isn't always full of shit.”

Doc goes on from there and makes an excellent case for a more inclusive view. Thank you, Doc, for putting it all in such a clear perspective. It’s nice having you in the same bed with me on this one.

It’s always felt more authentic to me to be groping around in the gray areas of uncertainty, even though it bears the cost of sometimes being labeled spineless, muddle-headed, or even, for godssake, worse than “the enemy” (fill in the blank).

Thursday, April 10, 2003

A Default Bushie?

Well, I knew that when I made a pitch in the preceding post for utilizing the mechanisms of representative democracy—which is what our country is supposed to be about—I would take some flak for it. So be it. I learned long ago not to be surprised by the cynicism of the far left.

What I didn’t expect was to be accused--along with Jonathon Delacour of all people--of being a sort of de facto Bush supporter. Well, I don’t need to prove my distaste of and contempt for the Bush team to anyone. I think I can speak with authority for the content of my own heart, thank you very much.

I desperately did not want this war to take place. I think it’s been a complete outrage. But now that we’re there, we’d better clean up the mess we made. Some seem to suggest that we should just butt out forthwith and go march in the streets. I call that irresponsible and ineffective. If that makes me a Bush supporter in the eyes of some, well, then I guess I’ll just have to live with that.

I fully agree with my esteemed blogging friend, Frank Paynter, when he says that,

“it remains for each of us to demonstrate our opposition to the war crimes perpetuated by the Bush regime and to affirm our complete and total rejection of a government that wages pre-emptive war.”

We can disagree on the most effective ways to demonstrate that opposition. But I’m obliged to say to Frank that I’m offended by the veiled implication that I lack “decency and common sense” for allowing myself, in his view, “to be trapped in the thorny thicket of supposed ‘democratic’ options.”

To be fair, he put it in the context of living in Hitlerian Germany and what he hoped his actions would have been had he been there. But, to my mind the personal implication still stands out. Frank, you’re welcome to rebut. Attack my logic, but not my decency, please.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Now the Hard Part

The military victory has been achieved—as if there was any doubt (whatever doubts may have been expressed initially were highly misplaced and misinformed, to be sure). Now the hard part, chock full of doubts.

Jonathon Delacour, among others, has been so right to point out that it’s time to forget the peace marches. These actions now represent a colossal waste of energy. The energy needs to be directed instead toward the question of what kind of world order we want to build out of the chaos that has been inflicted upon the people of Iraq.

A million peace marchers pouring onto the streets every single day isn’t going to make a lick of difference in addressing this complex problem—other than creating more and more polarization. And guess who’s going to be on the losing side of that one.

Intelligent, thoughtful political action is the requirement now called for. Actually, it always was. I’ve often wondered how many of the peace demonstrators stayed away from the polls in the last election, or threw their vote away on some meaningless third party.

We’ll never know, but I submit that it’s quite possible that the world could be looking a lot different today if all this anti-Bush sentiment had been strategically and responsibly directed during the last congressional election.

This is a representative democracy, after all. Let’s use it in the way it was intended. Let’s make sure that the will of the representatives, with whom we have some leverage, is imposed on the executive branch, rather than the other way around.

Lean hard and lean repeatedly on your representatives. See to it that they see to it that the Bushies don’t have carte blanche on the rebuilding of Iraq and future Mideast policy. Insist that they lean hard on the Administration to move toward, and not away from, the United Nations.

A very tall order, to be sure, but one with more possibility than futile street demonstrations that are dismissed out of hand.

I say this as a former street marcher and demonstrator. But there’s no comparison to the situation then and now. My fellow graybeards who long for the old days of street politics need to get over it. Back then, we were in an impossible war with a conscript army, and body bags coming home by the hundreds every week. It was clearly a street-fighting situation. It didn’t matter if we polarized the society. The fight had to be joined.

“Nation-building” was not even on the radar screen in those days. Now, it’s the critical issue—requiring brain-power, not shoe leather and larynx-power. We can’t rely on the current group of hard-asses in Washington for the brain-power. We’ll have to inject our own.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Doing the Dance

Dave Rogers, of Connect and Empower, picks up on my post of yesterday about struggling with blogging and whips it into a very nice riff on the delicate dance between the dangers of obsession with detail and the need to maintain quality for one’s clients.

Dave sounds like he’s found the balance. I’m sure his clients are the beneficiaries. (You can quote me if you want, Dave).

Monday, April 07, 2003

A Question of Personal Law

Once again, I find myself struggling with a hiatus in my blogging. I take refuge in three primary excuses: One, the war has left me dispirited; Two, I’m swamped with projects like taxes, refinancing, house repair, and helping my wife market her business: Three, plain old bloggers’ block, i.e., being convinced that I have nothing worth writing about.

I need to make a simple decision. Do I want to keep the blog alive, or let it wither on the vine? Quite simply, I choose the former, which means that I need to address the three alleged culprits—the bogey-men—cited above.

Working backwards from number three, there’s only one way to deal with block—just put something up, and if it stinks, it stinks. This isn’t the same thing as the “writer’s block” that a professional writer sometimes faces, a situation in which the issue of quality is critical and being blocked is truly a problem. “Bloggers’ block”, on the other hand, is a phantom—an avoidance tactic--an excuse, as I said at the outset.

Excuse number two—being too busy. It’s valid up to a point, but only to a point. How often are you genuinely too busy to set aside fifteen minutes to put something up? Again, if it stinks, it stinks. It’s more important to keep your blogging momentum going. I’ve yet to see a blogger, no matter how accomplished, who didn’t put up the occasional mediocre post. Why should I be afraid of being any different?

My first excuse—dispiritedness from the war—is trickier. Well, maybe one way of approaching it is to look at the question of Universal Law vs. Personal Law. There is no Universal Law that says that the ongoing occurrence of terrible events in the world requires one to be rendered incapable of blogging.

That’s strictly Personal Law. The advantage of Personal Law is that I’m the sole legislator. I don’t have to go through any rancorous committee hearings in order to rescind it.

I’m reminded of the days following Sept. 11 when the mantra was that, if you didn’t move forward with your personal plans--if you refrained from travel or going to entertainment venues, “the terrorists win.” The parallel is that, in allowing myself to be incapacitated from blogging because of the war, it’s a capitulation to the Bushman. It’s tantamount to saying that he wins.

Well, screw that! I’ll post gibberish if I have to in order to prevent the Texas Terrorist from having a say over my Personal Law. So bear with me as I try to stumble my way back into the blogosphere.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Newsweek On Target

Newsweek’s regular feature, “Conventional Wisdom,” a weekly and often witty assessment of what’s going up and what’s coming down, nails it this week. Down arrows for all three of the Terrifying Trio—Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld; and a richly deserved up arrow for--would you believe it—Blogs—which, as the perceptive CW says, “beats Aaron Brown every time.”

Also pertaining to the media coverage of the war, Steve MacLaughlin has contributed an excellent overview in a recent article.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003


We’ve just returned from a fabulous three-day sojourn up on the Mendocino coast. Mother Nature shined her graces upon us. Our three days somehow managed to be sandwiched in between bouts of blustery, nasty weather.

The highlight of our trip was a sparkling evening with Denise Howell and her dad, Mel McKinney. The gods just kept smiling on us during this trip. For starters, as Jill and I sat in the lively and friendly hotel bar, sipping our martinis and awaiting Denise’s entrance, we basked in an expansive, unobstructed view of the ocean. The setting sun provided a marvelous light show in the sky. As if that weren’t enough, a group of migrating whales swam by, sending their spouts into the air as if to say “bottoms up” to the assembled drinkers.

Actually, the whales were a fitting opening act for Denise’s entrance. Within ten seconds, you know that you’re in the presence of a real spirit. And ditto her dad. It’s not hard to see where her refreshing vibrancy comes from. Mel, by the way, helps run the inn where we were staying and he saw to it that we were well taken care of. It was a marvelous experience. I felt almost like some kind of celebrity.

We had a tasty dinner featuring locally caught fish creatively prepared. Denise ordered us a most excellent Chardonnay from the nearby Anderson Valley, a premier but modest-scale wine-growing region. She suggested that we stop by the picturesque little winery on our way home and get some to take home. As per usual, her advice was well worth following.

As satisfying as the food and wine were, the real magic of the evening was the simple pleasure of breaking bread with Denise. We could have been munching on canned sardines and guzzling warm Bud Light, it still would have been sparkling.

Although my experience is limited, what it tells me so far is that conversing with bloggers—the ones on my blogroll anyway—is a delightful experience. And why wouldn’t it be? It stands to reason that if I enjoy reading someone’s blog, it’s highly likely that I’m going to enjoy the real-world person.

After dinner, we repaired to the local playhouse to watch Mel in Neil Simon’s Prisoner of Second Avenue. The cast was extremely competent, including Mel. Afterward, we gathered at the hotel bar with some of Mel’s friends for a nightcap and still more fun and stimulating conversation.

One of his friends was a radio personality, Mike Cleary of Food and Travel Radio (what a job! Think of the comps this guy must get. Where do I apply?). We had been talking about the gratification that a stage actor receives from the feedback of a live audience.
Jill asked Mike if not having a live audience was a disadvantage in doing radio.

Mike, who in his radio shows, apparently talks openly about his life, his family, and his feelings, responded with some eloquence about the very special connection that exists with his listeners. He remarked on how when he meets these people in real life, they are already good friends, and how satisfying that is.

At that point, Denise leaned over and said to me, “We bloggers know what he’s talking about, don’t we?” It was a special moment—one among several on this most restorative weekend. I think my spirits may be back.