Saturday, December 25, 2004

Christmas In Florida

Merry Christmas to All and a Happy New Year too. 

Travel wasn't so bad yesterday.  We were two hours late getting out of O'Hare because our plane from Indianapolis, which was supposed to land and take us then to Florida, developed mechanical problems, and had to be fixed.  After the plane landed two hours late, we then had to wait for American Airlines to find a third flight attendant, which was, blessedly, done rather quickly.  All in all, I was luckier than some who had their flights canceled or their luggage lost.  Currently I'm in rainy, wet southern Florida, sitting in my dad's den, typing this entry while it downpours outside, and thankful that I'm here. 

I hope you all got what you wanted for Christmas.  Since I have no desire, getting what I wanted was irrelevant.  More to the point are the new years' resolutions.  I'd like to finish the novel that I've been slaving away at for two years now, and get it in good enough shape to send out, show around, generally promote with an eye toward publishing.  That's number one.  I'd like to lose an additional 20-30 pounds until my 46 inch waisted slacks hang on me like the 48 inch slacks do now.  And after that, pay off my VISA bill, on which is the charge for the very computer I'm typing on at this moment.  A great machine.  I certainly do not regret that purchase. 

Well, it's time to sign off.  I've got a few days off down here to do nothing and lounge and play golf.  Maybe I'll get some writing done.  I'll check back with you all in a few days.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

It's Gregoire by 10

The eyes of the nation and the world are focused on our fair state situated in the upper left-hand corner of the country as we deal with the closest gubernatorial election in the history of the United States.  Out of 2.8 million votes cast, the Democrat, Christine Gregoire, pulled ahead yesterday by a mere 10 votes. 

But that's not the whole story--the rest of the story comes from the partisan bickering that has droned on and on since the recounts began.  This has consisted primarily of GOP bluster about fraud and calls for Gregoire to concede, even though Rossi's margin of "victory" was less than one percent--well within the margin of error for any count of 2.8 million.  After all, those tactics worked in 2000--when Republicans hectored Gore to concede, calling Democrats who joined with them "statesmen."  Gore caved.  Gregoire has not.  And I believe the rest of the Democrats country wide are getting a little vicarious thrill out of her persistance.  The shock & awe tactics the Republicans used to shame Democrats out of their manual recounts in 2000 no longer work.  Like the hijackings of September 11, 2001, these methods only work against a foe who is complacent and not expecting them.  But the Democrats are awake now and we know how to respond.  So,  bravo Christine Gregoire, keep modeling appropriate response to the rest of the country as the GOP fumes and blusters and sputters with hyperbole.  May you prevail.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Shut Up and Go Away

Just shut up and disappear.  Fade into the background.  Do not trouble us with your presence.  Live like an earthworm, below the surface, where the rest of the world knows you're there in a vague sort of way, but does not have to actually be confronted by the sight of you.

These are the lessons being taught at Trinity Christian Academy.  Since when does speech equal behavior?  This is what has always bothered me about don't ask, don't tell, too.  Somehow, voicing an opinion that being gay is good is tantamount to a "gay act."  Military men and women can be cashiered for no other reason than being linked by association with other gay people--by going to a gay establishment, for example, marching in a pride parade, going to a rally, a picnic, or a kd lang concert.

In the Trinity Christian case, one of their most talented students was essentially "shunned" for no other reason than hosting a website which discussed homosexuality.  How does that equate to "behavior?"  Perhaps we don't know the whole story, perhaps when confronted, the student disclosed that he had actually engaged in sexual behavior of the physical, rather than verbal or written, variety.

The Christian religion in America has a long tradition of shunning those who express their individuality, who do not conform, so this is nothing new. 

What have they done in this case?  They have treated an extraordinary individual in a most deplorable, traumatic way.  They have given a very talented young man a memory of injustice to take with him for the rest of his life. 

Oh, but doesn't it feel so good to judge, and condemn and expell?  Rather than examine my own sins and failings, I can transfer all the bilge I feel towards myself and project it on someone else--especially a youngster who doesn't have the experience or strength to defend himself. 

Monday, December 20, 2004

The "G" Word

The History Channel has compiled a documentary entitled Rwanda: Do Scars Ever Fade?, a retrospective on the genocide that claimed almost a million lives in 1994.  This program is a grim and unflinching look at how the world ignored the systematic slaughter of innocents; how the world, just one generation removed from the horrors of the death camps, forgot the fundamental lesson of the Holocaust and allowed it to happen again. 

Genocide is perpetrated by people.  And in Rwanda, it was neighbor against neighbor.  This documentary follows the story of two men, Ezekiel and Pierre.  Pierre is a Tutsi, and Ezekiel is a Hutu.  They grew up together as neighbors, and knew each other all their lives.  During the genocide, Ezekiel murdered Pierre's brother and helped throw Pierre, bound, into the river to drown.  Pierre's bonds came undone and he survived, but the rest of his family did not. 

Ezekiel has since become a born-again Christian and has repented his crime.  And here's where the story gets very interesting.  Now he wants forgiveness from Pierre.  In a public hearing, Pierre does forgive Ezekiel, but in a heartwrenching confession to the camera, Pierre states that he forgave for reasons other than a softening of his heart, but rather because he could not continue to live in his community if he did not forgive--forgiveness was expected, demanded by the community, and because he still feared Ezekiel. 

Imagine living next to neighbors who had been responsible for murdering your entire family.  An uneasy peace exists now--but it seems volitile, inflammable, a potent mixture of hate awaiting only a spark to bring it roaring back to vivid life.  The omnipresent vigilance against danger one would have to withstand.  It would be the life of prey, of the hunted, the persecuted and the damned. 

Conversely, imagine trying to reintegrate one's humanity with the horrors one perpetrated.  How losing oneself to mob violence is an irrevocable loss--what could possibly atone for it?  How does one live with oneself?  Like Lady Macbeth's damned spot, would the blood on one's hands ever fade?

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Seattle Policeman Scrapes Bottom

About a week after the planes hit the two towers, on a Seattle street, an officer tried to stop a suspect fleeing in a Cadillac by hanging onto the door and being dragged several yards before his partner put a bullet into the head of the car's driver.  The inquest found no fault on the part of the policeman who shot the driver.  For a full rundown on the case please see the Seattle Weekly site.

Now, by and large, I'm against the police shooting African-Americans to death.  It happened to a friend of mine in Los Angeles, when a policeman shot him by mistake at a Halloween party, thinking that the gun my friend was holding in his hand was real, rather than a plastic replica. 

However, the case of Officer Neubert suing the shooting victim's mother in civil court reaches new lows of bad behavior by those entrusted to protect society, and gives the Seattle Police Department a bad name.  Under various theories of tort law, when you give permission to someone to drive your car, then your insurance coverage extends to that person.  So far, so good.  However, no insurance policy underwrites intentional acts.  Otherwise, you could set fire to your own home and hope to collect on your fire insurance.  Putting your foot down on an accelerator while a policeman is hanging onto your door is an intentional criminal act, one which would not be covered by your mother's insurance policy.  An injured person also has a duty to mitigate damages.  Mitigation of damages in this case might include something like, oh, I don't know, letting go of the door.  However, the police officer did not let go of the door, he hung on, because it was his intent to apprehend the offender and arrest him.  Thus, hanging on was an intentional act that failed to mitigate damages. 

This case does not belong in any civil court.  If a policeman is injured in the line of duty, it is up to the state to compensate him for his damages, not to seek damages in a civil court.  To allow this case to go forward would be to harm public policy.  We all know that hyperbole is far more frequent in civil matters than it is in criminal ones--just look at Officer Neubert's testimony.  Calling it a hate crime.  For God's sake.

This case should be dismissed in order to preserve the fundamental trust the public has with its police force.  Policemen are routinely required to testify in criminal matters.  If they are allowed to testify with these kinds of hyperbolic flourishes where does it end?

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Green Monster

Jealousy.  My most hated feeling.  There's a monster inside of me, one that looks at other people's success and points to it while accusing me of failure, ineptitude and laziness. 

That said, let's congratulate Stephanie Kallos for the success her debut novel has garnered.  It's been chosen by the Today show [at linked site, scroll to bottom] for their book club selection, which guarantees Stephanie a national readership.  This is, for a writer, hitting the big time.  She will be the toast of literary clubs all over the country, and join the rarified ranks of the Name Writers: Barbara Kingsolver, Alice Sebold, Julia Glass.

Stephanie used to be an actor in Seattle, and worked with me on a production of The Comedy of Errors at the Tacoma Actors' Guild many, many years ago.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

So, how's that novel coming?

This past weekend was our firm Christmas party, and many people know that I've been taking writing classes and that I am working on a large project and so I kept getting the question, "so, how's that novel coming?"

It's the literary equivalent of "been doing any acting lately?"  It's meant to be a friendly inquiry, not the inference of abject failure the interrogee takes it for.  This is the nadir of the creative process.  You reach a point where you're absolutely bereft of inspiration--where your characters are willful and rebellious and they simply won't do whatever you tell them to do.  So, you have to write reams of scenes which may never make it between the covers of the book because you have to keep writing or you stop, and to stop means death.  So you try things out.  You have them go here, go there, follow each other, find clues, get hints, etc., all in order to have your critique group say, "Oh!  This is the Scooby-Doo ending!"  At which point you crumple up the pages and take another stab at it. 

The perfect response to these creative questions is, "Oh, the novel?  It's progressing quite nicely, thank you."  Which is the truth, even though it doesn't feel like the truth.

Thursday, December 9, 2004

All Hail Apple and Itunes

Apple computer is revolutionizing the music industry courtesy of Napster.  The Apple Ipod is the most exciting audio device to have appeared on the scene since the Victrola.  Infinitely portable, it holds up to 40 GB of information, whether those be songs, files, or other data, and they communicate with computers, the internet, and your home and car stereos.  The cheaper knockoffs that have proliferated in the market during the past six months--I think I saw my first Ipod commercial with the dancers in silhouette this past summer, maybe this past spring--bear testiment to a market that has not been saturated, and supports, like the portable PC industry, a broad range of specifications that appeal to different kinds of users for a multitude of reasons.  If cost is your sole concern, get something other than an Ipod.  If having the most solid-state, dependable, functional, and versatile device is your cuppa, then you can't do better than the Ipod.  This device will destroy the CD industry.  We're not talking now of the music industry, but the manufacturers of music CDs.  Optical disks have become as cluttering as tapes and videotapes.  And they're far more fragile than first believed.  A unit that keeps an entire library of music CDs in the space taken up by a deck of cards is a boon to all Feng Shui masters and consumers who are tired of scratched disks and broken jewel cases.  Kudos to Apple for creating the most user friendly and exciting portable device on the planet (this year at least).  I'm getting one for myself for Christmas and I can't wait. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Why Gay People should Still Matter to the Democrats

Okay, this is just a work in progress.  I'm not sure exactly what my reasoning is going to be--that's the great thing about a blog--you can put half-baked ideas out for public consumption.  But here it is.  The democrats should not abandon the gay community, as so many, including former President Bill Clinton (long may he live), have suggested.  The biggest reason is that the gay community is an extremely good lightning rod--attracting all kinds of vitrioloc hatred from the ultra right wing. 

We are a country which has shifted past conservative and liberal (which might have been true at one point in the 1970's) to progressive conservative, and ultra-reactionary neo-conservative.  True liberal voices are marginalized to such a degree that they sound as nutty as Al Sharpton.  The right wing likes to play at being a "big tent" and "compassionate" but these words are meaningless and hypocritical.  The culture warriors of the 90's, Bat Puchanan and Jessie Helms proved that the direct, self-righteous approach doesn't energize the base like softer, gentler diatribes "protecting marriage."  When you're "protecting marriage" you're for something, not against something.  This kind of Orwellian logic has permiated right wing talking points on Capital Hill.  Everyone from the President to Rick Santorum to Ralph Reed and Rush Limbaugh are all on the same page.  Obvious hatred and racism doesn't work: so they've disguised it as being something else.

However, they can't control all their people all the time.  Thus, at the local level, the two-barrelled approach to gay hate is alive and well.  That's what makes gays such valuable allies to the democrats.  The ultra-right wing John Birch pounding nut balls can't help themselves.  They go right for the jugular spouting about a "gay agenda to indoctrinate children."  These are talking points that are 10 years old and out of sync with the party at the national level.  Thus they are exposed for the rampant pathologically phobic hatemongers they truly are. 

Friday, December 3, 2004

Anger Management

Anger is a difficult thing for a recovering addict.  The Big Book calls it "the dubious luxury of normal men."  We are encouraged, taught, maniupulated, cajoled and programmed to avoid anger.  However, anger, like breathing, is involuntary and inevitable.  That's because our demands from life are not always met.  We don't keep our minds on the way things are--but concentrate on the way things should be.  Thus our pique when the world forces us to acknowledge that life must be lived on its terms, not the terms we dictate.  That said, it is much more difficult to control anger than it is to control the expression of anger.  Anger will be felt, it's part psyche, part physiological, part neurological.  It is as powerful as love or jealousy.  We don't have an option not to feel angry if we are to encounter the world.  We do have an option of declining to express that anger outwardly towards others. 

Restraint of tongue and pen is one mantra suggested by the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.  Practicing tolerance and acceptance is another. 

Why am I concentrating on this?  Because I have had two extremely vivid episodes of anger in the past few days.  One I reacted to, the other I tried to forget.  My reactionary response took the form a flame e-mail, which I subsequently tried to ameliorate by writing the recipient back and telling him that it was an expression of affection and to please not be offended.  Surprisingly enough, it worked, although maybe I didn't fool him and he simply declined to get into a pissing match. 

Thursday, December 2, 2004

Debate and Switch

Why can't people change their minds?  Why can't people admit that they were misinformed, that upon further consideration and based on new information, their opinions have altered from their previously held positions?  Why is this seen as indecisiveness rather than as a thoughtful, methodical process of enlightenment?

Strom Thurmond and George Wallace were able to do that--to rise above their racist pasts, admit they were wrong, wrong, wrong about issue of race, and become viable political entities again.  That is regarded as studious and rational.  Maybe only right wingers are permitted that kind of self-examination.

Wednesday, December 1, 2004

Right Wing Deceit

The right wing learned from 1988.  They know that getting all righteous about social issues does not play well, it energizes the opposition rather than their own base.  Better to couch their extremism in reassuring terms that allows their base to practice hateful political acts while still feeling good about themselves.  Thus while trying to get anti-gay marriage amendments passed in 11 states, supporters denied that the amendments would restrict benefits and rights to gay people, that such amendments were about protecting marriage "only."

That was deception pure and simple.  Republican lawmakers in Michigan want to tear up negotiated contracts with unions that require benefits for gay partners of state employees.  So much for being about the protection of marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution.  These amendments are, and always have been, about denying equal rights to a segment of the population which is largely unpopular in an effort to get that segment to shut up and disappear.  Their spin is hypocritical and mendacious.  The same is true for the Federal Amendment.  We've only seen the tip of the iceberg.  Gay hate is alive and well in USA.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Spector Confirmed

The difference between the Republicans and Democrats' campaign tactics:  Republicans woo the right wing vote by promising them the world and after they are elected, give them less than half of what they asked for.  Democrats court their base by repudiating the left wing and after they're elected, give them more than they expected.

Nevertheless, things are in a pretty sorry state when democrats can get excited about a moderate republican winning anything in congress.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Thomas Jefferson, Man of the Moment

Here's another quote from our third President.  Extremely appropros.

From a letter Thomas Jefferson sent in 1798 after enactment of the
Sedition Act. 

"A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over,
their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight,
restore their government to its true principles.  It is true that in
the meantime we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the
horrors of a war and long oppressions of enormous public debt . . . If
the game runs sometimes against us at home we must have patience till
luck turns, and then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the
principles we have lost, for this is a game where principles are at

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The Stupid Factor

How many times have I heard this in the past three weeks: "How could so many Americans be so stupid?"  This phrase is used to reference hordes of irrational evangelicals voting against their economic self-interest in order to elect a president who agrees with their moral values on the the subject of guns, God and gays.  Sometimes I get so frustrated with my fellow democrats.  I am personally far right of left on many issues and thus not entirely politically correct on all liberal sacred cows.  So I have also felt the sting of being inferred stupid or ill-informed by rabid left wingers (only on e-mail, never face to face).  We do not do the Democratic party any service by calling Bush voters stupid, or chanting "dumb, dumber, dubya."  If we are to learn anything from this election it must be that eastern, intellectual power elites are anathema to the American public in the modern era (JFK not withstanding).  We must go back to our roots in order to appeal to the values that made our party and America great: Justice, Equality, Community.  We must look to our great hero: Thomas Jefferson.  "We hold these truths to be self-evident..."  notice that he didn't use any pseudo intellectual phrase there, like "a priori"  "...that all men are created equal."  We must appeal to fair-minded moderates that Democrats believe this.  That even if people are simple, or haven't gone to college, they can still have a warm spot in our party.  Amazingly, the Republicans even stole this from us in the last election: Dick Cheney saying "all Americans are free to engage in relationships of their choice."  Talk about big-tent politics. 

The truth of the matter is that many very intelligent, very well-informed and highly intellectual people voted for George W. Bush in this last election.  The Democrats need to parse their platform and strive to appeal again to the spirit of what makes our party great.  Why do we love it?  Why do rich Democrats love it so much that they vote against their economic self-interests?  Those are the questions we must ask ourselves.

Monday, November 15, 2004


Resurrection appears on my list of favorite movies.  On my list of favorite movies which have not yet been released on DVD it's near the top.  Ellen Burstyn gives an amazing, career defining performance as Edna Mae, a normal, everyday American housewife who has a near death experience and as a result, finds herself gifted by a strange new power of healing.  It isn't long before her powers become noticed by the public, and it quickly follows that the demands made upon her by the miserable become impossible.  On top of that, the good work she's done is mistrusted by Fundamentalists because she will not state that her powers come from God.  This film is a fascinating character study with a unique sensibility of the normal thrown into circumstances beyond belief, given vivid life by Burstyn and company. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

A Conservative Athiest

Christopher Hitchens, the Vanity Fair editorial columnist, is exactly the kind of moderate I like.  Though he no doubt voted for the one I despise, he takes the liberals to task for their whining; which, may I add, only plays into the hands of gloating blue-baiters.  I find his take on the perception of the Bush electorate as as bunch of knuckle-dragging theocrats intensely interesting.  Read his view on Slate.  Okay, so whining democrats have gotten a lot of air time, because a lot of people enjoy the misery of others.  See my Schadenfreude trope below.  Liberals have been taught to express their feelings, rather than suck it up and act like men.  Thus the craven reaction.  Once our collective pain is accepted however, we need to meet the challenge and reaffirm our principles: especially our economic principles, otherwise the US will certainly become a pluralistic society: of those who can afford to live here, and those who most assuredly cannot.

We Must Stand Firm

GWB: the unifier--just so long as you accept his point of view.  GWB compromiser: just so long as you compromise on his side of the issue.  GWB reaches out his hand: in order to take yours and drag you along on the path of his insane agenda.

We must stand firm.  We must resist.  We must oppose.  We cannot give up.  We cannot succumb to empty promises of unity that mean nothing other than "get out of the way."

The GOP knows this from experience.  Remember the elections of 1992?  Read this opinion piece from one of the Seattle Times columnists, Danny Westneat.  It is excellent and says so succinctly what I know to be true and what I feel in my gut to be true.

Friday, November 5, 2004

The Red Death

In this national debate over red states and blue states, I am reminded of the immortal words of Edgar Allan Poe, my hero, my American literary saint:

     THE "Red Death" had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever
     been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal --the redness
     and the horror of blood.
     And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come 
     like a thief in the night. And one by one dropped the revellers in the blood-
     bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing posture of his fall.
     And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last of the gay. And
     the flames of the tripods expired. And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death
     held illimitable dominion over all.

Thus have the majority of American voters spoken: "Do not change Horsemen in the middle of the Apocalypse."

Thursday, November 4, 2004

Voluntary Withdrawal

I'm going to sleep now...

I'm not going to pay any attention as the President of the United States (not *my* president) steamrolls his agenda with a barking, drooling congress who clusters around his feet like a pack of hounds and a Supreme Court comprised of right-wing sluts who are willing to rubber stamp his intractable agenda.  I'm not going to wring my hands and throw up, or become spiritually anorexic over what direction my country is headed.  Instead, I will become numb.  I will disengage.   Why?  Like Herman Melville's immortal character Bartleby it is because "I would prefer not to."  It is my coping mechanism.  Pardon me while I dissociate for the next four years.  But you must understand that this is a common reaction to trauma.  I will not fret about social security, though it will be a miracle if its coffin nails aren't hammered down during these next four years.  I will not agonize over the War, because although I confess I was somewhat gratified when we kicked Saddam's ass, perhaps it was, in retrospect, silly of me to hope that the American people would rebuke a president who leads us into war.  Clearly the majority of Americans favor it, or at least favor giving this president another chance to end it nobly.  I will solice myself with the knowledge that least a few of my dreams came true: Patty Murray returns to the senate, and the Green Line monorail will be built, which I can expect will improve my commute and property values. 

Others will have to gather what peace of mind they may from the shreds of Kerry's defeat.  But I have made mine.

And so, g'night.

Wednesday, November 3, 2004

One Hundred Days

So America opted for the guy who started an unnecessary preemptive war costing thousands of needless American casualties by lying about it and then ran the deficit to record numbers all because they were concerned with "Moral Values?"

I confess I simply don't understand.  I don't get it.  I heard a truly frightening prognostication this morning on the radio.  A journalist whose name was Susskind, I believe stated: "George Bush believes that when power is granted it is to be used forcefully.  You can either join him or get out of the way."  How depressing.  But also, how infuriating.  Then let this fury be the impetus for change.  Let GWB have his hundred days of peace.  Then let him have it.  Stand in his way at every single opportunity.  Hector him.  Harass him.  Make his policies stall out like an engine badly in need of an oil change.  Do not join him and DO NOT GET OUT OF HIS WAY!  Stand directly in his way and say, not in my name!

Tuesday, November 2, 2004

The Day has Finally Come

Election day.  Thank heaven above for time.  It's felt as though the past six weeks have been trapped in some kind of evil bubble of anti-time, as attack, smear, attack, twist, duck, strike back, attack, seems to have grown a perceptively timeless quality, a quality of interminability, endlessness, infinity.  When Bush loses today will he have the grace to say, "let's all stand firm behind President Kerry as he attempts to clean my plate?"  Time does not really exist other than in our perception of it, so I'm grateful when certain laws of the universe, of gravity, rotating planets and the passage of days, ultimately results in the arrival of that blessed event: It's Over With.

Now we can get past the carping and get on with our lives.

Monday, October 25, 2004


Schadenfreude.  It means: pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.  What a perfect German word.  Having grown up in a family almost 100% derived from German immigrant stock, I can well understand this concept.  It's that opaque, thrilling joy that strikes when your friend's manuscript gets rejected, or they get a bad review in the paper, or their significant other moves out.  It is that shadowy little hobgoblin that lives in the soul, half black widow, half imp, that perches in the apse opposite hope and sneers and scoffs and even though you turn your back, you can still hear him cackling with idiotic glee.  Schadenfreude.  Oh, and I almost forgot, he has a little square mustache, too.

A Pain in the Neck

I've been seeing a physical therapist for neck and upper back pain caused by too much keyboarding.  She taught me a wonderful exercise for stretching those muscles that go down the back of the neck and connect with the trapezius.  Sitting or standing straight, pull your chin backwards while simultaneously raising the back of your head.  Feel the stretch all along the back of your neck.  Release.  Repeat.

Only eight more days until the election.  I just want it over.  No matter who wins.  I just want it over with. 

Friday, October 22, 2004

An Ovation for Glass

Philip Glass is my favorite composer, having knocked Wagner out of the running years ago.  Here are my favorite composers in order of enthusiasm:

1.  Philip Glass
2.  Richard Wagner
3.  Franz Liszt
4.  Ludwig van Beethoven
5.  Gustav Mahler
6.  Frederic Chopin
8.  Antonio Vivaldi
9.  Johann Sebastian Bach
10. John Philip Sousa

You ask, "are you crazy?  You rated Sousa above Mozart?"  No, I'm not crazy, I'm just dramatic.  I like dramatic, programmatic music, and Mozart wrote his share, but he just doesn't get my heart pounding like Sousa.  Chopin again, is a strange choice, but he speaks to my heart.  Mozart generally leaves me rather stony inside.  I can't help it, it's just me.

Currently I'm listening to a new recording of Philip Glass' oratorio, Itaipu.  An oratorio is a work for orchestra and chorus based on sacred text or dramatic poem, and presented without costumes and sets.  More traditionally, oratorios contain recitatives and arias, which Itaipu does not, otherwise it conforms to the oratorio description.

The older recording, by Robert Shaw and his Chorale (who originally commissioned Itaipu) is a good recording but it doesn't have the resonance, the sonority, the depth and color and nuance of this new recording by the Los Angeles Chorale.  I'm hearing new musical relationships, harmonies and dissonance, which escaped me in the Shaw recording.  And so the piece is coming alive for me again. 

I have followed Philip Glass's career for twenty five years, ever since I was introduced to his unique voice when I was in graduate school, and The Photographer made a national tour.  I missed that performance (possibly because I had to get drunk instead), and bitterly regretted it.  In the past ten years, however, I have never missed an opportunity to see, hear and appreciate whatever live performances of Glass's work come to Seattle.  As such, I've seen the world premieres of two works, his opera In the Penal Colony, and his concerto for harpsichord and orchestra.  At that performance I was able to actually speak to Maestro Glass and offer my heartfelt appreciation for all the spiritual sustenance his music has provided to me over the years.  I'm sure I looked like a fool, gushing, but when one has such an opportunity, one mustn't wasteit by playing coy.

Although Glass wasn't present at the performance of Itaipu by the Seattle Chamber Chorale, I did see the work performed live a few years ago.  It was a religious experience for me, a transcendant musical reverie as the chorus and orchestra gained momentum and power and force throughout the third section of the oratorio, The Dam.  The recording of Itaipu by the Los Angeles Master Chorale is available through RCM records. 

Friday, October 15, 2004

Make it Stop!

Only 18 days until the election but that still seems interminable.  I just want it to be OVER and done with, and in the past.  The president is pathological, and that tone starts from the top, he must be put out.

The latest evidence is this non-story about Mary Cheney and Senator Kerry's innocuous mention of her in the third debate.  He did it to expose GOP hypocrisy when it comes to gay Americans.  Well, Andrew Sullivan makes my point better than I ever, ever could, so hopefully he won't take it amiss if I quote him here:

". . .  the Mary Cheney thing is a brilliant maneuver by the Republicans. Rove knows that most people do find mentioning someone's daughter's lesbianism to be distasteful and gratuitous. So he can work it to great effect, exploiting homophobia while claiming to be defending gays. Again: masterful jujitsu. I tip my hat to the guy. Poisonous, but effective."

The GOP spin machine is a wonder to behold.  I must resist my impulse to luxuriate in hate and fear by watching the news, by reading the news internet sites.  Don't succumb to the culture of division that is being created in the politicial discourse/acrimony of our times.  It's simply too upsetting.  Repudiate George W. Bush and everything he stands for.

Thursday, October 14, 2004


A drop-dead gorgeous black man kicks ass on a space ship several galaxies and millennia away, his braids flying in slo-mo as Wagner's Die Fliegende Hollander howls in the background in time to his blaster shots.  Later, he quips, "they were playing Wagner: I haven't had that much fun in six months!" 

What's not to like?

The scene is from an earlier episode of Andromeda, a Gene Roddenberry created space opera currently showing on the Sci-Fi channel.  Now, Roddenberry passed away almost fifteen years go, so how could he have created a show that started airing in 2000?  Presumably this was a one-page treatment that Majel dug out of his filing cabinet at some point and thought, "this would make a better series than Earth: Final Conflict, especially if we can get Kevin Sorbo."  Well, she was right. 

Andromeda is still in production five years after it began, and seems to have a long, complicated, and not easily understood plot line involving different universes where things are similar but not quite the same.  If you're like me, and you watched the first few episodes, then tuned in again in the 4th, you're entirely lost.  That's why it's helpful that the series is now coming out on DVD.  I'm going to have to get that one of Keith Hamilton Cobb (as Tyr Anasazi) in the aforementioned Flying Dutchman episode.  I mean, a show that has an entire group of human beings subscribing to the philosophy of Nietzsche has got something going on!

Well, I suppose the Nazis might qualify, but let's not go there.  :)

Thursday, October 7, 2004

Man Bites Dog

Once in a while, lawyers get what's coming to them.  And yet, he's still such a lawyer, he's still defending the client that attacked him in public.  Go figure.

Maybe that's the point behind these "activist judges."  You just have to stop and remember that judges are really just lawyers in drag.

Tuesday, October 5, 2004

Sacrificing Virgins

With Mt. St. Helens burping, farting and otherwise getting frisky, the time has come to seriously consider which virgin we should sacrifice to the volcano in order to appease the fire god who lives within. 

These days, it's awfully hard to come up with anyone who (i) really is a virgin and (ii) deserves to be sacrificed to the god.

So, we might have to be somewhat metaphorical with regard to virginity requirement.  That certain someone has to at least project an attitude of purity.  So, with that less rigorous standard in mind, my first choice is Rick Santorum.  My second choice would be Arnold Schwartzenegger.  My third choice would be the entire state of Utah.  "This way to the caldera, ladies and gentlemen!"

Monday, October 4, 2004

Another Seattle Nobel Winner

Congratulations to Dr. Linda Buck of the Fred Hutchenson Cancer Research Center for winning the 2004 Nobel Prize for Medicine

In other news: Mt. St. Helens is active again this morning, and Bob Melvin, the manager of the Seattle Mariners, has been fired. 

Sunday, October 3, 2004

Nader: Suffering Rosacea

Man, get a load of Ralph Nader's rosacea.  That's a skin condition that causes reddened welts on the nose and cheeks of the sufferer.  It's not a happy thing, certainly, and I wonder whether stress can intensify an outbreak.  My father suffers from it, and it's hard to bring under control.

But more to the point, Nader says he wants to break up the two-party system.  This may or may not be a good thing.  On the pro side, it would certainly end the "imperial" presidency.  How can someone behave as president Bush has behaved, ignoring the opposition, when they were elected with as little as 34% of the vote?

The one thing that makes the presidency such a powerful office is the two party system, where someone is elected, perhaps in a landslide, but certainly with a clear majority.  Add a third party would mean that the president could be elected with less than a majority of the American vote.  That would have extreme implications for the office of the President.  He (or she, but not likely) would then be more or less forced into consensus building.  Actually, with the track record of our current president, maybe that wouldn't be such a bad thing after all. 

But not in this election.  Don't vote for Nader.

Friday, October 1, 2004

When's She Gonna Blow?

The rumblings just keep on coming.  Mt. St. Helens is waking up and getting ready to clear her throat.  When do you suppose?  My prediction is for sometime after noon on Monday. 

Ichiro is now within one hit of tying George Sisler's record.  We predict he will get two hits tonight in order to set a new record but also so as not to overshadow Edgar Martinez' retirement party tomorrow.  Ichiro is a sportsman and a gentleman.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Breaking the Record

Ichiro is three away from breaking George Sisler's 1927 record of 257 base hits in a single MLB season.  Around here, there's much talk about whether Ichiro should break the record at an away game or wait until he gets home to Safeco Field.


Ichiro should not concentrate on breaking a record.  He should only do what he does well, hit the ball and let the chips fall where they may.

If he breaks Sisler's record at an away game, then he can jolly well set a NEW record at a home game.  That's the way I see it.  Stupid Mariners fans.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Federal Inmate Martha Stewart

It was reported today that Martha Stewart may be going to the federal women's correctional facility at Alderson, West Virginia (my sister's home state).  The minimum security prison has been nicknamed "camp cupcake" due to its laxity and lenience.  Inmates typically perform light duty yard work, or sometimes knit items for charity.  One can only imagine how much a hand-knit sweater by Martha Stewart would fetch in an auction on e-Bay, especially one knitted while in the pokey.

Isn't it all just too ridiculous?

In English Common Law, there were two categories of crime: felonies and misdemeanors.  Felonies always carried the ultimate penalty--execution.  Misdemeanors were lesser crimes that usually carried a prison sentence.  Most of the felonies we now know as felonies, once were punished by death.  Nowadays, people are sent to Camp Cupcake.  Is it a better world for that?  Probably.  I recently read a figure that there are over 4,000 federal crimes that could earn you prison time.  It's getting harder and harder to avoid committing one or more of them, especially when you don't know what most of them really are.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004


Boiling gaseous energy, swarms of small earthquakes, hot molten rock rising slowly through an intractable crust:  Mount St. Helens?  No, the Kerry campaign.

The comeback kid can't campaign for JFK due to his recent heart bypass surgery, so he sent the next best thing--his best and brightest, to help bring about a sea-change in this election.  And you can tell--the pit bulls of the GOP have unleashed their reductive, minimalizing attacks on the senator, calling him all kinds of names and attacking his character, which the GOP loves to do.  (By the way, why do we always pronounce it "jee oh pee", huh?  Why not call it for what it is: the stuff you dig out of a septic tank: "gop" something that rhymes with "cop" and "slop").  They're attacking.  They're on the defensive.  Meanwhile, Kerry keeps his course straight ahead, sure of his ability to save America from this gang of thieves in the White House and their incompetent masthead.

The tide is turning; you can feel it, just like the mini temblors deep inside Mt. St. Helens indicate.  I feel it in the soles of my feet, in my ankles, my knees.  A positive thrumming.  The electorate is waking up. 

Monday, September 27, 2004

The Return of the King on DVD

Peter Jackson's Return of the King, which won Best Picture at the 2003 Academy Awards, will be extended by 30% in its upcoming DVD release (December 14).  Hopefully, one scene will feature Gandalf preventing Witch King from entering Minas Tirith, which was one of my favorite moments in the book.  As Gandalf the White, he is able to do what he could not do as Gandalf the Grey at the Bridge of Khazad Dum.  That has nice symmetry, and it was missed in the film.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Cintra Wilson

Last night went to Cintra Wilson's reading at Elliott Bay Bookstore.  She was superb, actually having memorized her reading as a monologue, and performing it.  Her biting, satirical invective was as delightful as her comestible figure.  Beauty, brains and 'tude.  What more can one desire from an evening?

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Censorship in Hollywood

Last week I watched The Birth of a Nation for the first time.  In the special features, the narrator quoted from a Supreme Court case that held First Amendment rights did not apply to motion pictures.  Fascinated, I did some research and found the quote.  The case was Mutual v. Ohio.  The money quote:

"It cannot be put out of view that the exhibition of moving pictures is a business, pure and simple, originated and conducted for profit, like other spectacles, not to be regarded, nor intended to be regarded by the Ohio Constitution, we think, as part of the press of the country, or as organs of public opinion. They are mere representations of events, of ideas and sentiments published and known; vivid, useful, and entertaining, no doubt, but, as we have said, capable of evil, having power for it, the greater because of their attractiveness and manner of exhibition. It was this capability and power, and it may be in experience of them, that induced the state of Ohio, in addition to prescribing penalties for immoral exhibitions, as it does in its Criminal [236 U.S. 230, 245] Code, to require censorship before exhibition, as it does by the act under review. We cannot regard this as beyond the power of government."

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Friend Due In

Today my friend Steve is coming to visit from Minnesota.  I'm really excited.  I love showing off my city and region and he's never been here before.  I just hope that the weather cooperates at least somewhat.  The old saw about Seattle is if you don't like the weather, wait five minutes.  And generally that's true.  In Alaska they may have fifty different words that mean snow.  In Seattle, it seems it would be handy to have at least fifty different words to mean rain.  The hard, cold rain, the hard warm rain, the drizzle, the mist.  The mist is my favorite, the consistency of the spray they use in Las Vegas to keep people from dying of heat stroke as they trudge from casino to casino in high summer.  Seattle's weather encourages poetry and other literary aspirations.  Although not all are gothic like mine, the gloom, the chill and the sudden expansion of the landscape on sunny days reinforces my emotional ambivalence. 

It's true, I need miracle ear.  Was talking to my coworker Joyce yesterday and almost thought I was being harrassed.  I heard a sigh, and what I thought were the words, "On me!"  When what she actually said, when I asked for clarification was, "ennui!"  Mama mia.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004


Yesterday was Washington state primary.  For the first time in 70 years voters were asked to declare a political party and vote strictly within those party lines.  I did not find it at all onerous.  In the privacy of my voting booth I could have crossed party lines and made spoiler votes, but I couldn't then vote for my choice within my own party.  And that, it seems to me, is as it should be. 

However, none of my choices won.  :(

I'm looking forward to seeing Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, which, if you're not familiar is the first film made entirely with live actors in a CGI environment.  Only the props and costumes are real.  The actors were filmed in front of a blue screen and all the scenic elements were then added after the fact.  Is this the look of things to come?  George Lucas has elsewhere said about the advent of digital imaging in Jurassic Park that viewing it was like being present at the birth of sound in cinema.  Someday we'll all look back and wonder how we ever did without it.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Birth of a Blog

Writing a blog is not necessarily writing a daily essay, though at times one may get it right the first time.  While I take care to correct spelling and grammatical errors, my purpose here is to present raw, streaming thought process, unfiltered and unselfcensored.  To that end, although when confronted with a factual error, I will correct it, I do not respond to allegations or accusations of faulty reasoning.  If you disagree, I invite you to say so!  I will never remove a comment because I disagree with it--only if it violates AOL's rules of conduct (post nothing pornographic, racist or anti-Semitic).  I write from a primarily emotional place, not a rational place, although I hope that reason does intrude upon my consciousness.  I trust to my upbringing and education to make it so.

This weekend I saw three silent films rented from Netflix.  In the order of viewing they were: Salome, Lot in Sodom and The Birth of a Nation

Salome (1923) was loosely adapted from Oscar Wilde's play and starred Alla Nazimova, Russian stage actress who studied with Constantin Stanislavski and was famously lesbian.  The production did more for my understanding of the play than any other performance I've seen.  It is about the awakening female sexuality, the attraction, the consummation, the inevitable aftermath of self-loathing which leads to death and more death.  This was the female psyche as Wilde saw it, at its symbolic fundament.  There was a reason why female sexuality is utterly harnessed by the mores of Western Civilization, and this is Wilde's explanation.  As Ann Coulter has aptly put it elsewhere, "Women are so vicious."

Lot in Sodom is very interesting historically as the first queer movie.  It is self-consciously arty.  The Sodomites are presented as beautiful youths cavorting through a temple (elsewhere, temple prostitution has been proffered as the reason for biblical prohibitions on homosexuality, which I do not have time to discuss here).  The first fifteen minutes of this 30 minute film is devoted to male beauty.  The end focuses on the destruction of Sodom in a rain of fire and brimstone: the inevitable end of unfettered sexual freedom.

I had not seen the entirety of The Birth of a Nation before this weekend.  My Introduction to American Film class was supposed to screen itwhen I was in college at PLU, but the print melted in the projector and Dr. Becvar was so distraught that he canceled class.  I have now seen the whole film, thanks to Netflix, and only one word can encapsulate the experience:


The film is the most overtly racist propaganda I have ever seen, thrillingly presented with the highest artful vision, next to Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will

The film proves beyond a doubt that the cinema can project beauty, grace, artfulness, symmetry and synchronicity in the service of a higher good, which humanizes and ennobles, but it can use those same artful principles in the service of evil.

For those who haven't seen The Birth of a Nation, the second half of the film deals with the response of southern white gentlemen to the horrors of the reconstruction, and suspected efforts to turn their society upside down to have blacks in control of whites through gerrymandered elections and the horrors of interracial marriage.  The whites respond by creating a secret society to battle the forces of darkness, the Ku Klux Klan, based (loosely) on Scotish freedom fighters.

Without doubt, The Birth of a Nation created the language of the cinema: the moving camera, cross cuts, fade-in, fade-out, split screen, panning shots, long shots, close-ups, editing that intercut three simultaneous stories leading to a thrilling climax, the Ride of the KKK, set to music, appropriately enough, by Wagner. 

So, while I'm glad I finally saw The Birth of a Nation for its historical significance, I cannot recommend the experience for anyone else.  One of the things I remember Dr. Becvar talking about with reference to D.W. Griffith was his tendency toward sentimentality, a charge frequently leveled at Steven Spielberg throughout his career as well.  That Griffith succumbed to Thomas Dixon's version of American history bespeaks the kind of naivete that comes from an idealized and sheltered world view.  His racism was, for its day, a kind of paternalistic attitude of superiority.  He couldn't be said to hate blacks, on the contrary, he felt parental toward them.  Griffith was quoted as saying that he loved blacks just like he loved children.  Interesting that Andrew Card has also said the same thing about George W. Bush.  That the president considers America as a nation of children needing a father/leader to provide for us (and teach us discipline and right from wrong, of course).  It was as distasteful in Griffith's day as it is today.

Friday, September 10, 2004

The Riverman

"People will say we're in love..."  -Hannibal Lecter.

In the mid-80's King County sheriff's detective Dave Reichert is given the responsibility of leading the investigation into a series of homicides that come to be known as the Green River murders.  As part of his investigation, Reichert enlists help from the former lead investigator of the "Ted" murders in Seattle, Bob Keppel, who has since gone on to become a criminology professor at the University of Washington.  When Bundy left Seattle for Utah his name was at the top of Keppel's list of suspects, and Keppel has always regretted not "getting his man."  As the body count in the Green River investigation grows, so does media interest.  Far away in Stark, Florida, Ted Bundy, now on death row for the murders of several Florida women, writes to Keppel offering his insights into "the Riverman" as Bundy calls him.

Keppel decides to take Bundy up on his offer.  Both men have ulterior motives, Bundy to stay the executioner's hand, and Keppel, to close the books on eight unsolved Seattle murders attributed to Ted, but for which Bundy has never confessed.  Thus begins a mano-a-mano battle of wits between the professor and the psychopath to get what they both desire.  History records that Keppel succeeded and Bundy did not.  The meeting of these two minds is so explosive that it's no wonder it inspired the novel and film "the Silence of the Lambs."

The A&E production, based on Dr. Keppel's book, is a grim, dark television experience, with little humor (mostly at Dave Reichart's expense); a peeling away of the layers of psychopathology and game playing of a serial killer.  Cary Elwes is a good actor, and his transformation into Bundy is complete.  He has Bundy's speech pattern down pat, his slight lisp and manic charm.  Veteran Canadian actor Bruce Greenwood plays Bob Keppel with just the right mix of heart and revolted obsession.  British Director Bill Eagles has crafted a finely tuned work of psychological horror well worth a two hour viewing.  This movie will fascinate those who enjoy police procedurals and the history of crime.

I regret never having taken Keppel's legendary murder class at the University of Washington, and he has since moved on to Sam Houston University in Texas.  However, his insights into the minds of serial killers can be found in two exceptional books on the subject,  The Riverman, and Signature Killers.  Both are currently in print.

Thursday, September 9, 2004


Had a good night of writing last night.  Honing in on some ideas for the novel which are tantalizing.  Perception v. reality: always a theme that interests me. 

Currently reading: You Are Not a Stranger Here, Adam Haslett (short stories); Choke, Chuck Palahnuik; and The Cabinet of Curiosities, Preston/Child (audio).

Fall is falling.  Cooler temperatures and grayer skies.  Much appreciated.  This summer's heat almost did me in.

Wednesday, September 8, 2004

No Log Cabin Endorsement for W

It's official.  The Log Cabin Republicans will not endorse president Bush for reelection.  The partisan side of me says, "congratulations for coming to your senses."  But the cynical side of me says, "well that announcement ought to raise Bush's poll numbers even higher."

In other queer news, a second Washington state superior court judge has ruled the Washington state DOMA unconstitutional.  With such dissent in the rank and file of the judiciary, it's been predicted that the case will bypass the court of appeals and go directly to the Washington state supreme court. 

What do I think of this?  I'm personally probably meant to be single, but I certainly think that expanding civil rights is always a better idea than expanding discrimination and bigotry, especially in the constitution.


Tuesday, September 7, 2004

Vile Rumor?

Okay, this rumor comes third-hand.  But only third-hand.  No further afield than that.  Last week, one of my writer colleagues shocked me nearly senseless with this story.  Her brother was formerly in the secret service: he has now transferred to another government position.  He was on duty guarding Vice President Cheney on September 11, 2001.  It was his understanding and belief that Vice President Cheney gave the order to shoot down Flight 93, the airliner that crashed in Pennsylvania, and that the flight was indeed shot down intentionally by the U.S. military. 

So, I've done a little checking around on the internet since then.  This rumor has been around ever since 9/11.  It has the ring of truth because of two things: 1) the flight crashed in a very sparsely populated area.  2) The vice president discussed downing the planes with the president, that the president had made the decision to shoot down hijacked planes, but that it had never come to that. 

Afterwards, the decision to reinforce the story of heroic passengers battling the terrorists for control of the plane was made in order to spare the nation the added emotional crisis of having one of the hijacked planes downed by friendly fire.  This does not diminish the actions of the passengers trying to regain control of the aircraft, they showed valor and courage in the face of a suicidal enemy.  Clearly, this attempt was made--the cockpit voice recorder and several cell phone calls from passengers on the flight make this clear.

This rumor has the ring of truth to me.  If true, I understand the decision to not only shoot down the plane, but also to keep the truth from the nation.  And to disclose the truth now only begs the question: what else have we been lied to about?

Monday, September 6, 2004

Successful Surgery

President Clinton (he's still my president, no matter what anybody says) has survived his bypass surgery and is now in recovery.  I wish him a quick, safe and sure convalescence.  All my love, best wishes and yes, even prayers, (which I don't do very often at all) are with you, my Captain.

Friday, September 3, 2004

Screen Name Service

Screen Name Service is a shared function of AOL, Netscape and Compuserve.  For more information about creating a screen name, please click HERE.  Thank you for your patience and cooperation.

mea culpa

Okay, I think I have it figured out.  My apologies to those who have met with resistance trying to post comments to my blog.  It appears that what I've been doing after posting my entry, is closing my browser window instead of logging off AOL first.  Please do me a favor and try this experiment: I will now save this entry and log off of AOL.  Would you please try posting a comment to this entry and see if it works?  That way we can hopefully rule out any other reason why people who wish to comment have met with no success.  Thanks mucho!  Have a great Labor Day everyone!

Thursday, September 2, 2004

Death of Civility

The invective, the vitriol, the sheer passionate hatred that seems to be simmering like steam from a pressure cooker under the politics of this election season, has it always been this way, or is it worse now than it has ever been?

All of the genocide in the 20th Century began with words, with propaganda that first disenfranchised a section of the population, and ultimately cast them as evil parasites that threatened the supporting pillars of civilization.  It's easier to send someone to the gas chamber when you think they're less than human.  Rob them of their dignity and rights, then send them off to the camps.

We live in an Orwellian nightmare where politicians speak in elaborate codewords and phrases, and leave it to the faithful to decrypt.  Hypocrisy is policy: double-speak, disinformation and propaganda, the old tools with which we fought communism, are now freely employed against Americans.  If we're not with you, we're traitors, unAmerican.  I'm a uniter, not a divider, and if you don't unite with me, then, well, you're unAmerican.  And of course, anyone who chafes at being demonized is going to react.  And so the cycle turns.

For a moving and persuasive comparison/contrast of the DNC and RNC keynote speakers, see Andrew Sullivan's blog.  Scroll down the page to the Zell Miller entries.

Wednesday, September 1, 2004


A label:  a word or short phrase descriptive of a larger, more voluminous substance.  "Homosexual" and "Gay" are labels.  But they do not describe the same substance.  They are not interchangeable.  They are not synonymous.  Now we have a Virginia congressman, a Republican, forced to resign over allegations that he, a 63 year old married man, solicited another man for sex over a phone dating service.  The newspaper accounts call that "gay."  It's not.  It's homosexual.  There's a big difference.  A homosexual tries to have it both ways: he wants the good life that comes from toeing the line, social conformity, and paying lip service to "family values" and "character."  Appearances are the only things that matter.  His private life is not only private, it's duplicitous--a lie, a profound example of extreme hypocrisy. 

However, this is learned behavior.  And the teacher is fear.  The effect of living a double-life is so damaging, so soul-crushing, that I do pity the man.  He was a naval officer for years--who survived during an era when Reagan's witch hunt through the military ruined many a career.  So I understand, but cannot condone.  I pity him for his pain.  But it is a pain he chose.  Granted, society would not have provided him with the good life he sought if he had told the truth.  But what's the price?  Vilified by everyone.  Truth and honesty still mean something in this world.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

In Praise of Log Cabin Patriots

So much to say, so little time.  Politics:  Gotta love those Log Cabin Republicans.  Perhaps second only to the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries and/or ACT-UP, they have put themselves on the line, especially when it comes to bearding the lion in his den.  These gay and gay friendly grassroots folks brave the insults, sneers, neglect and cold shoulders of a party whose official response to them is "good riddance."  Alone of those groups opposing the officially hateful party platform of the GOP, they are able to do so vocally and visibly inside Madison Square Garden during the Republican National Obfuscation.  For that, they earn my eternal respect.  But I still cannot support the candidate they want to put in the White House (presumptively, that is: the Log Cabinnaires still have not officially endorsed Bush).  However, I must support their continuing efforts to be visible inside the GOP.  Braaavo, say I.  Keep speaking up and living well, sipping chardonnay and giving your boy/girlfriends chaste kisses on their cheeks in full view of the G.O. party faithful.  You go, girl!

Monday, August 30, 2004

"Iceberg Right Ahead"

Such must be the words of the DNC chairman about the campaign boat captained by John Kerry.  The pundits have long said about Kerry's candidacy that the election is his to lose and he appears at this time to be proving them right.  Two weeks ago I actually felt a kind of stupefying relief that Kerry's approval numbers were good, that Dubya was doomed.  Now it appears that the incompetence of the incompetent president's incompetent advisors does not extend to his relection committee. 

The swift boat debacle over the past week has been a brilliant blitzkrieg of negative campaigning: coming from a GOP activist who had the ear of President Nixon: John O'Neill, author of Unfit for Command.  No matter the reasoned refutation of O'Neill's assertions point by point in the press, online or otherwise, O'Neill isn't appealing to the rational.  His strategy is simply harassment.  Throw the Kerry camp into disarray and confusion, without a clear message and cover the entire Vietnam issue with a thick layer of tarnish.  Use Kerry's service record against him, in any way possible, and above all, keep President Bush out of it.  That way, the president can float above the fray and act presidential.  America is still in denial about the 60's, so much so that even veterans who served honorably cannot count it in their favor.  Such is the cynical irony of Vietnam: those who wisely avoided going there through connections or string-pulling are now seen as having better judgment than those who actually served.

The swift boat strategy seems to be working like gangbusters.  Bush's approval ratings have topped 50% for the first time in months, and this on the eve of the GOP national convention.  Unless the undecideds wake up to the dire reality of four more years of Bush, the worst of which will be a reconstituted Supreme Court so far to the right that it will take a generation to moderate it, then I'm afraid that Bush's chant of four more years will turn out to be prophesy.

Friday, August 27, 2004

A moment of magic

Like most men, I don't like being sick.  I'm finding, however, as I age, that it sneaks up on me.  Take the past few days, for example.  At some point in the last week I remember injuring my ankle.  I remember the sharp jab of pain, but I didn't think anything about it until Wednesday night, when I took off my sock and found a rather large red welt covering my ankle and streaks of red climbing up my calf.  I went to the doctor the next morning and was told to take a heavy dose of antibiotics and to rest and elevate the leg.  So, I've been off work for the two days since.  I don't say this to elicit sympathy, though any expressions of "poor Mike" will be accepted, of course.  I say it because it grows increasingly important to take care of myself.

One of my best friends, Mike B.'s partner Steve P., is a nurse at Harborview ICU.  He recently told me a story about how one of his patients died of septic shock after a knee infection grew beyond medicine's ability to intervene.  She was in her mid 50's.  One day she's playing golf, two weeks later she dies of septic shock in the region's best trauma center.  Infection is nothing to play around with or ignore--no matter how innocuous it seems in the moment.  Steve's cautionary tale weighed heavily on my mind when I made the decision on Thursday morning to go to the doctor, rather than ignore the symptoms and hope they went away. 

It was a little bit of synchronicity in my life.  A moment of magic for which I am extremely grateful.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Why I Sometimes Like Republicans

Sometimes I like Republicans.  It's a rare event.  But usually it's when they remind me of my Dad and reflect my Dad's values.  Such is the case with Vice President Cheney's view points on gay marriage expressed in Davenport IA (of all places) yesterday. Speaking candidly about his gay daughter, Cheney expressed the view that freedom was for everyone, that people were free to engage in relationships of their choice, that the states should be free to determine marriage free from interference at the federal level.

It wasn't his comment about states' rights that charmed me, it was the acknowledgment of the essential humanity of gay people.  After being labeled "sick, twisted, satanic, tragic, sinful and perverse" it's nice to hear something different coming from the very top levels of an administration more than willing, in fact, enthusiastic, to use gay bashing to achieve their political purposes.  It is a different side of the party than the Santorum/Bauer/Reed cabal, rather; it is the fair-minded side, the one that attracts my father, the individual I hold to be the most estimable human being currently alive on the planet.

Vice President Cheney's comments struck me as being personally true, and then his willingness to support the president's agenda to write discrimination into the Constitution also struck me as true.  For, ideology trumps personal values when it comes to both political parties.  So, while I respect Vice President Cheney's sentiments, and his humanity, I cannot champion his cause.  Kerry and Edwards represent the vision of the America I want to live in.  Vote Kerry/Edwards in '04.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Heckle & Jeckle

A man from my sister's home state of West Virginia was recently fired for heckling President Bush at a political rally.  Evidently the heckler's presence at the rally was due to tickets given to his employer, a graphics design firm, by a client.  When the heckler's behavior at the rally offended the client, the client complained, and the heckler was terminated.  I don't know about you, but to me that sounds like grounds for a lawsuit.

Heckling goes with the territory of being a public speaker.  There's a long tradition of it in America, and although we no longer tolerate throwing rotten fruit and vegetables at orators, certainly a few choice verbal barbs fall within the purview of the right to speak one's mind and the inalienable right to make an ass out of oneself in public, I right I cherish and would die to defend.  Heckling cuts through the scripted, polished, buffed and waxed nature of these rallies, and makes the speaker respond with some kind of unvarnished, non-vetted real tone, if not substance.  The nature and content of that response is often illustrative of the candidate's character and ability to think on his feet. 

GWB has shown time and again that he is more than capable at responding to such challenges.  But to fire the heckler?  That just seems wrong.  You ought to be able to have a political viewpoint and be able to keep your job.  I hope he sues.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Blind Justice

That it took only three days to decide a first degree murder case and only two hours to deliberate a verdict is no reason to criticize Oprah.  This was Chicago, not California, and the legal standards were the ones which apply to the poor, not the cases covered by Court-TV.  The reality of the situation is that justice is simply easier to dispense when the defendant isn't famous.

Have you ever served as a juror?  I have.  My case involved three counts of first degree rape of a child.  The trial took three days and we deliberated four hours.  That was two hours more than the jurors in the Oprah case, but, we were evenly split 6-6 when we took our first poll, which means it took a lot of deliberation to reach a unanimous decision.

Oprah said that it was a life-changing experience, and that was certainly true for me.  But for me it was the deliberation that was life-changing.  Human lives were at risk.  Although we weren't allowed to entertain the sentence or penalty when we deliberated, certainly the awareness that the crime was incredibly serious and the penalty would match did.  And that was appropriate.  As jurors we did our job.

For us it came down to a 'he-said/she-said' situation.  But because of the young age of the victim (7) we were able to hear from her social worker.  During that process I made up my mind that I would never, ever send someone to prison based on the opinion of an expert. Somehow, some day, you or I might be sitting in that defendant's chair.  And if so, I hope to God I have someone on the jury who believes the same.   However, the little girl also testified, and she testified extremely well.  In the end, we believed her.  Without her testimony we couldn't have convicted the defendant. 

In this culture saturated by CSI and Law & Order we expect tidy packages.  This trial wasn't neat, it had loose ends.  There were questions about some of the principals involved that wouldn't be answered until after the verdict was in.  There was no physical evidence, there was no DNA evidence, the victim hadn't even been examined by a doctor (a point brought up by the defense). 

Could you convict under those circumstances?  That was why it was difficult for the 6 who voted to acquit.  We ultimately did, but only on one of the three counts.  Each count was a different sexual act, rather than a different event or time, and only one of them had enough proof to be beyond a reasonable doubt.  The other two were vague, maybe they happened.  Maybe they didn't.  Not good enough. 

So our jury reached a compromise, convicting on one of the counts, and acquitting on two.  But in these days of zero tolerance for child molestation, that was enough to send him to prison for 160 months (ten years).

I'm proud of the service I rendered on that jury.  I'm proud of how we behaved toward each other and the decisions we reached.  Justice was served.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Valhalla Rising

Clive Cussler is a piss-poor novelist the way Liberace was a piss-poor pianist.  I'm sure my assessment will send him crying all the way to the bank.  What he does do well (character and point of view not being among those qualities deemed well-done), is spin a pretty good yarn.  And in Valhalla Rising, he imagines a terrorist plot to destroy the World Trade Center, as well as most of the southern tip of Manhattan, using a vehicle of transporation, in this instance a ship, rather than airplanes.

Most of this novel is one adventure after another, a kind of novelized adventure serial of the old school, from one hot pickle to another.  It's rousing in an old fashioned way.  Definitely plot driven guy stuff, as opposed to character driven chick lit, and the body count is very, very high.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Bad Taste

During the past week I was accused of having poor taste.  I don't dispute that.  During my internship at the Guthrie Theater back in the early 80's director William Gaskill once remarked that maybe someday I might develop some class (presumably if I tried hard enough).

I tend to have very little "class" because I'm so cynical and skeptical of the good intentions of anyone anywhere anytime.  So, with that said, barbarian that I am, I must admit that my previous post about Governor McGreevey was cruel.  For a much more balanced and human opinion on this story, please read the linked article at Advocate

My previous harsh tone was one that was based on yet another highly placed individual being "forced" to come out after having done nothing for the GLBT community.  When I was living in Minneapolis about twenty years ago, a superior court judge was forced to come out of the closet due to sexual harassment allegations by one of his clerks.  At that time, the act of homosexuality was a felony in Minnesota, and the Supreme Court had not yet ruled that same-sex harassment was even actionable under the then existing statutes.

That story disturbed me.  When I asked my friend and "auntie" Carl Chrisman why the gay community wasn't rallying around the judge, he said, "what did the judge ever do for us?" 

The advocate article coming twenty years after those events, provides for a much more humanistic, inclusive and reasoned approach to the idea of the closet, and Governor McGreevey in particular.  It has a lot more class than I possess.   I guess I'm still waiting to see if Mr. Gaskill's prediction will come true.  Or not.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Defamation/Slander/Libel/Fan Fiction

Click here for a an excellent resource on the legal ramifications of fan fiction.

The elements that must be proved to establish defamation are: (1) A publication to one other than the person defamed; (2) of a false statement of fact; (3) which is understood as being of and concerning the plaintiff; and (4) which is understood in such a way as to tend to harm the reputation of plaintiff.

An attack by speech on the good reputation of a person or business entity.

Libel is a defamatory statement expressed in a fixed medium, such as a writing. It is considered a civil injury, as opposed to a criminal offense. The tort of libel is often compared with that of slander, which is also characterized as a defamatory statement, but one made in a transitory form, such as speech.

Libel per se is libel for which special damages (e.g. actual loss of revenue) need not be proved in order for a plaintiff to recover general damages (e.g. for emotional distress). Libel per se applies only to slanderous publications which impute to the plaintiff one of the four following categories:

  1. a crime involving moral turpitude,
  2. a loathsome disease (e.g. a sexually transmitted disease),
  3. Unchastity (particularly concerns women)
  4. conduct that would adversely affect ones business or profession

General damages are presumed legitimate even in absence of proof of special damages when a plaintiff proves libel in one of these four cateogories.

Slander is a defamatory statement expressed in a transitory medium, such as verbal speech. It is considered a civil injury, as opposed to a criminal offence. Actual damages must be proven for someone to be held liable for slander. The tort of slander is often compared with that of libel, which is also characterized as a defamatory statement, but one made in a fixed form, such as writing.

Sunday, August 15, 2004


So many of the films of 2001 fade away into the ether, overshadowed by national events.  I didn't go to the cinema much that year.  Now, I'm catching up courtesy of Netflix.  One fine film worthy of a look is Bully, based on true events, given the Hollywood treatment and taking a bunch of real people who were pretty average, and replacing them all with talented Hollywood folk who are really goodlooking.  The film explores the lives, and one death, of a group of kids on the cusp of adulthood.  One, Bobby Kent, is just about to graduate from high school.  His best friend, Marty, is a surfer boy loser who has dropped out, and faces a lifetime of shitty jobs for shitty pay.  The rest of their circle variously live with their parents, or with their friend's parents.  They don't work yet they have fast cars, gas to put in their tanks, and drugs to put in their bodies.  They seem devoid of ambition other than to get high and fuck each other's brains out. 

Right off, something seems quite strange about Bobby.  He is extremely aggressive with women who he treats like something stuck to the bottom of his shoe.  His attitude toward Marty is by turns affectionate and brutal.  In one scene Marty is driving Bobby's car, and skids the tires against the curb.  In a rage, Bobby punches Marty twice (while Marty is driving) and bloodies his nose.  In another scene, while getting a blow-job in the front seat, Bobby turns to watch his buddy screw his girfriend in the back seat.  Clearly, Bobby is conflicted. 

Later, Marty's girlfriend hatches a plot to kill Bobby.  She gathers people to the plot like conspirators in Julius Caesar.  Something seems strange about her, too.  Her need to be loved by Marty overshadows everything else in her life.  Bobby is a distraction for Marty, he exercises some kind of strange control/dominance over Marty that must end.  But the only way that can happen is if Bobby dies. 

The film contains a great deal of nudity and simulated sex, which with these goodlooking actors is rather enjoyable to watch, if you like watching nudity and simulated sex.  There's so much of it that it almost feels like a kind of pornographic crime fantasy: lots of tits and ass and a really gruesome murder at the end. 

The great plan falls apart quickly after the main event.  Nobody can keep their mouths shut, which is what happens to non-pathological criminals: they confess.  Everyone goes to prison.  It is a very interesting, moody, atmospheric film full of screwed up characters behaving as though they know what they're doing.  Their misplaced confidence in the power of the group to do what one alone cannot, is a fascinating study in how violence goes from the planning stage to execution.

Friday, August 13, 2004

But who was on top?

Sex scandal in New Jersey, of all places.  Handsome 47 year old governor James McGreevey has announced his resignation, it appears, moments before sexual harrassment litigation was set to explode across the headlines.  The amorous object of the governor's affections?  One Golan Cipel, an Israeli national who was appointed to a number of highly paid jobs in the McGreevey administration despite dubious qualifications, leading to allegations of croneyism.  Well, the Republicans must be licking their chops now.  After all, they KNOW what do to with closeted gays--who can be easily destroyed.  It's the out of the closet gays they can't shame into shutting up and giving up. 

Of course, we all want to know what Mr. Cipel, former Israeli soldier looks like.  For a glimpse, click here.  Dare we wonder who did what to whom?  :)

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Manson's Women

Hard to miss stories about the Manson Family in this 35th Anniversary season.  Last night A&E aired a program, "Manson's Women," which purported to delve in-depth into the stories of the girls who slew at Manson's bidding.  Of course, it was simply a rehash of the grisly murders for those who might have been born after they took place and who have no memory of the events in question.  However, the snippets of interview they held with Leslie Van Houten, Patricia Krenwinkle and Lynette Fromme were interesting. 

Van Houten and Krenwinkle were teenagers when I was an eleven year old boy.  Now they look rather like my mother, taut, vaguely athletic, assertive in that sense some might call "mannish."  They spoke simply and directly about the murders in which they participated.  Pat Krenwinkle described killing Abigail Folger with the dispassion she might have had describing any other process in her life, with no display of hard emotion.  It's been 35 years, though.

Lynette Fromme, on the other hand, drips with delusionary sweetness.  She speaks in a breathy voice, her eyes alight with mirth, or perhaps, joy.  If so, it's a secret joy she shares with no one behind the camera.  She alone of Manson's women evinces what might typically be called femininity.  She smiles mysteriously at questions that trigger memories of that time in her life, when her life intersected with something enormously powerful: meaning.  For she had no meaning before it, and certainly no meaning since.  Her interview is intercut with interviews of Manson, pathetic, self-pitying, whiny, with that messianic patois still falling off his lips like sacred screed.  Hard to believe how anyone could have fallen for it.  But then, they fell for Jim Jones and David Koresh and L. Ron Hubbard and Joseph Smith, too.

Nobody asks any questions about Scientology.

But it's to Van Houten and Krenwinkle that my thoughts return.  They seem normal, if butch, and they speak clearly and without any hint of the emotional/mental vortices that swirl inside Manson and Fromme.  The third of Manson's women who killed, Susan Atkins, did not appear in front of the camera.  Perhaps she has tired of talking about it.  Perhaps she believes that her actions speak for themselves. 

If any of Manson's women are parolled, it will be Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkle.  And their studious, dispassionate approach will be the making of them.  For they can show that they have grown, accepted their responsibility, and felt remorse, oh, such remorse, remorse that has grown as bitter and toxic as battery acid over the years.  Whereas, the survivors, with their strident calls for everlasting vengeance, are the ones who actually appear insane.

Friday, August 6, 2004

Dubya Redux

Don't count the Dubya out yet.  He's proving on the campaign trail to be a formidible adversary, pulling out the stops as a countrified, down-home preacher man beset by east-coast elitists who won't listen to his message of healing.  If religion is the opiate of the masses, then corn-pone country jamboree evangelicalism is the crack of the masses.

Thanks Dubya, but the last incumbent to suggest that America needed healing was Jimmy Carter.  I'm just fine the way I am.  How arrogant, really.  The only thing that needs healing in America is our reputation abroad.  But I know that that message doesn't play well with hickified yahoos who salivate over populist messages that equates your party with patriotism while on the other hand you rob your adherents blind to fund an incomprehensible deficit. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Gay Marriage in Washington

Today Judge Downing struck down the defense of marriage law in the state of Washington, paving the way for legal marriages between people of the same gender in this state. 

Rather than a sense of victory, however, it fills me with apprehension and fear.  The backlash, I fear, will be swift and decisive.  There is no rational basis to illegitimize gay relationships.  Not after Lawrence v. Texas struck down gay people's inherent criminality.  But we're not dealing with the rational, or at least those who think rationally.  The bigotry in this country is a force majeure.  We trifle with it at our peril.  Ugh.  Please wake me up when it's all over...

Tuesday, August 3, 2004

Kerry's No Bounce

Yesterday I saw a bumper sticker:  "Dumb, Dumber, Dubya."  It made me smile, then it made me scowl.  This is the kind of sentiment that only plays into the hands of the president's reelection committee.  I'm from the midwest, and calling the president stupid doesn't go over well there.  The midwest, i.e., middle America, is tired of being talked down to by east and west coast "elites" (the conservative radio waves have made excellent use of this label, spinning straw men into gold votes).  Middle America wants a guy in the White House with the common touch, someone not unlike themselves.  Someone who ain't too big for his britches and talks down to them.  That's why Kerry has no noticeable rise in the polls.  Because, right or wrong, he is perceived as such.

The media has breathlessly announced that Kerry received no bounce from the Democratic National Convention.  Kerry's performance at the convention was exemplary in my view, but he only achieved one half of his purpose: he energized the party faithful.  The fact that he has no bounce reveals that he did not achieve the second prong of his purpose: reaching out to independents and undecideds. 

The Democrats have an up hill battle with this election.  Kerry is part of the liberal elite, a prince of the senate, and wealthy.  He's not afraid to take a risk though--I remember when he mortgaged his Boston townhouse to pay for his primary campaign.  And that makes me wonder, do politicians, like movie producers, have a code that states only fools put their own money into their projects?  But Kerry proved himself to be no Bill Clinton, common as dirt, part lothario, part evangelist.  Someone everyone could see a little part of themselves in, who might loaf around on Sunday morning in his undershorts, just like them.

Monday, August 2, 2004


Unlike J. Alfred Prufrock, today I dare to eat a peach.  The peach is now in my gut, and my, wasn't it tasty going down?  Now, if I can only get the mermaids to sing to me, instead of to each other, life will be grand.

Friday, July 30, 2004


Lohengrin is the sublime expression of romantic idealism from the very middle of the 19th Century, a musicdrama of thrilling dimension and emotional truculence.  As I am wont to see everything as a species of psychognosis, the unconscious intellect, I see the opera as Wagner's inability to love himself. 

Elsa represents Wagner's hope and capacity for self-love.  Lohengrin represents his artistic calling, his desire to create a spiritually based, unified art-form which is new, but with its roots in the past (myth).  For Wagner, this artform must remain inchoate, unnamed and ambiguous, for to pin it down, to name it, would be to squander its power, its majesy and its effect on the subconscious.  The tragedy is, Elsa and Lohengrin are incompatible.

The swan knight also represents everything Wagner esteems--his own inner ideal, a sublimity of which he can only dream.  For Wagner, it is this curse, the constant striving for perfection, for this ideal which he can never achieve, which fuels his art.  He is a divided man, who sacrificed every human principle in answer to his higher calling, and in the service of revolutionary art.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004


Tonight  I get to see the dress rehearsal for Seattle Opera's Lohengrin.  Of all 13 of Wagner's operas, this is my favorite, probably because I was introduced to it in high school band.  We played a concert setting of Elsa's Procession to the Cathedral, and I fell in love with the music.  Later I received a recording of the complete opera and wore out the grooves of the records listening to it.  There is no more thrilling marriage of character and music in the ouvre of 19th Century opera.  

It's one thing to listen to a recording of the opera.  But to see Lohengrin performed however, is to get the complete experience, which is actually quite different.  Only in a stage performance does one receive the awareness of character with which Wagner imbued his drama.  It is frank, human, and simple--unornamented and unsentimental.  Wagner avoided sentimentality by concentrating on mythic relationships.  Ironically, the Wedding March has become the most sentimental of tunes in the years since.

With The Pianist, Roman Polanski also provides the most unflinching, unsentimental look at the Holocaust ever filmed.  He uses character to expose the horror, not cinematic artfulness ala Schindler's List, which, I think is a great film on its own, but the ending is so incredibly sentimental that it loses all impact.  One is almost forced to emotionally retreat from the onslaught of the manipulation. 

Wagner and Polanski--the men: both are great artists.  Both are the remainders in an equation of great suffering.  Both have hearts of darkness: Wagner the anti-semite, and Polanski, the sexual psychopath. 

Wagner's suffering was mostly of his own choice and of his own manufacture.  Polanski suffered the horrors of the holocaust at the hands of indecent men inspired in no small part by Wagner, then later, by a bloodletting so horrific it staggers the mind to contemplate.  I can excuse Wagner for a variety of reasons but mostly because his bigotry does not seem to creep into his artwork.  Likewise Polanski's personal moral catastrophe does not seem to inform most of his work, which remains the exposure of his suffering.  But can one excuse Polanski?  I confess I find it most difficult. 

Here's what he did:  Over a period of two days, while photographing a 13-year-old model, Polanski tried to build a rapport with her.  She was torn because she knew that he was a very famous director who had her career in his hands, and she was afraid of him.  On the second day of the shoot, Polanski maneuvered her nude into a Jacuzzi, using champagne as a prop, took pictures of her drinking, then gave her a half of a quaalude which she took.  When Polanski also got into the Jacuzzi (this was at Jack Nicholson's empty home, by the way) nude, the girl got out and went to find a towel.  She was nervous and scared and told Polanski that she had asthma and the temperature and smell of the water was irritating her condition.  Polanski proceeded to put her on a bed and rape her orally [she said he called it "cuddliness"], then presumably when he became aroused, he raped her vaginally.  When she told him that she didn't have birth control (in an attempt to get him to stop) he proceeded to rape her anally.  All of this is from the grand jury testimony from 1977 which is published on the Smoking Gun website.

No matter how brilliant and heartwrenching his films and how personally horrific his history, how do we reconcile this act?  Is it immoral to ignore it?  Is it moral to remember it?  Hollywood has clearly forgiven Polanski, but that cannot be trusted.  Like a huge, extended, dysfunctional family, it wants to deny that such things happen and excuse them as being lapses of judgment in anotherwise brilliant artist and tortured individual, for, aren't they all?  And dismiss the child as a gold-digging parasite intent on destroying said artist, for doesn't all of Hollywood have to deal with such? 

To the extent that his suffering over this event in his life creeps into his work, to the extent that Polanski personally casts himself as a martyr to American prudery and moralistic vindictiveness, is an odious rankness in his films.  Although The Pianist is largely about Polanski's childhood, the idea of Szpilman=Polanski and the Nazis=his treatment by America, creeps into the film like a dollop of rancid butter on an otherwise splendid baked potato.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004


Eventful weekend at the writer's retreat.  "Readers start from the beginning and work through to the end.  Writers start in the middle and fight their way out."  I learned a great deal about being trapped in a corner.  Writers conceive of characters who are trapped.  The drama of the novel, the theme of it, is in how they deal with their "box".  Either they deny, they adjust/adapt, or they fight their way free.  All three are interesting.  Does that mean that there are only three stories?  Probably.

I watched The Pianist the night before last and Angels and Insects last night.  Both were devastating films, although The Pianist is the greater.  I can't stop thinking about it.  It has gotten under my skin.  In most films about disaster, either natural or human, my mind is tricked into thinking "how would I react in that same situation?"  But in this film that is impossible.  The random series of events which resulted in Szpielman's survival is simply too nihilistic to apply to my own life.  Thus I am left with the realization that I would have died.  Which is not to say that I reflect on every film through the lens of self.  It is The Pianist's emotional detachment that allows one to identify with Szpielman.  In that way the film is like a novel, and Szpielman becomes an emotional surrogate for the observer.  But of all the holocaust films, this is one of the least sentimental and most mordant.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

On the Verge

Looking forward to the retreat, and my four-day weekend.  Had acupuncture treatment this morning.  The needle going into my left wrist was like a blow from a sledgehammer.  But my Chi is all runny and loose now, rather than impacted like dry snot, so that's good. 

May I state for the record that I really don't hate the Catholic Church.  I do, however, reject their hierarchy, which the Lutherans eschew in favor of a more personal relationship with the Diety.  There has to be room in God's world for conscience, free will, and interpretation based on personal experience.  Otherwise, why live at all?  It's like directing a play.  As a director I have a vision.  I explain the value, the basis of that vision to the actor, but the actor inhabits the reality of the situation, often expanding and creating something better than anything I could have foreseen, something precious and true, flawed but valuable.  That's the relationship between human beings and God.

Finally, I want to take this opportunity to wish a happy birthday to my best of friends, Steve Will, and I look forward to his visit in September.  Click here to visit Steve's blog.