Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The South Dakota Problem

Raging ignorance fully exposed by Mr. Nicholas Wind.

Couldn't have cursed it better myself . . . .

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Looking Back - Part I

First in a series of brief rampages about our American identity:

In an effort to fill huge gaps in my (public school) education, I try to steadily self-educate in American History, without regard for chronology.

For example, I am currently winding up Katharine Graham's amazing biography, "A Personal History" which gives a chilling play-by-play to the Watergate scandal that brought down Nixon in the 1970s.

At the time, of course, no one knew the depth of what was happening and what effects it would have on us as a nation. The break-in scandal, and the resulting cover-up, essentially kicked off an unprecedented public distruct of our government that persists to this day; I believe we can trace the roots of today's apathy back to this specific era.

Reading the auto-biography of my favorite president, Teddy Roosevelt, helped me understand our strange belief that America is the world's policeman. Oh, how it hurt to realize it but Teddy was the guy who created and pushed this idea through. That's just 100 years ago, people. Still, Teddy was the last President who actually had led an army into battle on horseback and kicked major ass. For this, TR has my undying love. (This and his high regard for North Dakota.)

Nevertheless, I thought about civilizations past and how they saw themselves in the same universal role and what a sobering morning they all had. Spain used to rule the world, fer chrissakes. Greece too. Meanwhile, Arabs invented arithmetic. Where were we?

We are teenagers and Spring Break is almost over. We all get our time at the podium before we can no longer hold up the pose. As India and China spend more and more time at the gym pumping iron, we think about ordering another pizza. Sooner or later, they are going to kick our fat, lazy ass and the fault of our downfall will belong to no one but us. As we fall behind in education, health, manufacturing and resources, we whine about traffic, fret over tile patterns for the new kitchen and wonder why our children are getting adult onset diabetes at the ages of nine.

It reminds me of a scene in "The Sorpranos" when Tony and his thugs try to intimidate an Hasidic Jew who exhibits no fear at all. They need his fear to get valuable information and therefore, can't kill him. They grow impatient. The Jew begins lecturing them on the perils of obtaining power through fear. Tony can't stand it anymore and just begins beating the shit out of him. Finally, in between slugs, the Jew says, "Look at the Romans, they used to have it all. Where are the Romans now?"

Being Tony, he responds, "You're fucking looking at 'em" and slugs the guy into unconsciousness.

I think that pretty much says it all.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Back to the Real World

The entire 10 days at SXSW, I actively avoided news headlines. I guess I thought that if I left them alone long enough, perhaps First Frat Boy would get a labotomy and bring our boys home or at the very least, Vice would accidentally shoot Rumsy and Condi would have to fire them all.

But no, things are still shitty. And what's worse, the First Monkey is becoming more manic by the minute. Even lifelong Republicans are scraping 'W' bumper stickers off their Hummers. It's uncomfortable to watch; this public unraveling is giving Tom Cruise some serious competition in the Wacko department.

My pal, Fang, posted a particularly brilliant rant on the topic: "A couple appearances ago, his first audience questioner asked him straight-on if he thought what was brewing up in the middle east was the coming of Armageddon as spelled out in the Book of Revelations. If you caught his answer, you will believe a white man can dance!"

Meanwhile, all the anger the First Idiot hath wrought is really paying off for box offices abroad. That's right. Movies in places like Egypt and Turkey have lately depicted Americans on-screen as bullies, rapists and mindless killers - imagine that! Audiences are eating it up like giant tub of buttered Dükkah. In all fairness, these studios should really give Bush & Co. a cut of the profits - global paranoia as a marketing plan! Brilliant! Let's see Bruckheimer do better. Meanwhile, ya'll might want to tuck away that passport for awhile.

Sooo, how about that Mount Rushmore?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

SXSW: New Orleans in Austin

Yesterday was the final day of SXSW and I spoke with my longtime hero, Harry Shearer. God, I’m going to miss living like this.

It was at a panel entitled, “New Orleans Music After Katrina” which Shearer hosted. (For those of you who have never heard of Harry, that’s his magic. He’s got his hands in everything – does numerous voices for ‘The Simpson’s; has a national radio show on KCRW, “Le Show”; was a cast member on “Saturday Night Live”;a former columnist for The Los Angeles Times, was the bass player in Spinal Tap, has published numerous political satire books, is the voice for TVLand, shows up randomly in movies – the list is endless.) Shearer lives in New Orleans and is also president of Courgette Records.

As any reader of this blog knows, Katrina recovery and the well being of the South is of great concern to me. Combine this topic with the preservation of music and then throw Harry into the mix . . . it was the first panel I put on my schedule, let’s put it that way. I sat front row center.

He assembled an impressive panel that included, left to right in the photo:

Jan Ramsey, Publisher of Offbeat Magazine, a local publication held in high regard by the New Orleans music community:
“Music is the lifeblood of our cultural; it is so important.”
“What about teaching the history of our musical culture in the schools? Why can’t academia get involved? How is the younger generation going to carry these traditions on?”

Scott Aiges, Director of the Louisiana Music Export Coalition (worked formerly with the Mayor’s office as a liaison to the music community):

“The government in New Orleans has a long history of not caring about the music community. When I worked in the Mayor’s Office and cuts needed to be made, my job was the first to go.”
“We finally got some new tax credits going – we had some for the film community and now have something called the Sound Investor Tax Credit, giving tax breaks for people who choose to record in New Orleans. This money goes back to the infrastructure.”

Cyrill Neville, musician with the Neville Brothers:
“New Orleans is the microcosm for what is going on in the country right now.”
“Here in Austin, I am being treated with respect, something I never got in New Orleans. The Austin Music Commission actually does stuff for me. On February 5th here in Austin, they declared it ‘Cyrill Neville Day’ - amazing. Since I’ve been here, I’ve written five tunes about everything that’s happened.”
“New Orleans has it down to a science – cutting off our nose to spite our face.”

Harry Shearer: “I remember everyone saying that if you tried to call the Red Cross for help, it was always busy. If you tried to call the Red Cross to donate money, they always picked up.”

Alan Toussaint, incredibly eloquent musician and songwriter (just recorded an album with Elvis Costello and U2):
“I think it’s wonderful that Katrina has been such a booking agent.”
“We operate on a different strut. The people that would turn the city into a Disneyland – it wouldn’t even gel with their spinal cord.”
“In New Orleans, we’ll find something that doesn’t work and do it over and over again.”
“Some of us have to settle for a little less to live in New Orleans.”
“I don’t talk about going back to New Orleans because I’m never leaving. When everyone is gone, I will be the last man that remains.”

Keith Spara, reporter for the New Orleans Times-Picayune (one of 10 reporters who ‘stayed behind’ specifically to cover Katrina.):
“A day or two after Katrina hit, some of us from the newsroom went to the now-infamous Wal-Mart and we saw a cop walking out with an armload of DVDs. That’s when we knew the rules had changed.”
“Austin could learn a lot from New Orleans in terms of how the music is packaged. You’ve got a live music stage at the airport, you’ve got a slogan, ‘Live Music Capital’ – it’s a very clear that this town cares about music and has invested in the industry.”

Everyone agreed there was one charity directly helping the music community in NO: MusicCares. Give a little if you can.

Finally, I had to approach Harry post-panel and gush a bit. I asked him what he lost in the hurricane. “We only lost a fridge,” he said, sheepishly.

I told him I missed his column in the LA Times Magazine, ‘Man Bites Town’ and he said, “I think you are the only one.” I then asked about his amazing powers of invisible fame:

HC: “I always tell people that if I was a celebrity, I would be stealth like Harry Shearer because he can do whatever he wants and nobody bothers him.”
HS: “Well, I don’t get to do whatever I want.”
HC: “It sure seems like it.”
HS: “But, sure, I know what you are saying.”
HC: “I mean, you can buy your own cereal and deodorant, right?”
HS: “Absolutely. In fact, it reminds of a story. I was talking to Jim Carrey and he was saying how he’d love to just go out and play pool in a bar sometime but he couldn’t. He said, ‘Mind you, I could have a pool table delivered to my house in 45 minutes but it’s not the same.’”
HC: “Yeah, I would think that for a comedian, it’s very important to be out in the world, amongst people, observing and being part of society.”
HS: “Absolutely. For any artist, really, it’s vital.”

So there ya have it. This time tomorrow, I’ll be stuck in a cubicle wondering if I’d imagined it all. Thank heavens for this blog – I’ll need some evidence that SXSW ever happened.

Expect whining and pining with more Austin photos to come.

Friday, March 17, 2006

SXSW: A Conversation with k.d. lang

Yesterday, I spoke with k.d. lang. Yup. Just another day here at SXSW.

She’s wonderful, adorable, hilarious, smart and all the other things you would imagine of a major talent. She spoke of her musical collaborations, including Roy Orbison and Tony Bennett, her coming out and the danger of hype. She was raised in a classical music family, studied piano and had absolutely zero knowledge or interest in country music. On her 21st birthday, she was given two Patsy Cline records, heard ‘Stop the World’ and was blown away.

She joined the punk/performance art scene in Edmonton, which resulted in a 12-hour rendition of open-heart surgery. “There were pickled beets, carrots and lots of marijuana involved,” she said. In the early days, she had no money to start her music career so she turned to another form of art to pay the bills, painting. Ultimately, she was able to trade several of her paintings for studio time.

lang created a punk/country persona. In fact, though she was playing country music, she was booked in all the same venues as the punk bands. For some strange reason, she was selected by the Canadian government to represent their country at the World’s Fair in Obuku, Japan. The locals didn’t know what to make of her. “There was some gender confusion there. ‘Is it a girl that looks like a boy? Or is it a feminine-looking boy?’ I was like a car accident, they wanted to look away but couldn’t,” lang said. “It was so much fun.”

Oddly enough, she managed to appear on David Letterman before getting signed but things took off fast. Under her breath, she half-jokingly said, “Well, ‘Ingénue’ was only a hit record because I came out . . ..” and the interview chided her: “Oh yeah, going for that lesbian dollar!”

When the inevitable fame and hype descended, lang assumed she was ready. “I thought I had my defenses up,” she said. It was after performing at some Fabulous People benefit that it hit her. “The place was packed with the beautiful people – the Cindy Crawfords, the Naomi Campbells – and I thought I was fabulous too. Then, I realized, they weren’t even listening to me! I went home and thought, ‘I can’t believe it, I got sucked in!’”

It was an epiphany that made her step back and take stock. “The realization came quick but the remedy took a long time – like any addiction.”

Regarding her ‘coming out’: “Surprisingly, I thought I was out the whole time. I came out to my family at age 13.” In fact, she comes from “a very gay family.” She has four sisters, only one of whom is straight. “And I think my dad is gay too. I’m telling you, I am Brokeback Mountain.”

This led me to stand up and confront her. It went something like this:

HC: You’re incredible – sorry just had to get that out of the way.
KD: I appreciate that.
HC: Okay, here’s the deal: My father is in love with you and-
KD: He’s gay.
HC: It’s very confusing to him. I actually had to sit him down and explain that you only like girls . . .
KD: Hey, I’m open to new experiences, new possibilities.
HC: I’m sure he’d be happy to hear that. Anyway, he’s from South Dakota and-
KD: Hmm, that’s means we’re probably related so that deal’s off.
HC: Basically, we ended up having a dialogue about homosexuality that probably would not have opened up if not for you and your music. I know that maybe it wasn’t your intention when you started your career but-
KD: Actually, that was exactly my intention and let me tell you why.

She then got very quiet and put her hands together in prayer-mode to collect herself. The room was silent and I stood there, wondering what I had triggered. She looked me straight in the eye and proceeded to give a beautiful speech about how she specifically targeted ‘middle-of-the-road’ culture. “A butch lesbian doing duets with Tony Bennett? What’s this all about?” She purposely went after the mainstream to create a stir and get people talking. It was an example of how art can change truly help the world by changing people’s minds. "Art can often do more good than protesting," she said.

It was such an inspiring speech that when she finished, you could hear a pin drop and she got a standing ovation. She suddenly felt very dorky, blushed deeply and started clapping too. Then, she looked at me again and said, “Thanks for asking that question. I’m sorry it didn’t work out between your dad and I.”

I think my SXSW experienced peaked right there. In fact, I felt so satisfied, I slept in this morning, right through ‘The Pretenders’ panel I was supposed to go to.

Some additional k.d. quotes:

“Everyone’s a closet something.”

“Minnie Pearl was mindblowing. A truly incredible human being – people just don’t know.”

“Roy (Orbison) was like a tree – so solid and rooted in who he was.”

“A lot of the work is done in listening.”

“Hanging out with Tony Bennett is like getting an intravenous education.”

“I had unbridled tenacity.”

“Alberta is the Texas of Canada.”

“’Calling All Angels’ (with Jane Siberry) is the best song I ever recorded.”

As for tonight, I had to make a painful decision between three of my heroes – all playing at once: Ramblin’ Jack Elliott vs. Harry Shearer vs. Roseanne Cash. Ladies first - Ms. Cash wins.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

SXSW: Let The Music Begin


Today officially kicks-off the music portion of the SXSW which means I'll need to double my caffeine intake.

As an ideal crossover from film to music, I screened the Beastie Boys concert film, "Aweseome! I Fuckin' Shot That!" The title refers to the random rookie film crew the boys put together to document their concert at Madison Square Gardens. Through their website, they found 50 ticket holders who were given video cameras and asked to shoot the experience from their seats all around the arena.

So damn fun! Mixed with professional camera work and some fancy moves thrown in, the grainy amateur footage really takes you to the concert. Let's face, we'd be in the cheap seats anyway and dance just as much. The Q&A afterward was pretty crazy. Audience members gushed over them without really asking much. I felt almost like an anti-fan for actually posing a question. (I wanted to know where they got they idea for the film and Adam Yauch explained that he'd heard about a kid that had filmed an entire concert with his phone. He saw the result on the internet and loved the feeling.)

Yeah, the Boys are terrific but absolutely nothing compares to Neil Young. Introducing Young this morning for the keynote, SXSW founder Louis Black, said: "We weren't nervous about asking Dylan or Springsteen to come and address but Neil Young . . . ?" Neil was interviewed along with Jonathan Demme about their new concert film, "Heart of Gold."

I realized that Young is mankind's Grandfather, the same term Native Americans use to describe God. Listening to him speak so casually and openly was an incredible way to start my day. Some of my favorite quotes:

"Accessing creativity - it's like approaching a wild animal in a hole. If you try too hard, it's gonna get away."

"I'm proudest of my work when it comes really fast."

"It's so great to be in the same room with people who have dedicated their lives to their art."

"You can't be who you were and you can't be who you're gonna be."

"Commitments are one of the worst things for musicians."

"People want to know why you don't make your most famous album over and over again. Because it's death, that's why."

"I just turned down a promoter who wanted to do a tour called, 'Neil Young's Greatest Hits.' Oh boy, that was it, they were done."

"If you're terrified, you're on the right track."

After reading a USA Today story about how Young is "ripping off his fans" by not playing his most popular hits, Young was elated:

"I thought, 'Hey, I'm really on to something here.'"

More to come - will see kd lang speak this afternoon but first I must try to finish my breakfast that I started five hours ago . . .

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

SXSW: Help! I'm Drowning In Cinema

I’m writing this from behind the U.S. Postal Service desk at the Austin Convention Center. I’ve hijacked their booth since they are gone and people keep asking me for stamps. I told the last person, “I’m sorry but that program has been cut.” I’m also giving directions to foreigners which is terrific fun.

I knew I’d be overwhelmed at SXSW but geezus . . . I’m averaging four films a day which leaves very little time for writing, sleeping and/or eating – almost none for blogging. There are hundreds of films premiering at SXSW spread across nine days and seven theaters and I’ve only seen 15 plus two shorts. The best part of this festival is being part of a film’s first audience. Several screenings, I’ve been sitting directly in front of or behind the filmmakers and been able to watch and listen to their reactions seeing their work on the big screen. Fascinating stuff.

Also, every single film screening is followed by a lively Q&A session with the cast and crew of the film - I am getting very spoiled by this. Every single time, I feel compelled to ask a question - my curiosity cannot resist the temptation and runs rampant. Next time I go see a regular movie, I’ll be sitting there, staring at the usher, waiting for Scarlett Johansen to show up and obediently answer all my questions.

“Fired”: A film by struggling actress, Annabelle Gurwitch, who was fired from a New York play by her hero, Woody Allen; he told her she looked ‘retarded.’ While licking her wounds, she started gathering tales of people getting fired –factory workers, office workers, healthcare workers, tollbooth collectors and yes, some show biz folks. The film deftly humanizes what is otherwise, a very common humiliating ordeal. In the end, we all realize, they did us a big favor. And, as one woman explained, “Pain plus time equals comedy.”

“OilCrash”: Bottom line, we are running out of oil and it will change our society in ways we cannot even imagine. The future looks Amish, folks. The film is, by far, the most disturbing thing I’ve ever seen on film. It not only made me want to sell my car, but check the air in my bike tires as well. Best/worst of all, the film is chock full of oil experts who tell the truth knowing it will put them out of business – oil tycoons in Texas, energy advisers to George W. Bush, big oil geologists. When those in the biz can’t deny it any longer, you know we’re screwed.

“SummerCamp!”: After screening “OilCrash” I sought out the emotional antidote and found it in this delightful documentary that follows a bunch of youngsters as they attend a three-week summer camp in Illinois. Whether or not you have memories of camp, you’ve been a kid and this charming film will take you back there with all the insecurities and all the joy. Though it reveals the inevitable homesickness and difficulties of trying to fit in, “SummerCamp!” is by far, the funniest thing I’ve seen here at SXSW. A sincere gem.

“The Life of Reilly”
: You may remember Charles Nelson Reilly as the funny guy on 70s game shows. No, he’s not dead but people always assume he is, which propelled him to do a stage performance of his life. Not only did the show receive rave reviews but he performed it over 400 times in five years. The film documents the final show and there is no way to overstate this: It is BRILLIANT. Though Reilly is one of the world’s busiest actors and widely revered as a dramatic instructor, few know this. Be prepared; Reilly will blow your mind with his talent.

Tomorrow, I will write up a three-minute report on SXSW, record it on my computer, make it into an MP3 and email it to my producer in San Francisco. It will broadcast on the air Wednesday evening and be available on the Internet the following Friday.

Man, I love technology.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

SXSW: Lunch With A Stranger and Four Films

Yesterday's theme was money: Having a lot of it, having none of it and having it on credit.

I awoke in opulent luxury – the photo at left is of my toilet. I’m staying at the home of family friends, Doug and Karen, two very warm, generous people that happen to be loaded, at least by my frugal standards. The house I'm in has four bathrooms and a couple of TVs the size of my aparment. They had a $40,000 pool put in, for the dogs, Chance and Charlie. Every detail of the home's decor is done with delicate care and thought and nothing here comes from Target, I can assure you.

So, I drive into town, park the car and begin the search for food. So many choices but none seems to fit what I crave. Also, I'm in a hurry and have a panel to attend. A heavyset woman with sad eyes approaches me on the street and pleads for me to buy her lunch. She insists she does not want my money but just a sandwich and knows a cheap place to get one. I hesitated. As a San Franciscan I am thick-skinned to the various homeless pleas I hear every day but something about her intrigued me. “Please,” she implored, “I’m an ex-band wife.”

There but for the grace O’God . . .

The woman recommended a nearby place called Marisco’s, good food, and cheap prices. She seemed hesitant when we entered the restaurant – should she sit? Was I going to get her something to go? I grabbed us a table and we shared lunch.

Her name was Angel. A native Texan, she turns 35 today though she looks much older. She wasn’t always down on her luck, in fact, she grew up in a gated community called Woodside and describes her own youth as a “well-protected bubble.” In fact, she spent her girlhood training to become an Olympic ice skater and only listened to Christian music, unaware of crime, alcohol, politics or any other difficulties.

This all came crashing down at the age of 17 1/2 when everything was taken away. Though her mother worked for the FBI, she was behind in paying taxes and overnight, they had nothing. (Her father died when she was 3.) It was a slippery slope from there. Bad men, bad choices, bad habits led her to a world of nothing. She had five children (the latest one supposedly a month ago, which she immediately gave up for adoption) but doesn’t know where any of them are.

As we ate our rice and beans, she said, “I know you are spending money and all and I appreciate it,” she said, fiddling with her fork nervously, “but what I really appreciate is the company.”

Ironically, I had to leave to attend a screening of "Maxed Out" by James Scurlock (no website that I can find yet,) a "portrait of an America drowning in debt." It is hard to convey here how important this film is - the statistics and personal illustrations are simply overwhelming. He reveals the predatory strategies of the credit card biz and what extreme ends people go to, to pay for the American dream. Amazing facts revealed:

>Last year, more Americans declared bankruptcy than graduated from college, divorced or got cancer.
>The average American has 12 credit cards and a debt of roughly $10,000.
>Every US household owes $88,000 as their share of the national debt - an increase of $9,000 since the film went into production two years ago.

During the Q&A, I got up and announced that come Wednesday, I would finally be debt-free. The cast and the audience cheered. Afterwards, I went up to hug the woman in the film, Janne, whose 19-year-old son hung himself after getting in over his head with debt. She cried, it was intense. The film made me want to go live in a cabin I build myself and eat off the land. Anyone wanna come?

Other films I saw:

"Al Franken: God Spoke": Documentary goes with Al on his book tour and through the painful 2004 election. Includes a great fight with Anne Coulter and reveals Al in his most vulnerable and funny angles. A must-see for FrankenFans.

"Danny Roane: First-Time Director": Written, directed and starring Andy Dick as has-been sitcom actor who decides to jump behind the camera and document his descent into alcholism. Funny in spots but gets tiresome quickly. I enjoyed the Q&A more when I got to meet my heroine from MAD TV, Mo Collins! Compared to her, Andy is an annoying gnat.

"This Film Is Not Yet Rated": Right up there with "Maxed Out," this film MUST be seen by everyone that loves film. Kirby Dick (that's right back-to-back Dick directors) puts his balls on the line to investigate the secret members of the MPAA ratings board. Literally, he hires a private dick (sorry, last time) to delve into Jack Valenti's private party that doles out the Gs, the PG-13s, the Rs and the dreaded NC-17s. As Dick himself asks incredulous, "What is this, 'Star Chamber?'" A very chilling film.

Honestly, this film deserves more commentary but I'm already late for a long day of sitting on my butt and absorbing. I'll try add more links later but all these films can be found at www.sxsw.com.

A final tidbit: I forgot to mention that when I was racing to get to the screening of "A Prarie Home Companion" on Friday night, I jokingly asked the driver to drop me off on the red carpet. Sure enough, he screeched so close to the action that John C. Reilly, who was giving an interview, actually stepped back in alarm. When I got out, all the cameras swung around to see the celeb popping out. Instead, they got me, frumpy, wrinkled and carrying too many bags.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

SXSW: Lost And Somewhat Forgotten

For once, my timing was perfect. I landed in Austin, got my baggage, snagged the rental car, fought through traffic, parked on a dirt lot (only $5!) got all my badges, checked in the press counter and plopped in my theatre seat for my first screening at "South by Southwest" - just six minutes before it began.

For me, it was the ideal film to kick off SXSW. Called "The Last Western," it's a documentary about Pioneertown, California, a town built by Hollywood as a set for movie Westerns and then abandoned. The film looks at the fringe-dwelling residents who now inhabit this middle-of-nowhere town. As described in an earlier post, I have an intense pull towards this area and have pondered moving to the nearby town of 29 Palms quite seriously.

So, it was strange to watch a film where I knew most of the characters, been to the places, knew the history and felt the atmosphere described. I'd also been exchanging emails with the director, Chris Deaux, about a man I'd met years earlier who should have been included in this.

It was summer 2001, the afternoon prior to my best friend's wedding. The bridal party was getting pedicures and manicures in Lakewood, California. We'd all finished and were heading to our cars in the parking lot. Someone asked to see Lisa's wedding dress and as she was pulling it out of the trunk, a slow car came around us. No one paid much attention but something made me strike up a conversation with the driver, an old man with a small dog. He wanted to pull over and show me something and it seemed rather urgent.

His name was Shorty Creswell and he introduced me to his small, faithful terrier, Sooner. He opened the trunk and brought out one scrapbook after another, all detailing his life in Pioneertown in the '50 and '60s. He played the scraggly-bearded town drunk, the misfit, the petty thief and spent much of his career being tossed out of saloons and killed in gunfights. He loved every minute of it and clearly, he found life rather dull since then.

He couldn't stop talking and told us (my pal, Diane, was now fascinated as well) about the old days. He and his partner-in-crime, Cactus Kate, went through one adventure after another. "But she died long ago," he said sadly.

Chris and I are trying to get in touch with Shorty so he can come see the film. If you get a chance, please check it out. It's a rare, forgotten slice of California history and it shouldn't have to live in someone's trunk.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Soon to be Over-Stimulated

Just to let all three of you know, I'll be reporting from the road all next week and I couldn't be more pleased. I'm covering the film festival portion of "South by Southwest" for my regular radio gig, "Movie Magazine International." It'll be my first SXSW and already, I'm overwhelmed.

I'll be in screening rooms all day long as the Texas sun blazes outside. By the end of it, I'll look like a pasty mole but gloriously happy to at least feel like a real reporter again.

Speaking of which, I just turned in yet another article to the Nob Hill Gazette. Lord knows, this is not my crowd ("An Attitude, Not An Address") what with all the old money types, Baroness This and Esquire that. Still, I love them because they always call and give me random assignments, indeed, the closest I've come to my dream job. The story I just submitted was on the history of bridal/baby showers. (Turns out we can blame the Dutch for that too.)

Anyway, off I go to fumble my way through the dark. I hope to post frequently with photos.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

And Speaking Of Going Backwards . . . .

They found an entire family in Turkey that walks on all fours and it has the scientists all in a dither. They are calling it a "unique insight into human evolution."

I wonder how this is going to play in Kansas.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Going Backwards in Ruby Slippers

Already we've seen South Dakota vote to ban abortion and last I heard Mississippi was considering the same thing. Then there's Kansas.

Ah, Kansas. Home of intelligent design, www.godhatesfags.com and other colorful ideas. Columnist Ellen Goodman of the Boston Globe (I'd link ya but it costs $$) recently reminded me how stupidity still reigns in Dorothy's home state.

Along with 11 other foolhardy states, Kansas law deems it illegal for anyone under the age of 16 to have sex, even if both 15-year-olds are into it. (Ironically, 13-year-olds can legally marry in Kansas, just as long as they don't enjoy the wedding night too much.)

As a rabid pro-lifer and all-around meddlesome asshole, state Attorney General Phill Kline decided to go literal with this and announced that all doctors, educators, counselors and healthcare workers must report all underage sexual activity to the state.

As Goodman explained:

"The Kline Theory goes something like this: If sexual activity between teens is illegal, there's no such thing as consensual sex, and thus every act is harmful. These acts, by the way, include 'any lewd fondling or touching of the person . . . with the intent to arouse or satisfy the sexual desires.' In short, healthcare workers have to rat on 15-year-old sexual criminals who are lustily and mutually 'abusing' each other in the back seat of a Toyota."

Because this is America, the healthcare workers sued. Finally, a case I can get excited about! When lawyer Bonnie Scott Jones of the Center for Reporductive Rights put Kline on the stand, some pretty strange exchanges occurred:

"Is anything beyond kissing acceptable? For example, is oral sex performed by a boy a reportable crime?"
PK: "Yes."
BSJ: "What about oral sex performed by a girl?"
PK: "I'm not certain."

For Kline, blow jobs are more of a grey area, apparently.

Oh, yeah. It gets better. Next up, Dr. Elizabeth Shadigian, major proponent of the abortion-gives-you-breast-cancer campaign. On the stand, she stated her belief that teenage girls are always the victim because there's "a power differential between a boy and a girl. When girls have sex, they aren't doing, they have been done to."

As Goodman writes, "Frankly, I hadn't heard this argument since the late Andrea Dworkin maintained that all intercourse was rape. Radical feminism meets the
radical right in the Puritan revival."

This hits on a point that I've wrangled with modern-day feminists about, the knee-jerk jump to victimization. This should be the last resort used only when one is truly the victim of rape or assualt. Anything else, it's just plain whining. It is unproductive and unbecoming. There is a tiresome puritanical streak running through our gender's best and brightest and in the most extreme case, it looks like . . . well, it looks like Kansas.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

A Snippet Of My Day

I just got off the phone with the producer for "The G. Gordon Liddy Show." He was furiously packing for his trip to Iraq and had to put me on speaker phone. I gently reminded him to bring duct tape. There was some dead air where laughter should've been but I was only re-offering the advice given by our own lovable Tom Ridge.

Again, not funny.

Confession: I only made the awkward joke because I am jealous that he is going where the action is and I am but a mere phone monkey.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The National Disgrace Continues

Just when you think the First Monkey can't possibly be more publicly revealed as the naked emperor he truly is, we get more evidence. Yes, I'm talking about yet another example of Katrina buffoonery as revealed by the AP.

Never questioning, never worrying - I mean, the man was on vacation for godsakes! What could be expected of him? Sure, God may have told him that he was chosen to be President but maybe he and God weren't as close lately, otherwise, He would not keep sending these pesky natural challenges to fog up George's work life. Perhaps they got into an argument and God is miffed? George probably said the wrong thing - that is his specialty.

Y'know, despite all the mountain biking and jogging, George really seems more of an indoor kinda guy. Things make sense indoors and there's more likely to be other human types to explain things so he doesn't have to ask even one single question just to be sure. Why bother being sure when there are other people who do that so much better?

The photo here was taken along the Gulf Coast in Mississippi over the holidays. I would bet a leaking FEMA trailer that these appliances are still hanging in the wind. As I mentioned, it is like this everywhere, for miles and miles and miles. Yes, I know that New Orleans is getting a lot more press these days but remember, this is much bigger area than a city. I'm talking about a region.

Federal disaster declarations blanketed 90,000 square miles of the United States, an area almost as large as the United Kingdom! Causing $72 billion in damages, this is the costliest cyclone of all time and, at last count, 1,420 were confirmed dead.

Between the unneccessary war in Iraq and the pointless loss of life in the South, George's legacy will be the spilled blood of these Americans. He has now killed far more of my fellow countrymen than Osama bin Laden ever did.

The only thing that comforts me is knowing that this will be his presidential legacy and his raving, murderous, incredibly infantile ego will be remembered as accurately as possible. I may regret this post tomorrow but tonight, I am filled with a deep rage and a loathing that is not found burrowed deep within me, rather, it sits there on the shelf, every day, as I hang my head in shame that my country I love so much is being led by an ignorant man-child with no sense of our place in the world.

I can't think of what pains me more - the knowledge that we have he and Dick "Buckshot" Cheney for three more years or that hurricane season is coming in four months and we still haven't cleaned up after the last one. Either way, there is more disaster to come.