Monthly Archives: September 2005

for my first wish I’d like unlimited wishes

9/15/05

Okay, I’ll tell you three things I want, and then you can tell me three things you want.

I know the world is full of suffering right now, but fuck it, it doesn’t stop a boy from daydreaming.

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1. An iPod Nano – Naturally, being a class-A fey twee shoulda-been homo and all, I lust for anything Apple has to offer, but I just fondled – FONDLED, I TELLSYA! – the Nano at the Apple Store yesterday, and now I want to be its boyfriend and have a million of its babies. 4 gigs isn’t going to set the town on fire, and I already have a Shuffle, but this little bugger makes my heart go PITTERY PATTLY PAT.

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2. This Shirt From Banana Republic – Until I moved to New York and became remotely fashion-conscious, I was perfecting the Aging Fratboy™ line of old college shirts with Pi Phi mixers of yore plastered on them, with perhaps a pair of ratty khaki shorts and skater shoes. I still wear that on the weekends, boys and girls, but the keeping up of appearances at these meetings in my mid-to-late-thirties means the occasional Very Nice Shirt. Something about this BanRep number, with its invisible paisley and “yarn-dyed jacquard” enflamed my inner Morrissey.

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3. A Ludwig Drum Kit – Man, I’m tired of ruining pencils, tapping out the drum solo to “Wildest Dreams” by Asia, banging on my dashboard, faking air-cymbal crashes to “Everybody Wants You” by Billy Squier. I WANT THE REAL THING!

tell your name, the livelong June, to an admiring Blog

9/14/05

In order to develop ideas for television, you have to have two skills: the ability to pitch the idea in a room full of TV execs, and then the ability to write a brilliant hour-long script. These two talents are so far apart, require such different areas of the human brain, it’s a wonder anyone develops the cajones to do it. It’s like an Olympic sport where you have to swim 100 meters and then play the Rachmaninoff 2nd Piano Concerto on a clavichord.

I mention this not just because we’re doing that very thing, but because the current anti-intellectual atmosphere in this country – as well as the venality shown to people who dare make “art” for a living – means that all creators must also be their own public relations agent. In other eras, you could have been a nebbishy artist cranking out verse like Emily Dickinson stuck in a chamber pot-reeking bedroom and let the words speak for themselves, but not in this environment. Fully 33% of your workload as an artist must be spent promoting yourself (for actors, that might be as high as 85%).

Part of the problem is that so many people want to be actors or musicians that there is a line to get into the line that gets you into the door of an agent, and even if you can crack it, most actors spend hours of their week trying to get their managers interested in their careers again.

It’s not just the commercialization of art, nor is it the modern notion that “art is only art if people will pay to consume it.” It’s more that people want other people to be personable and well-rounded. Your talent set must be bizarrely diversified. Business deals are worked out on the golf course in Administrative America, but there’s a rub: you have to be able to play golf.

Does playing golf make you a better manager? Hell no, but it is now a tangential requirement for business. I’m fascinated by the myriad of skills you need to be successful at anything now, as we have truly left the guild age behind: you can be a blacksmith, sure, but you’re only going to get the Anderson account if you have a good backhand, know about the special scotch that Macallan has on reserve, and can tell a joke about Janet Reno within 2.4 seconds. In a way, it’s no wonder that dorks have taken over America, because we’re the only ones that had more than two interests in high school.

I know there are playwrights and scribblers and indie filmmakers out there who say “fuck that, man” and take a perverse glee in how bad they are in crowds. I say that if you’re going to adopt this attitude, you had better have a trust fund or be content with nary a soul ever seeing your work. There is so much static in our culture that it will take more than your innate brilliance to let your work slip the surly bonds of your studio and penetrate the brains of your fellow man.

Scream from rooftops if you have to. Be able to wow a room full of executives, even if you’re a sculptor. Be able to pitch over the bunker and land on the green, even if you just wanna dance. Don’t be proud of your insularity, it only ensures silence.

bring the muzik back

9/13/05

I know I have nearly missed the boat on the cultural phenomenon known as “mash-ups” or This Artist VS. That Artist, but in case you were listening to the Aubrey/Maturin novels for the last three months like I have, it’s a fascinating new genre where immensely talented Djs take two well-known songs and literally mash them together, creating something altogether different and, in some cases, gorgeous.

I heard my first mash-up when I downloaded “Sexual High” off Kent’s page, a sublime pairing of Radiohead and Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing.” Then I was in this coffee place last week and realized that the new iTunes allows for music sharing. In other words, if you’re sitting near somebody with iTunes, chances are good you can listen to their entire music library without them knowing. I made a new invisible friend Aaron, not more than 50 feet away, who had the most incredible collection of mash-ups I’d ever fathomed.

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Immediately, I began downloading some of my favorites, which really have to be heard to be appreciated. There’s one in particular by the amazing Mark Vidler called Wrapped Detective, which combines “Watching the Detectives” by Elvis Costello with “Wrapped Around Your Finger” by the Police, with the backbone of “Exodus” by Bob Marley with an inspired dash of Peggy Lee’s “Fever” and Led Zep thrown in. Sean, download this.

It’s addicting to peruse the various download sites for your favorite artists surgically conjoined at the hip with your other favorite artists – but for you musicologists, it’s also vindication for all those years you’ve been saying that there are really only five pop songs. Lately, I kvetched about Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” being basically the same song as “Wonderwall” by Oasis, and VOILA! There’s a mash-up to prove it.

I can’t imagine most of you won’t like DJ Prince’s Hey We Will Rock Ya mix of Outkast and Queen, I Hate Music featuring the Hives and Madonna, and even a nice one like the Monkees/Beatles’ Paperback Believer.

But it’s when the DJs actually add artistry to the specific blend of groups – like ABBA and the Bunnymen or a simply beautiful idea like Crazy Fool, which is “Fool on the Hill” mixed with “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” – that you can see how amazing these guys are.

My absolute favorite is a mash-up with the haunting title I Just Wasn’t Made For the Back Seat of My Car, which colludes the heartbreaking song by Brian Wilson with one of my old McCartney favorites. “Back Seat of My Car” is Paul’s lush, utterly twee and unabashedly pretty album-ender for “Ram,” a song you’d only know if you were a total Beatles nutjob like I was. When you hear a DJ taking a cue from a song like this, you get the share a moment with him or her that is unlike anything else in art: a wink across the room that lets you know they get it too.

Are these mash-ups sacrilege? Probably. Do they run the risk of ruining your favorite songs? Absolutely. But each time you find a good one, you become in on the joke that all music is so utterly related, that goth chicks and metalheads and fey dancers and electronic hipsters all pray to different angles of the same God.

key attached to giant wooden spoon

9/12/05

I’m suffering through some kind of chronic-fatigue virus that is making all my muscles ache and encasing my brain in a shield of lead, so you’ll have to excuse the plagiarism of today’s entry, BUT… my brother Sean’s rant from a few days ago was so goddamn brilliant that I feel it needs to be reprinted here:

***

“Wipe Hands on Pants” by Sean Williams

About ten years ago, I was coming out of a rest-stop bathroom and I asked my brother Ian if he could tell me what someone had written on the bathroom hand-dryer, in lieu of the actual instructions. Even though he hadn’t been in there yet, he knew what it said. It used to be that instructions were needed on the hand-dryer in bathrooms, but now, apparently, there’s just a picture of someone pressing the button and two hands rubbing together.

(As an aside – these hand dryers (which don’t work) don’t really need instructions any more because people have basically gotten the hang of them. But for some reason, we still need directions on shampoo? I gotta assume that, unless you’ve been following Phish since you were in diapers, everyone, even in third world countries, can figure out how to wash their hair. I mean, seriously, if you live in the most desperate circumstances possible, don’t you think that learning how to wash your own hair would come months and years before learning the English required to follow the instructions on the back of a shampoo bottle?)

Anyway, there were instructions on the hand dryer that said this.

1. Push button

2. Rub hands under warm air.

3. Turns off automatically.

And almost always, I mean in about 90% of cases, the dryer instructions were altered with a knife or a pen or whatever so that they read.

1. Push butt

2. Rub hands under armhair

3. Turns off automatically

4. Wipe Hands On Pants.

Someone went to every single bathroom in America and took the time to write in the fourth step. Because, frankly, you do have to wipe your hands on your pants. The same pants you wiped your hands on after you coughed last. After you sneezed last. The same pant legs that caught steaming molecules of your last meal. That’s where you wipe your damn hands when the air dryer doesn’t work.

But that’s not my point.

See there are things that people say that they think are funny. A dog will lick its balls, and someone will say “If I could do that, I’d never leave the house”. Someone will say “what do they call 100 (fill-in-the-hated-profession-here) at the bottom of a river? – A GOOD START!”

It’s boring as hell. GOD it’s boring. You people should be fucking ashamed of yourselves.

You know that guy on the train? The guy that woke up just long enough to locate his bottle of cheap liquor and drank from it before passing out again? That guy who just peed on his own clothes? That guy is serving a purpose. Those of you who repeat a joke that someone else told, you are the worst people in the world. The absolute lowest.

But wait, there’s more.

Because it isn’t just repeating a joke. It’s repeating the same fucking idea. Y’all who have lines to pick up girls? Especially lines you’ve tried before, and they’ve worked? Y’all should go fucking kill yourselves. The years are ticking away, jackass, the years are running down the drain and you are gonna path-of-least-resistance your way right down to the day you die. You’re gonna have kids with one of these dumb ass mental cripples that falls for your line and you guys will have fights that don’t make any sense and your kids are gonna grow up and try the same lines you tried and they’ll work and some other fucking idiot is gonna procreate and the world is just gonna spin down to dust while NOT A SINGLE ORIGINAL THOUGHT COMES OUT OF YOUR FUCKING HEAD.

But wait one second. That’s not my point. This is.

For you fucking idiots who have found a way to jam your heads up your asses about Bush’s total failure as our President this last week, purely because you feel like you need to constantly return to the idea that those on the left are ALWAYS wrong and those on the right are ALWAYS right, you’re done.

Months of us taking off our shoes at the airport, and all a terrorist had to do was blow a hole in a levee in New Orleans. They could drive an SUV full of fertilizer and fuel oil to the levee, and thousands would have died. But they didn’t. We had years of warning, everyone knew the levees would break, and no-one did anything. The Republicans didn’t, the Democrats didn’t, America is a teaming mess of classism and racism, and these things need to be dealt with on a Federal level.

You can support President Bush after this, of course. This was a monumental mistake, but, provided you believe the rest of what he does makes up for this catastrophe, I don’t mind you supporting the President. But if you tell me that the federal government isn’t to blame for this…

You’re just writing what you’ve read someone else write. You don’t know anything. You are too stupid for me to listen to, and, especially your idiotic blog comments… I mean, you’re no better than the wall in some truck stop bathroom, and twice as full of shit.

***

parry thrust parry

9/11/05

One thing we can agree on, regardless of your politics. Remember the following mantra when the worst happens. When the waters come, the bridges come crashing down, the fires erupt, the winds howl and you look towards the orange horizon of what once was your village, you must know by now: Nobody is coming. You are on your own. Only improvisation and your guile will get you through this one. You can tell stories of your escape later, but right now, you must escape.

Read the Maus books, or watch this man’s escape from New Orleans: from both you should take the lesson that it will take ingenuity to get through whatever hell is thrown at you. If you don’t fancy those odds, then an ounce of preparation can be your insurance.

Tessa and I bought our little place in Columbia County in the months after 9/11 – we thought it was just a place to store furniture from her deceased father, but later we came to understand it as a refuge when things in this country got too out of control. Later, we stocked the basement with canned goods, bottled water and various grains, but now that I’ve done the research, I didn’t do it any of it correctly. If the last four years has taught any of you anything, it’s to do these things correctly.

The solar panels and the Prius are all part of the larger picture: yes, we don’t wan’t to be “part of the problem,” but they are also selfish ways to survive when life gets lean for everyone else. And now that we’ve got little Lucy to rear, I’m edging closer and closer to being “apocalydad,” the weird guy in the basement that constructs his own bullets and has disturbing ham radio friends.

In New York City, we’re a target for all the big terrorist attacks, but also a debilitating snowstorm that could render us mute for a week, not to mention a repeat of the 2003 blackouts (imagine them lasting more than a few days). Here in Los Angeles, there’s always that 8.0 quake around the corner, felling every freeway bridge and collapsing cheap apartment houses.

Yes, I will go back to ranting about bad pop songs and telling butt-sex stories about Carolina eventually, but right now, every single one of you should spend fifteen minutes discussing your escape plan and putting together even a tiny little “to go” bag for you and yours. My Aunt Marilyn, who is Mormon and thus knows a few things about how to survive for a year in a closet, gave me this list for a start. Even if you only buy a few of those things, you’ll be stunningly better off.

My family has this meeting place for those of us in Manhattan, as it’s an easy jaunt: just take Broadway to 242nd Street and look for the “Comfort Station.” We haven’t worked out anything in LA yet, but absent a tsunami, the beach where Rose hits the water seems good enough.

Progressives and liberals all thought the government would take care of them in emergencies, but it’s obvious this particular administration couldn’t save a cat stuck in a tree. Conservatives don’t believe government should have to do anything, so you guys ought to be prepared anyway. All I ask is that you people just talk about it for a few minutes. It’s a hell of a lot better than spending your last dying minutes surrounded by human feces, your last insulin shot having been stolen by a thug with a gun, awaiting a Greyhound bus that will never come.

I never quote old blogs, but I like this one: “A contingency scheme is a flimsy parasol against the vicissitudes of a wicked world – and everyone knows the easiest way to get God to laugh is to make a plan – but having the Comfort Station is a cool salve for our worst thoughts, even if we pray we’ll never need that kind of comfort.”

Fuckin-A!

ninth circle

9/7/05

The lovely, talented enchantress Bliss Broyard is from New Orleans, and through some of her friends, we got the following story from Lorrie Beth Slonsky (editor of the medical journal The Gurney Gazette) and Larry Bradshaw, two paramedics who got stuck in the French Quarter while attending a convention. What follows is their harrowing journey out of hell, and while it is long, it is so worth the time. Read it now before this makes the email rounds and thus both Lorrie Beth and Larry end up vilified on conservative blogs. I promise, there is no politics here. Just a true story.

Here it is:

***

HURRICANE KATRINA: OUR EXPERIENCES by Lorrie Beth Slonsky and Larry Bradshaw

Two days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, the Walgreen’s store at

the corner of Royal and Iberville streets remained locked. The dairy display

case was clearly visible through the widows. It was now 48 hours without

electricity, running water, plumbing. The milk, yogurt, and cheeses were

beginning to spoil in the 90-degree heat. The owners and managers had locked

up the food, water, pampers, and prescriptions and fled the City. Outside

Walgreen’s windows, residents and tourists grew increasingly thirsty and

hungry.

The much-promised federal, state and local aid never materialized and the

windows at Walgreen’s gave way to the looters. There was an alternative. The

cops could have broken one small window and distributed the nuts, fruit

juices, and bottle water in an organized and systematic manner. But they did

not. Instead they spent hours playing cat and mouse, temporarily chasing

away the looters.

We were finally airlifted out of New Orleans two days ago and arrived home

yesterday (Saturday). We have yet to see any of the TV coverage or look at a

newspaper. We are willing to guess that there were no video images or

front-page pictures of European or affluent white tourists looting the

Walgreen’s in the French Quarter.

We also suspect the media will have been inundated with “hero” images of the

National Guard, the troops and the police struggling to help the “victims”

of the Hurricane. What you will not see, but what we witnessed, were the

real heroes and sheroes of the hurricane relief effort: the working class of

New Orleans. The maintenance workers who used a fork lift to carry the sick

and disabled. The engineers, who rigged, nurtured and kept the generators

running. The electricians who improvised thick extension cords stretching

over blocks to share the little electricity we had in order to free cars

stuck on rooftop parking lots. Nurses who took over for mechanical

ventilators and spent many hours on end manually forcing air into the lungs

of unconscious patients to keep them alive. Doormen who rescued folks stuck

in elevators.

Refinery workers who broke into boat yards, “stealing” boats to rescue their

neighbors clinging to their roofs in flood waters. Mechanics who helped

hot-wire any car that could be found to ferry people out of the City. And

the food service workers who scoured the commercial kitchens improvising

communal meals for hundreds of those stranded. Most of these workers had

lost their homes, and had not heard from members of their families, yet they

stayed and provided the only infrastructure for the 20% of New Orleans that

was not under water.

On Day 2, there were approximately 500 of us left in the hotels in the

French Quarter. We were a mix of foreign tourists, conference attendees like

ourselves, and locals who had checked into hotels for safety and shelter

from Katrina. Some of us had cell phone contact with family and friends

outside of New Orleans. We were repeatedly told that all sorts of resources

including the National Guard and scores of buses were pouring in to the

City. The buses and the other resources must have been invisible because

none of us had seen them.

We decided we had to save ourselves. So we pooled our money and came up with

$25,000 to have ten buses come and take us out of the City. Those who did

not have the requisite $45.00 for a ticket were subsidized by those who did

have extra money. We waited for 48 hours for the buses, spending the last 12

hours standing outside, sharing the limited water, food, and clothes we had.

We created a priority boarding area for the sick, elderly and new born

babies. We waited late into the night for the “imminent” arrival of the

buses. The buses never arrived. We later learned that the minute the arrived

at the City limits, they were commandeered by the military.

By day 4 our hotels had run out of fuel and water. Sanitation was

dangerously abysmal. As the desperation and despair increased, street crime

as well as water levels began to rise. The hotels turned us out and locked

their doors, telling us that the “officials” told us to report to the

convention center to wait for more buses. As we entered the center of the

City, we finally encountered the National Guard. The Guards told us we would

not be allowed into the Superdome as the City’s primary shelter had

descended into a humanitarian and health hellhole. The guards further told

us that the City’s only other shelter, the Convention Center, was also

descending into chaos and squalor and that the police were not allowing

anyone else in. Quite naturally, we asked, “If we can’t go to the only 2

shelters in the City, what was our alternative?” The guards told us that

that was our problem, and no they did not have extra water to give to us.

This would be the start of our numerous encounters with callous and hostile

“law enforcement”.

We walked to the police command center at Harrah’s on Canal Street and were

told the same thing, that we were on our own, and no they did not have water

to give us. We now numbered several hundred. We held a mass meeting to

decide a course of action. We agreed to camp outside the police command

post. We would be plainly visible to the media and would constitute a highly

visible embarrassment to the City officials. The police told us that we

could not stay. Regardless, we began to settle in and set up camp. In short

order, the police commander came across the street to address our group. He

told us he had a solution: we should walk to the Pontchartrain Expressway

and cross the greater New Orleans Bridge where the police had buses lined up

to take us out of the City. The crowd cheered and began to move. We called

everyone back and explained to the commander that there had been lots of

misinformation and wrong information and was he sure that there were buses

waiting for us. The commander turned to the crowd and stated emphatically,

“I swear to you that the buses are there.”

We organized ourselves and the 200 of us set off for the bridge with great

excitement and hope. As we marched past the convention center, many locals

saw our determined and optimistic group and asked where we were headed. We

told them about the great news. Families immediately grabbed their few

belongings and quickly our numbers doubled and then doubled again. Babies in

strollers now joined us, people using crutches, elderly clasping walkers and

others people in wheelchairs. We marched the 2-3 miles to the freeway and up

the steep incline to the Bridge. It now began to pour down rain, but it did

not dampen our enthusiasm.

As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the

foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing

their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various

directions. As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched

forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told

them of our conversation with the police commander and of the commander’s

assurances. The sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. The

commander had lied to us to get us to move.

We questioned why we couldn’t cross the bridge anyway, especially as there

was little traffic on the 6-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank

was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in

their City. These were code words for if you are poor and black, you are not

crossing the Mississippi River and you were not getting out of New Orleans.

Our small group retreated back down Highway 90 to seek shelter from the rain

under an overpass. We debated our options and in the end decided to build an

encampment in the middle of the Ponchartrain Expressway on the center

divide, between the O’Keefe and Tchoupitoulas exits. We reasoned we would be

visible to everyone, we would have some security being on an elevated

freeway and we could wait and watch for the arrival of the yet to be seen

buses.

All day long, we saw other families, individuals and groups make the same

trip up the incline in an attempt to cross the bridge, only to be turned

away. Some chased away with gunfire, others simply told no, others to be

verbally berated and humiliated. Thousands of New Orleaners were prevented

and prohibited from self-evacuating the City on foot.

 Meanwhile, the only two City shelters sank further into squalor and

disrepair. The only way across the bridge was by vehicle. We saw workers

stealing trucks, buses, moving vans, semi-trucks and any car that could be

hotwired. All were packed with people trying to escape the misery New

Orleans had become.

Our little encampment began to blossom. Someone stole a water delivery truck

and brought it up to us. Let’s hear it for looting! A mile or so down the

freeway, an army truck lost a couple of pallets of C-rations on a tight

turn. We ferried the food back to our camp in shopping carts. Now secure

with the two necessities, food and water; cooperation, community, and

creativity flowered. We organized a clean up and hung garbage bags from the

rebar poles. We made beds from wood pallets and cardboard. We designated a

storm drain as the bathroom and the kids built an elaborate enclosure for

privacy out of plastic, broken umbrellas, and other scraps. We even

organized a food recycling system where individuals could swap out parts of

C-rations (applesauce for babies and candies for kids!).

This was a process we saw repeatedly in the aftermath of Katrina.  When

individuals had to fight to find food or water, it meant looking out for

yourself only. You had to do whatever it took to find water for your kids or

food for your parents. When these basic needs were met, people began to look

out for each other, working together and constructing a community.

If the relief organizations had saturated the City with food and water in

the first 2 or 3 days, the desperation, the frustration and the ugliness

would not have set in. Flush with the necessities, we offered food and water

to passing families and individuals. Many decided to stay and join us. Our

encampment grew to 80 or 90 people. From a woman with a battery powered

radio we learned that the media was talking about us. Up in full view on the

freeway, every relief and news organizations saw us on their way into the

City. Officials were being asked what they were going to do about all those

families living up on the freeway? The officials responded they were going

to take care of us. Some of us got a sinking feeling. “Taking care of us”

had an ominous tone to it.

Unfortunately, our sinking feeling (along with the sinking City) was

correct. Just as dusk set in, a Gretna Sheriff showed up, jumped out of his

patrol vehicle, aimed his gun at our faces, screaming, “Get off the fucking

freeway”. A helicopter arrived and used the wind from its blades to blow

away our flimsy structures. As we retreated, the sheriff loaded up his truck

with our food and water. Once again, at gunpoint, we were forced off the

freeway. All the law enforcement agencies appeared threatened when we

congregated or congealed into groups of 20 or more. In every congregation of

“victims” they saw “mob” or “riot”. We felt safety in numbers. Our “we must

stay together” was impossible because the agencies would force us into small

atomized groups.

In the pandemonium of having our camp raided and destroyed, we scattered

once again. Reduced to a small group of 8 people, in the dark, we sought

refuge in an abandoned school bus, under the freeway on Cilo Street. We were

hiding from possible criminal elements but equally and definitely, we were

hiding from the police and sheriffs with their martial law, curfew and

shoot-to-kill policies.

The next days, our group of 8 walked most of the day, made contact with New

Orleans Fire Department and were eventually airlifted out by an urban search

and rescue team. We were dropped off near the airport and managed to catch a

ride with the National Guard. The two young guardsmen apologized for the

limited response of the Louisiana guards. They explained that a large

section of their unit was in Iraq and that meant they were shorthanded and

were unable to complete all the tasks they were assigned.

We arrived at the airport on the day a massive airlift had begun. The

airport had become another Superdome. We 8 were caught in a press of

humanity as flights were delayed for several hours while George Bush landed

briefly at the airport for a photo op. After being evacuated on a coast

guard cargo plane, we arrived in San Antonio, Texas.

There the humiliation and dehumanization of the official relief effort

continued. We were placed on buses and driven to a large field where we were

forced to sit for hours and hours. Some of the buses did not have

air-conditioners. In the dark, hundreds if us were forced to share two

filthy overflowing porta-potties. Those who managed to make it out with any

possessions (often a few belongings in tattered plastic bags) we were

subjected to two different dog-sniffing searches.

Most of us had not eaten all day because our C-rations had been confiscated

at the airport because the rations set off the metal detectors. Yet, no food

had been provided to the men, women, children, elderly, disabled as they sat

for hours waiting to be “medically screened” to make sure we were not

carrying any communicable diseases.

This official treatment was in sharp contrast to the warm, heart-felt

reception given to us by the ordinary Texans. We saw one airline worker give

her shoes to someone who was barefoot. Strangers on the street offered us

money and toiletries with words of welcome. Throughout, the official relief

effort was callous, inept, and racist. There was more suffering than need

be. Lives were lost that did not need to be lost.

***

merci buckets

9/6/05

Okay, CODE WORD. Which, all you kooky readers should know by now, means I have to tend to baby issues instead of the usual frothing left-wing badinage. So today’s topic for the comments is: assume America is more like you want it to be. What things would that include? Here’s a few of mine:

– more latté flavors, esp. Irish Cream mandatory at all coffee places

– every town in a desert community has mandatory solar panels (have you ever been to La Quinta or Palm Springs? sheesh)

– musicians have an Artistic License card that get revoked if their last two albums suck

– more lesbians holding hands

– people in studio audiences should only be allowed to laugh if the sitcom joke is actually funny

– mandatory Fried Ice Cream at ALL restaurants, not just Chi-Chi’s

– local TV news will be forbidden to run stories like “What You Don’t Know About Venetian Blinds May Kill You” (actual story from Raleigh, NC Fox affiliate, circa 1996)

– all expansion teams must wear colors that occur in nature

– New New Orleans built along with Old New Orleans so we have one to spare next time

Yours?

the cornstalk fence

9/5/05

In 1966, Harry Harlow conducted a number of infamous experiments on rhesus monkeys. He had two groups of babies: those who were raised normally by their mothers, and those raised without any motherly touch at all. The death and infection rate among the motherless monkey babies was dramatic, while the other monkeys thrived. However, there was a third group.

This other set of monkeys was provided a “chicken wire” mommy – a monkey-shaped piece of wood, covered in chicken wire and carpet. The baby monkeys clung to these fake mothers for dear life, and while the sickness and mortality rate was pretty high, many of them survived. However, they showed odd behavior later in life, often rocking back and forth with bizarre bursts of rage.

I hate to tell ya, but that’s you, Republicans. You have clung to your President – your monkey-shaped, wooden piece of rug – as if your life depended on it, while the rest of us look on in pity and frustration. What I’ve heard from some of the conservatives, and indeed in some of the comments from the last entry, absolutely stun me. Blaming Clinton? I mean this compassionately: what is wrong with you?

Nobody needs another blog or another op-ed piece decrying the federal government’s response to Katrina, or how the director of FEMA got his job because of an old-boy-network favor. The best take-down of the government I’ve seen in five years is here (hey, if you can quote Ben Stein, I can give you Keith Olbermann) and all you need to do is peek at any Op-Ed page – including the right-leaners – to get a sample of the media’s current rage at Bush’s machine.

One almost-Shakespearian character in this saturnine saga is Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu, a long-time Capitol Hill shill who began the disaster with her pat, inoffensive “team player” voice, congratulating the President and the response teams (and provoking a devastating take-down from CNN’s Anderson Cooper).

It wasn’t until it became clear that Karl Rove and Dan Bartlett were beginning a systematic campaign to shift blame to the local governments, presumably starting with Landrieu, that she saw that no player was too small to be sacrificed for Bush’s benefit. Then she took a chopper ride with Stephanopoulos over New Orleans in which she finally broke down in sobs, understanding, truly, there was no hope.

To those who are complaining about politicizing such a tragedy, I have to say: fuck you. Republicans have been politicizing while standing on the burned backs of 3,000 of my fellow New Yorkers for four years now. Besides, many of us are going out of our way to do what we can to ease the suffering in the town that provided solace to me and my wife a few days after the Twin Towers came down. We’re giving more money to this effort than we’ve ever given to anything, but if you want a real hero, look no further than my sister Michelle, who was at Ground Zero and is now temporarily quitting her job so that the Red Cross can send her into New Orleans. Maybe I’m not allowed to politicize, but SHE sure as fuck is.

The only levee that refuses the break is the buttress of right-wing delusion holding back the waters of the Bush administration’s criminal incompetence. Liberals expecting a tipping point will be sorely disappointed. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bush’s ratings actually go up over the next few weeks, as the interior of this nation is unable to assign the man – or his cronies – any blame.

There was a day when I thought this nation’s collective wisdom could be altered by facts, but, like Valmont in “Dangerous Liaisons,” since the last election “I have no illusions; I lost them in my travels.” I suppose the PIPA study was right – in the face of scary elements, this nation has turned blindly to whatever father figure they could get their hands on. In this case, a cardboard rhesus monkey covered with carpet.

In a way, you have to pity conservatives: they were so ripe for the perfect takeover of American culture: the Congress, the Supreme Court and a terrorist attack aligned perfectly for what could have been a Republican FDR. Instead, they – and we – ended up with a disturbed, smirking fratboy who can barely flush his own toilet. You have to think, even the most virulent commenters on this blog have got to be shaking their heads in the dark of their own rooms.

Thus, amidst so much carnage and heartbreak, there is one good thing that has emerged from the hurricane: liberals and progressives will be exonerated by history. Even though we will lose every battle of our present age, the big picture will absolutely show George W. Bush as the worst President in the history of America, flying past Hoover, Harding, and even James Buchanan.

An old WWII poster showed a girl asking her father “What Did You Do In The War, Daddy?” We can look at Lucy, decades from now, when she asks what we did during the worst reign in U.S. history, and we will be able to tell her, with a straight face, that we gave money, helped those less privileged than us, voted against the bad guy time and time again, protected elections, sat on our bed and cried while mothers looked for their babies and policemen killed themselves, and did everything within our power to shed a little light during a very Dark Age.