Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Phone-It-In President

Seems like it was only 8 years ago that Bill Clinton had Israel’s Ehud Barak and Palestinian Yasser Arafat at Camp David to try to settle up their decades-long differences in the waning days of his term of office. Now, with a year left to go on our nation’s sentence of Bush’s presidency, with his tenure’s wane getting a big head-start on his predecessor’s, Bush is trying to pull the same rabbit out of his hat.

Couple things bug me about this. For starters, one of Bush’s first foreign policy pronouncements après inauguration in early 2001 was that the U.S. was stepping out of the Israel/Palestine peace process. It was a big, fat loser for that unwholesome philanderer Bill Clinton only the summer before, and Team Bush decided not to invest what scant political capital they had ‘earned’ in the bitterly-contested election they had just barely survived on anything that was less than, well, a slam-dunk. So middle-east peace wasn’t just back-burnered, it was off the stove. And Clinton’s failed effort was the source of much derisive sniggering from the neocon geniuses who had recently inherited the mantle of power in DC.

Then 9/11 occurred, and suddenly the middle east looked a whole lot more interesting to the administration and the neocons running it behind the scenes. Not bringing peace to the middle east, but opening up a can of good old American whup-ass on it. Israel and Palestine were still left to their own devices (my guess: not enough oil there, nor dictators who had besmirched the good name of Bush by failing to be overthrown by W’s daddy when he had the chance in Gulf War I), but oh man, was it on with Iraq! Yippee-kiyo-kiyay, motherfucker! John McClane Diplomacy at its very finest!

But as I said, now with Bush’s approval numbers at record lows for months on end with no let-up in sight, some clever lad (or lassie) has had the bright idea to once again try to bring the bloody Israel/Palestine impasse to an end. After all, what has Bush got to lose? Like Clinton post-impeachment, Bush is looking hard at his legacy. And with even less to lose than Clinton – who, in spite of his impeachment, rolled out of office with approval numbers in the 60%s – he’s decided to go for the Hail Mary pass. If he fails, so what? So has everyone else since the establishment of the state of Israel after WWII. And if he pulls off the miracle, which is what it would take, maybe he can goose his numbers just enough to not leave office a total historical failure.

Here’s the other thing that boils me about this story, though, and it’s not just that Bush mispronounced both the foreign leaders’ names from the podium at their brief photo-op:

Whereas President Clinton’s efforts were characterized by a marathon of late-night, all-night, hands-on presidential arm-twisting and personal, 24/7 involvement on Mr. Clinton’s behalf, Bush flew in to the summit for two hours yesterday for an exceptionally awkwardly-staged photo-op (above), then high-tailed it back to the oval office, leaving the hard work of diplomacy to the hired hands. The Secretary of State, to be sure, but this is the same person (Ms Rice) who ignored the import of the PDB entitled “Bin Laden determined to strike within the U.S.” a month before 9/11, and occasionally misspeaks by referring to Bush as her husband. In terms of people who consistently don’t have their eyes on the prize, Ms Rice rates most highly.

But mostly, as usual, it’s the hypocrisy that motivates me to vent. The same idea (peace between the Itchy and Scratchy of the middle east) that was anathema to W when it was Bill Clinton’s end-term agenda is now the sole chunk of driftwood Bush is desperately clinging to in the ocean of bad calls, missteps and missed opportunities that characterize his presidency in a vain attempt to rehabilitate his train wreck of a legacy. And to add insult to the injury, he’s not even involving himself personally, he’s phoning it in, leaving the real work to the same clueless dolts who allowed 9/11 to occur on his watch.

Peace between Israel and Palestine? Not very likely, especially with the Keystone Diplomatic Corps in charge. Like his megaphone moment in the wake of 9/11, like his Blue-Light post-Katrina address to the nation, this “effort” is just another photo-op for Bush to fly in and out of between bike rides with Lance Armstrong. And checking the days off his calendar till January 20 next year. Come on, rubber-chicken circuit!

At least on that last point, the president and I can find common ground. Which, regrettably, is more than we can reasonably hope to accomplish with Condi’s efforts with Olmert and Abbas.

The Man Cub in Autumn

Damn, I wish I had taken that photo. As it is though , I got the best of both worlds — an awesome photo of my favorite subject, and I didn’t have to leave the house to get it!

Thanks, Grandma M.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Why We Write (or don’t, as the case may be)

I’m still here, still a bit odd if not altogether queer… I’m getting used to it.

Haven’t been posting too much of late. What with the holidays and all, not really anxious to commit my thoughts for posterity. Maybe this’ll be the year I get through the holidays without a meltdown of some sort. But until I know for sure, mum’s the word.

Got a new computer that I can’t use because all of my publications that I do for a living are still in Quark XPress (I know, I know, but it’s the application my employers have chosen to throw their money at). My new Mac is running on 10.5, and Quark, in its infinite wisdom, didn’t design their new upgrade to install onto computers running 10.5. It’s been on the way for months, but Quark failed to anticipate it just the same. I tell you, if those idiots at Quark spent half the money on R&D that they spend on security (go ahead, see if you can pilfer a copy of the damned thing!), they’d be up to Quark 11 or 12 by now instead of just 7. And an 11 or 12 that actually installs onto the latest version of the Mac operating system, for Christ’s sake.

The result being my desk looks like the bridge of the original starship Enterprise except for the absence of the cool Captain’s chair (and the multiracial bridge crew):

My work chores are spread out over three discrete computer systems that I have to switch back and forth between by plugging and unplugging cords the whole day long. It is super-frustrating, and but for the fucking dullards at Quark XPress, I would be fully transitioned to the new computer and I could pitch half the hardware off my work space. Have I mentioned that it’s frustrating?

Meanwhile I’ve been exploring the A/V opportunities my new hardware and software affords me (since Quark has helpfully rendered our considerable investment useless for actual work). I’m already regretting I didn’t spring for the model with the 200 gigs of storage – these movie files eat up shitloads of space! Unbelievable. I’m already having to trash files as soon as I’m done messing with them.

So far, my success has been limited by my extreme technical shortcomings, and the fact that even when I do crack a manual it doesn’t make any sense to me. But I was able to figure out on my own how to do one cool thing so far. Using a multiplicity of unrelated movie-type programs, I was able to load up, extract and export a single performance from a DVD of an old “Johnny Cash Show” and upload it to YouTube. I’m picking up copy from a freelance web client tomorrow, so my A/V experimentation is probably at end for the year. But it yielded me the following, and it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

“The Johnny Cash Show,” episode 19, February 2, 1970, Neil Diamond debuts a new composition, “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show.” I’ve always loved this song, and never more so than in the performance below, where Diamond’s spoken-word bit in the middle is integrated seamlessly into the body of the song, and actually draws attention to the song instead of what has since become Diamond’s signature hammy showboating.

If the good Lord’s willing and the creeks don’t rise, I’ll be back soon with happier tidings to report. In the interim, and with all the faux holiday good will I can muster, I give you a young Johnny Cash and Neil Diamond. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Man, how much does NBC’s “Heroes” suck?

A LOT. Even “Veronica Mars’” Kristen Bell can’t save this show from itself. Tonight was their much ballyhooed “Four Months Ago” episode that was supposed to fill in all the gaps between the end of last season and the beginning of this season, and it was just boring. My super-powers of precognition tell me, “Don’t hold your breath for a season three.”

Instead, and since the Hollywood writers are on strike, I have an idea for a great spec script, “Bill & Ted III.”

It’s 15 years after the last movie, and the alternate future where Bill & Ted are worshipped as godheads is just starting. The music of their band, Wyld Stallions, is just beginning to bring the universe into harmony.

There are so many questions to be answered! Are they still with the babes they picked up in medieval times? What godawful catastrophe has befallen society that the brain-dead speed metal of Bill & Ted’s band has been elevated to a planetary-unifying force? Have the terrorists perfected a Dumb Bomb and detonated it live on “So You Think You Can Dance Better Than a Fifth Grader,” thereby lowering worldwide IQs to less than Bill & Ted’s oxygen-deprived aggregate brain power? How did they lure Clarence Clemons away from the E Street Band?

This series is begging for a final chapter. I’m sure Alex Winters could squeeze it into his schedule… and Keanu hasn’t been up to much lately, either, sappy Sandra Bullock romantic comedies notwithstanding. This movie needs to get made now while George Carlin is still alive to whore his credibility out for cash one last time while said credibility still retains any currency at all.

If anyone is interested, I’d be happy to collaborate. I tell ya, this script could write itself, and it’d be a damned sight better than anything “Heroes” has puked forth this season.

And don’t even get me started on “Journeyman,” which follows “Heroes” on NBC every Monday night. The whole core concept flies directly in the face of accepted time-travel lore, whose Rule #1 is: NEVER DO ANYTHING TO ALTER THE PAST! “Journeyman”’s premise? Every week this boring, uptight San Franciscan travels to his own past and changes some strangers’ personal history. WTF?? The writing on this show is almost as lazy as “Heroes,” just not as stupid on an episode-by-episode, line-by-line basis.

This season has narrowed itself down to “Chuck” on Mondays and “Life” on Wednesdays. And “Heroes” which I still watch, I don’t know why. And of course “Smallville” on Thursdays, which usually has at least one great scene/exchange per episode, which is enough to make me stick around. And the new Supergirl, which is enough to just make me plain sticky.

Most-improved show is “House.” They lost me last season with the introduction of a love interest for the eponymous, unloveable doctor; this season finds her gone, replaced by a cast of young doctors all vying for a couple coveted positions on House’s legendary diagnostic staff. The young cast is great, the writing smart and funny and most of the previous seasons’ dead weight cut away.

“Pushing Daisies” is already wearing out its welcome…

It’s all academic anyhow, if this writers’ strike drags on like the last one. “24” has already been postponed indefinitely, “Lost” will be forced to break up its season into chunks instead of running a consecutive, repeat-free 24 weeks like the producers had intended – all is shit on the scripted-TV horizon.

Which makes this a most excellent opportunity for a savvy studio to greenlight a direct-to-network-TV threequal to the immortal Bill & Ted series! [SFX: dual electric guitars riffing briefly.] I know one frustrated wannabe, non-union writer who’s ready to cross a picket line right fucking now to get working on this script. (Pssst — call me!)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Happy Veterans Day

To all our brothers and sisters in arms, wherever and whenever they might be: Thank you.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Somebody broke into our car last night!

Sitting right there in our driveway, outside the house where we were probably sleeping. It’s creepy!

The Missus thinks it’s neighborhood kids; I’m convinced it’s one of the ne’er-do-wells who have come around looking to buy our other car, which is for sale. There’s this one character in particular, he drives an ice cream truck through the neighborhood. What an ideal way to ‘case’ a neighborhood for all kinds of illegal initiatives. Whatever your particular twist might be, you could track, trace and familiarize yourself with your victim’s daily patterns without ever being noticed till you left. We need to keep an eye on the ice cream trucks!

In any case, we’ll call him “Amir” just in case he’s not the guy. Amir came pounding on our door one sleepy Sunday afternoon, wanting to buy the car, that day, for cash. Right then. He came on like a used car salesman looking to buy a blind camel. Really aggressive in a stage-friendly way. It was ‘for my friend,’ a silent, subordinate type he produced for one of his later visits. What will we take? How much. I bring cash! etc.

I basically told him to get lost, phone for an appointment, and then we would do business like gentlemen. There was no way I wanted to get into business with this guy. I have fucked up selling a car before, and ended up with hundreds of dollars of parking fines from the Compton Police Dept. officially in my name, which took forever to clear up. This time I’m being extra-careful, and this guy just sets my spidey-sense tingling every time.

Anyhow, it looks like we’re going to sell it to this other guy instead, who a) never came pounding on our door without having called first, and b) hasn’t tried to gull us out of a quarter of the asking price. Amir calls for about the millionth time, and we kinda let him know we’re going with this other guy who wasn’t trying to dicker us where we sit down.

The next night, our nice new used car is burglarized, and we haven’t heard “boo” from Amir between the phone call and the burglary, for the first time in days. He just didn’t strike me as a take-it-with-a-smile type when we kicked him to the curb.

Anyhow, whoever broke into the car took the gizmo that covers the stereo (but not the stereo itself) and cleaned all the CDs out of the glove compartment. I can guarantee you, whatever demographic took those discs, mostly personal compilations except for a store-bought Tom Waits disc, is either going to hate them, or like them and necessarily come to the conclusion that they have acquired them in a very uncool way.* They also cleared out the glove compartment, but left our tire gage and our registration for which we wish to thank them. The bastards.

Leslie still thinks it’s the neighborhood kids. Oh I almost forgot, I’m the idiot who drove the car last and therefore probably left the door unlocked. Yeah, I almost forgot that part.

It could be kids. The details of the crime itself argue for the kids – they’re happy to steal our stereo shit, but don’t really have any use for our tire gage or paperwork. But the timing argues for a revenge strike by the Ice Cream Truck driver. I know: he probably hired the kids to do his dirty work for him, much like his silent ‘friend.’

Either way, it’s obvious to me that I’m still drawing karmic blowback for all shitty, similar stuff I did as a kid, and my poor family is being dragged down with me...

So I’ve been obsessing over all the things I can do to punish the creeps who did this without hurting anyone I care about. Like a slow-acting contact poison on the door handle and glove compartment, that I could inoculate my family with a cure for first. I also like the idea of using electricity somehow, but can’t figure out a way to insulate my family from the possibility of an unfortunate, unforeseen ‘oops’ event.

Whatever idea I settle on before not implementing it, one thing is certain. If these guys are anything like me, they’ll get what’s coming to them in the long run.

Now if you make a pilgrimage I hope you find your grail
Be loyal to the ones you leave with even if you fail
Be chivalrous to strangers you meet along the road
As you take that holy ride, yourselves to know
You take that holy ride yourselves to know
—by Warren Zevon, from one of the stolen discs.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

A Kill of Beans

All of a sudden-like, Dumbleyou is a fiscal conservative… FLASH: Bush faces first veto override with vote on water bill.

Geez, I wasn't sure whether to write about this, or Pat Robertson’s endorsement of Rudy Guiliani tonight. It’s been awhile since I’ve had the luxury of being politically outraged/amused. But tonight’s headlines have just been too generous for a recovering political blogger to ignore.

I reckon there’ll be plenty of time to mock Rudy for seeking the support of a man whose last endorsement was for a protein powder that the elderly Elmer Gantry claimed allowed him to leg-press 2,000 pounds. With support like that, Rudy doesn’t need me piling on. I’m sure there will be plenty of bloggers, both left and right of center, who will have great fun with The Robertson Bump among the crazy demographic. (My personal favorite Robertson endorsement was the one about 15, 20 years ago where he warned that a tidal wave was set to descend upon and obliterate the land-locked city of Chicago, Illinois. That one had my Mom on the phone pleading with my Chicago-based brother to take his family and head for higher ground lest they get washed away to lake.)

I’m more compelled to examine the promise of the first Bush veto override in his overlong perch at the top of our country’s government. A full year after the Democrats took the House back, and we finally have the first official, actionable evidence of same.

Now, it would be easy to harangue our spineless dullard elected representatives for their continued capitulation to Bush on everything from Iraq War spending to caving into his latest torture-challenged Attorney General candidate (come on, if nobody died and wasn't revived before permanent brain damage set in, can we reeeeally call it torture? It’s such a grey area…), but instead I choose to celebrate their unexpected recollection of where they left their collective cajones.

And to point out that the only pork-barrel spending Bush disapproves of spending seems to be the kind that would promote medical research, insure poor people’s children and rebuild parts of the country devastated by Katrina, among other natural disasters. reports, “Bush spiked the measure [last] Friday despite its overwhelming bipartisan support, calling it too costly and complaining that the 900 projects it authorized would overtax the Army Corps of Engineers.”

‘Overtax the Army Corp of Engineers.’ I suppose it might, considering they’re mostly currently all tied up in Iraq building and rebuilding stuff that keeps getting blown up again by the indigenous people who want us the fuck out of there.

I tell you what, this George W Bush is just lower than a snake’s belly. He shoves through ‘supplemental’ after supplemental (ie: off-the-books billions, not accounted for in the official annual budget he presents to Congress, even after 5 years of war) to fund his disastrous nation-building policy in Iraq - his opposition to nation-building being a central plank of his 2000 run for the White House - and tries his damnedest to scuttle money to help protect New Orleans from future natural disasters, which money he promised in a live Presidential address.

Whatever this guy promises you with his words to the camera, you can bet he’ll try to keep from happening behind the scenes. I’d wager they have a word for that kind of fella down Texas way, and it's probably not a very nice word.

I’m too lazy to go research the figures, but the $23 billion he tried to kill by vetoing this legislation for actual homeland security-related initiatives amounts to about how many hours of prosecution of his stupid, failed war, do you suppose?

And it’s that level of hypocrisy that moved me to comment. Kudos to our Congressional representatives for proving that all politics is indeed local. Some of these idiots even apologized to Bush in their statements of non-support for his veto (“We’re very sorry for putting our constituents’ needs ahead of your ego’s…”) — Sen. James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, I’m looking at you.

But in the end, it looks like Bush may actually be compelled to [gasp] not only keep a promise, but do the right thing by the less-advantaged. That’s gotta be a bitter pill to swallow.

Well, he’ll always have Iraq. Here’s looking at you, junior…

Monday, November 05, 2007

Dinosaur ROAR!!

Just a brief update (brief because I’ve promised myself another episode of “Jericho” season one before the sleeping meds have their way with me).

Last Tuesday The Man Cub finally turned the corner on his flu and had his first Ralph Yorick Selling Buicks-free day in a week, the same night that both The Missus and I began our bouts with his flu.

She got over hers quick enough, within 24 hours. Being the drama queen that I am, however, mine hung on for days. Not the actual illness, but once my stomach started rejecting previously ingested foodstuffs, it wasn’t about to stop. After a lifetime of careful, consistent abuse – starting with an ulcer in my early 20s and continuing on through a decade of amphetamine abuse and various extended periods of alcohol overconsumption, recreational pharma overindulgence (all in my past, gratefully), Mountain Dew addiction and gobbling aspirin like they were sweet buttered popcorn at a double feature – my squirrley stomach punished me for the better part of a week.

I basically had violent hangover symptoms from Tuesday midnight till sometime Saturday. Still not 100% and getting by by the grace of Zantac, o’ blessed bane of acid indigestion. I think if I hadn’t quit drinking when I did, they’d be fitting my stomach for an iron lung right now.

In spite of which, at the peak of my symptoms, I dragged my sorry, feverish, decrepit ass off my damn deathbed and went trick-or-treating with The Man Cub and The Missus for about a half hour till my legs started giving out from lack of food in my system. Spinny head, ringing ears, wobbly knees – can’t believe I used to pay good money to get these same results. We determined I haven’t hoiked since I stopped drinking a lifetime ago (a year before I even met my future bride-to-be), and my stomach was definitely not up to the challenge any more.

Ah youth. It’s wasted on the young, ill-informed and recreationally medicated.

On the plus side, I got my Mom on the phone in the midst of my misery, and it was fun going to her when I felt like I was at death’s door. Don’t know how many more opportunities I’ll have to go to her for succor when I’m feeling sick, so I took maximum advantage of this opportunity. We had a very nice moment, and she didn’t mention Jesus even once!

Anyhow, The Man Cub still didn’t quite ‘get’ the Halloween thing, probably in part because he doesn’t really do candy yet (yay, us!), and had just recovered from a nasty, prolonged bout with the flu himself. It all just seemed to overwhelm him. Mostly he wanted to be carried, which I, weak as a kitten, had to job-out to The Missus.

Sissy boy. And I call myself a Bastardson. My daddy would be ashamed of me, if I had any idea who he was, or vice versa.

But in the end, a good time was had by all. I didn’t bail on my son’s second Halloween, lived through it, and by week’s end I was eating food again and the prognosis going forward looks promising.

Once again, my son and I owe it all to his Mommy, the glue that holds this family together. And after 3 days of non-caloric intake, I’ve got my weight back down to less than 200 pounds!

Here’s hoping my next post finds either happier things to report, or less personally disgusting ones. And now my self-appointed writing deadline has expired, and the nightmare-inducing next episode of “Jericho” awaits.