Friday, February 29, 2008

Watch Me Die, Courtesy of NetFlix

Gentle readers,

A 'slasher' horror movie may or may not be your bag - as in body bag - and by no means would I insist you sit through one, not even this one, if it would not amuse you. The movie I refer to The Cellar Door, a nasty little number about a homicidal killer who looks vaguely like someone you've seen in commercials, who is drawn to comely women who loll about their unsecured apartments scantily clad, and seems to have lots of time on his hands. Yes, one of those.

It was written by a thoroughly reprehensible person with whom I have cultivated friendship as a way of, hopefully, taming him and channeling him into socially redeeming pursuits. So far, I have failed miserably.

The movie played in a few cities and is now coming out on DVD. It is also up on NetFlix, and those of you with NetFlix are in a position to do me and my emerging family a small favor. Here's the deal: if lots of people put our movie in their queue, NetFlix will buy more DVD's.

Would you NetFlix people be so kind as to put our movie in your queue? You don't have to watch the movie when it arrives, and if you do take some little pleasure in watching my filleting, that's none of my business.

Thank you ever so much!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Suck It Up, America

From the White House transcript of today's press conference with George W. Bush, Caesar. (Emphasis mine):


Q. You can get the Congress to protect telecom companies from lawsuits, but then there's no recourse for Americans who feel that they've been caught up in this. I know it's not intended to spy on Americans, but in the collection process, information about everybody gets swept up and then it gets sorted. So if Americans don't have any recourse, are you just telling them, when it comes to their privacy, to suck it up?

THE PRESIDENT: I wouldn't put it that way, if I were you, in public. Well, you've been long been long enough to -- anyway, yes.

Sallie Mae Winehouse

Financial woe, woe, woe.

I ain't got the dough
And sure would love it so
If I could defer my student loans
But they say no, no, no.

Yes, I been poor,
I try to earn more,
But can't get flow, flow, flow.

I ain't got the dough
And sure would love it so
Wanna defer the student loans
But they say no, no no.

(With a bow to Amy Winehouse...)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Another Musing on the Soiled Nest

There you are - thank you for stopping by again. I've just been downstairs hauling a stack of newsprint advertisements and junk mail to the big blue bin.

Some of the junk mail, I save. Specifically, the junk mail with postage-paid reply envelopes. What I like to do with these - seriously, I actually do this and recommend it - is stuff OTHER companies' junk mail into the envelopes and then post them. Give Consolidated Mutual Conglomerate of America, Inc. a taste of their own medicine - send them some junk mail they don't want.

The theatre company down on Riverside Drive sent a missionary to our street this weekend, and soon every automobile parked on either side was decked with a little paper advertisement under its windshield wiper.

It's a low-budget solution for marketing your show, and as far as getting people into your theatre to catch your show, it probably feels like it's better than nothin'. I wonder, though, how many choose to take in your show because you stuck a card on their car's windshield, sharing advertising space with landscapers and insurance "companies" that are headquartered in some dude's kitchen?

How much thought goes into all of this flyer advertising? When I was trying to advertise my fledgling theatre school any way I could, I stuck a few flyers in places I thought were strategic. It occurs to me that I never went back to dispose of the unwanted ones. Disposal was a problem I left to somebody else.

A billboard, you drive past. Something tucked under your windshield wiper ("ARE YOU PAYING TO MUCH FOR YOU'RE CAR INSURANCE??") becomes your problem. Just like the junk mail you clear from the mailbox every day, the faxes you pull off your fax machine in the morning, and the text messages you delete, trying not to remember that you are paying for your friends to remind you about their show - several times. (I had a friend's theatre company text me about her show 5 times, after I had bought a ticket. I asked for a dollar rebate.)

Well, I won't do it. That flyer from the Knightsbridge Theatre is STILL on my windshield as of Monday night. It flies like a tiny flag, wappa-dappa-flappa down the freeway. Of course, it might blow off and fall into the ocean along with business cards and Chinese restaurant menus ("CHEF TO-MAYN - YOU WON'T HAVE TO GO TO WORK TOMORROW") and real estate circulars and diverse crap emblazoned with advertising messages, floated into the marketplace (and the ecosystem) like forlorn messages in bottles, with no thought given to them beyond the advertising itself. Then you have to clean it up, and if you complain, you are cast as an opponent of free speech.

At the Zen Center, I charged this collision of free speech abuse and rubbish disposal when I noticed we were getting hit every single day with a little plastic bag full of advertisements that were of no interest to us. Every day, the entire neighborhood got deliveries of these baggies, flung into their hedges, hung from their doorknobs, and so on. No phone number on the bag. No phone number on the website listed on the bag.

I became curious. I investigated and finally got a corporate office and a phone number and, well, I was Alice in Wonderland. They said they would take us off their "delivery list" and never did; the righteously defended their right to litter in the name of the First Amendment, and would hear no entreaty; and then they stopped taking my calls.

Clearly my value system is screwed up.

A plot was conceived - a collection of all these baggies advertising dental products and work-at-home schemes and psychic readings and suchlike pooh, until the back of a truck was full of them, followed by a visit to said corporate office with a very special delivery - an innocent mission to return "something you dropped."

Conceived, yes; spoken aloud to other people, even. Yet the garden needed work, and then something else came up, and the mood passed. But I still send my junk mail to Bank of America, by God; and I ask telemarketers if I can call them back on their home phone.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Our Den of Felinility


When you live in a cigarette filter like Los Angeles, you need a place to curl up like a cat. Our den is straining at the studs, with more square feet than you usually get for under a thousand dollars we are still inching around each other what with all the books and my lady's piano and our other instruments, two of us, a baby on the way, and of course the pussycat who fancies himself an ocelot.

My Sunday's business consisted of an unsuccessful mission to Home Despot, looking for a certain kind of doodad that would not require me to drill a hole in the whoozis that needs a doodad, but the doodads were not designed that way so the whoozis must go without a doodad until I get a varoom and violate the whoozis sufficient for the doodad.

Seeking to console myself with a nice cappo, I took myself to the villagey part of Los Feliz and what do you know, but The Alcove was crammed, Mustard Seed across the street had nowhere to sit, and Psychobabble was populated by the Laptop Undead staring sullenly into the menacing blue glow of their notebook-sized screens with wires running from their ears.

Stopped at the bookstore to smell the bindings and calm down somewhat, but the panic was aching in my chest as I swam in the sirens and breathed in the rainy air, like drinking dishwater while running at full speed - unpleasant. And then to come up our hill and catch sight of the rentstead, to catch the distance of our tiny den behind a garden wall like the belfry of a run-down palace, a place where cats may curl up. The window you see on top is where we are.

You are always welcome here once you find your way in. Those who know the way can always find food here, hear a song, and vent whatever awful idea has occurred to them today.

It is our den of fenility. We are all mad as housecats here.

A Disheveled Campaign

Previously, Notes From A Burning House has suggested that the way a politician campaigns will provide clues as to how that candidate will govern.

On a similar note, Frank Rich of the New York Times examines Senator Clinton's "disheveled campaign" and is surprised that "this is the candidate who keeps telling us she’s so competent that she’ll be ready to govern from Day 1."

I think the parallel he tries to draw between Hillary Clinton's primary campaign and the Bush Administration's handling of the Iraq war is a bit strained. He has, however, examined the management of the campaign and, well, we have to wonder why they underestimated the senator from Illinois, why they let themselves get so outflanked, why they still aren't in Vermont if they're planning to "go all the way" as they vowed, why they don't understand the Texas primary-caucus system yet - and why this "inexperienced" upstart who allegedly lacks substance has out-organized her?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Lord Buckley and Groucho Marx, No Way!

YouTube find of the month!

Lord Buckley is a guest on Groucho Marx's quiz show in 1956 and they GROOVE.

The other guest is a peach, too. Intimidated by no one, her. "MERELY a housewife?? Ha!"



Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Weekend

It was your typical long weekend, I suppose.

We paid a visit to the Los Angeles Equestrian Center with friends and watched horses jump over things. After this, Sarah needed a hamburger, so went to one of our favorite places in Los Feliz village and bought her some meat.

A day later, our travels took us to Orange County where Sarah and her bellydancing trio wiggled and shimmied at a Viet Namese fundraising event - all I could make out is that this was benefitting a village back home - at the auditorium of the Santa Ana High School. Before they came out, I sat through more than an hour of pop songs and power ballads all in Viet Namese and applauded announcements I did not comprehend.

You know, a typical weekend.

On the world stage, Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia, and was immediately recognized by the United States. Fidel Castro resigned as President of Cuba, ending 49 years of rule there. Pakistan held its elections, which had been postponed following the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, and to everyone's surprise the ruling party acknowledged defeat.

Again - just your average run-of-the-mill weekend.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Saturday, February 16, 2008

America Is Unsafe!!


I am going to hide under this bed until Congress allows Caesar to tap my phone with impunity!

At midnight, instead of the invasive Protect America Act, we will be forced to investigate and disrupt terrorists using the more "constitutional" (read: terrorist-loving!) FISA law. And that's just not good enough. Our Leader must have unbridled power to surveil us and keep us safe from any threat, unspecified or theoretical, from now until the end of history. We need a permanent infrastructure to spy on all our communications!

Unless we give our President the right to surveil our communications without a warrant, our nation stands on the brink of disaster.

So I have torn up and burned every copy of the Bill of Rights I could find in the house - including my freedom-hating neighbors' copies - and now I am sequestered under this bed until the President sounds the all clear and tells me, in those short sentences of his, that America has been scrubbed clean of due process and checks and balances that make us vulnerable to terror.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Whatever Happened To Befriending?

"To friend" is not a verb.

No, it isn't.

And no, I'm not a neo-Luddite old fart who resists new technology. Get over yourself. Here at Notes From A Burning House, we love the internet (obviously! hello, blogosphere!), and all those social networking sites on which you spend your leisure time. If we were on Facebook, we'd throw you a sheep to prove how "with it" we are.

We have very good words in this old language of ours, and we have very powerful verb form of "friend" that already does the job you are trying to do when you take a noun and force it to pretend it's a verb.

The verb is BEFRIEND.

Human beings have befriended one another throughout history. You don't "friend" anybody. You also don't car to work, beer yourself at the end of the day, or advil your headache.

To be fair, we have to admit that some nouns have become accepted as verbs. We "mail" things to one another. We also telephone people, but we don't "cell" them - at least not yet. In Los Angeles, many people are "gunned down" year after year. Okay, these things happen.

We will not, however, "friend" you. On the other hand, we are always happy to befriend you and welcome your comments.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Wildest Thing

One evening at our Zen group in Providence, Rhode Island, I asked a question of Lincoln Rhodes, Ji Do Poep Sa Nim. In those days, Linc wasn't teaching much, so I blew this up into "a rare opportunity" (i.e. something for me me me me) to hear a word from a long-time Zen student who had practiced in a lot of places and peculiar situations. I asked Linc the wildest thing he had learned through all these experiences. His response was right on point. He took a long, gentle breath and suddenly it seemed as if he were ten feet tall sitting on his cushion and he said, "The wildest thing is to sit here with you."

Recently on Oprah Winfrey's show, five people submitted to a happiness test, where their happiness was judged by a psychologist who writes books about happiness. He is the director of no less an endeavor than the Happiness Project.

Petitionary religion and magic are doing very well in the spiritual marketplace. Yet all of the videos and seminars are powerless to bring me the improbable joy of sitting in this place right now. And the reason for that isn't arcane or mystical in the slightest. The joke is that in order to seek or confirm our happiness, we have to depart from the center where actual happiness resides. We leave our center and go look for more books or classes to tell us how to be our true selves. Zen teachers are always testing our center, yanking on our eyebrows to see if we move. Once we are in on the joke, we get to hit the Zen Master and say, "I don't need your dharma," as the hilarious story of Hyang Bong reminds us.

The aspiration of a Zen teacher, however, is that you will one day believe in your true center. The wildest thing is to be right here.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Culture, The Post Office, and My Hat

Before I tell you about my trip to the post office, I should tell you about my hat.

It's a hat I bought for twelve bucks at a store in Long Beach. This is the hat.




Now, let me tell you about my trip to the post office.

Today I had to send a letter by certified mail. This meant taking a trip to the post office on Central Avenue and 43rd Place. I took the letter and six dollars from petty cash, put on my hat, and went to the post office.

Every time I go to this post office, I come back with a story. Here is today's.

I stood in line for a while. At this post office, standing in line appears to be optional. Some people do it and some people don't. No one is very concerned about it.

When I got up to a window and presented my letter, the clerk regarded me with curiosity and finally said, "You're a muslim?"




"Um. No, ma'am. I am not a muslim. Are you a muslim?"

"No! I'm not a muslim," she said, but then she came right back at me with, "You're wearing the hat!"

What else could I say to that? I had been caught red-handed. There was no sneaking any Islamic-looking people past this woman. I admitted as much as I knew: "Yes, ma'am," I confessed. "I am wearing a hat."

Fortunately, the woman working the window to my left saved us both with a wider perspective on the whole situation. "Oh!" she exclaimed with eureka shining from her eyes. "After all, it is black history month!"




This seemed to satisfy everybody and bring the conversation to a happy close.

Except for this nagging feeling that I had completely missed something...

Bathroom Dream

It was our bathroom here at home, and I was cleaning the shower walls and the bathtub.

The chore proceeded much as normal, with me scrubbing away and spraying the tile and the basin with some kind of commercial mildew-eating cleaning product. Spritz spritz, scrub scrub.

Very quickly, I notice that the spritz spritz is having a disasterous, astringent effect: the tile and the basin dry out, contract, and begin to crack. Before I stop scrubbing, I see a hole emerging in the tub itself...

Whereupon I wake up confused.


Comments section is now open for your dream interpretation!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Remembering Ralph DiGia

It is hard to imagine the War Resisters League without Ralph DiGia. But Ralph is taking a break now. His 93-year old body passed away on February 1.

When I was in college, during the first Persian Gulf war, there was an incident one day in which a visitor to our offices unleashed a loud verbal tirade - the usual litany of charges about how unpatriotic we were, la la la - and stormed out as loudly as possible. In the man's wake, timed as the loud stomping down the stairs toward Lafayette Street began, Ralph called out: "Have a nice day!" without a hint of nastiness.

That was Ralph. Mischievious yet affectionate, feelings that embraced all of humanity.

The New York Times wrote a lovely story about Ralph in 2003.

Even more moving is this reflection by David MacReynolds, another senior staff member at the WRL, someone whom I admired very much.

Some of us are pacifists and nonviolent in theory — we can talk a good game. But one afternoon, as I looked out my window at 339 Lafayette...I saw a gang of youth approaching a man, clearly fearful and backing away, as the gang swung clubs. “What”, I thought, “would be the right pacifist response — after all, here we are, the national office of a pacifist organization”. While I was pondering the theoretical question, I saw that Peter Kiger and Ralph DiGia had rushed out from our building and were putting themselves between that single frightened man and the mob.


Yes, that was Ralph.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Hillary Clinton Lied To My Face (And Yours)

Let me offer a concrete example with actual quotes, of why I cannot support Hillary Clinton for President short of a miraculous transformation of her character.

On 31 January 2008, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama had a debate in Hollywood - just a short drive from my apartment, as a matter of fact, at the Kodak Theatre. You may have watched it on CNN or caught it on YouTube. Perhaps you listened to it on the radio, as Sarah and I did in our respective traffic jams.

Senator Clinton was asked a very interesting question regarding Iraq. She was asked specifically why she voted against Senator Carl Levin's amendment to the Congressional authorization for the use of force in Iraq in 2002.

You can read the text of Levin's amendment yourself by clicking here.

In Los Angeles, Senator Clinton said she could not vote for the amendment because it "suggested the United States would subordinate whatever our judgment might be going forward to the United Nations Security Council." (Those are her words from the CNN debate on January 31.)

There can be no mistake here. It is not a matter of misinterpretation. I quote directly from Levin's amendment: "Congress...affirms that, under international law and the United Nations Charter, the United States has at all times the inherent right to use military force in self-defense."

Moreover, here is what Senator Levin said about his own amendment, straight from the Congressional Record: "There is no veto given the United Nations in this resolution of ours. Quite the opposite. We explicitly make it clear we maintain, of course, a right to use self-defense."

Senator Clinton knew what she was voting against in 2002, and in 2008 she sat in my city and lied to me and the American people about what she voted on and why.

For me, it has nothing to do with her being a woman, and nothing to do with Bill. Hillary Clinton already has her own legacy and it is a dark one. Like George W. Bush, she willingly misinformed the public about important public legislation that led us to war.

This isn't a case of hazy recollection less than six years later! If her memory was that bad, I'd be opposing her candidacy on grounds of incompetence. No, friends, she is highly competent. She is also invested in this war and will not say why; and, as indicated here, she is all too willing to violate the truth in order to invest us in it.

No. On the life of my son, no. Hillary Clinton is a paid-up member of a status quo that kills people and defiles the United States.

No, from my very soul.

A Reunion

My college mate Sander Hicks was in town this week and it was good to see him. Our paths had not crossed in 15 years.

Sander and I were both students in the theatre department at Eugene Lang College in New York City. In those days, Sander played guitar and sang. He had a face and physique for playing tough guys. He wrote songs, poems, and stories. When we weren't acting in plays together or getting our chops busted by Warren David Keith in acting class, we were doing political work together. I worked as an intern at War Resisters League (alongside the recently-deceased Ralph DiGia) and we both were part of "Hands Off!" criticizing U.S. military policies and the culture of militarism itself.

On Thursday night, I drove down to Venice and paid a visit to the Beyond Baroque book shop to see him. I didn't know what he'd be doing - reading from one of his books, singing, or what. Indeed, when I arrived, Jason Heath was singing while Sander sat to one side and consulted his notes. When the band finished, Sander opened up a cooler full of complimentary beer and soft drinks.


Sander has accomplished much without becoming a celebrity or being assassinated.

When St. Martin's press abruptly recalled a controversial (and best-selling) 2000 biography of George Walker Bush (then a candidate for President of the United States), Sander is the man who intervened and published the book on his own press.

Inspired by the likes of Greg Palast, Sander became an independent investigative journalist himself and showed a talent for it. He has reported for AlterNet, the New York Press, and other media. After the abomination of September 11, Sander conducted his own research about the complicated relationships among intelligence agencies, governments, and terrorist groups, and wrote a book called The Big Wedding: 9/11, The Whistleblowers and The Cover-Up. He is active in New York's Green Party, writes, and runs a neighborhood coffee shop in Brooklyn that promotes activism and hosts candidate debates.

This month, he's on a west coast lecture tour and this was an early stop. Sander spoke from notes, but needed a little prompting to finish the story he was here to tell. He is an eager listener who sometimes jumps to conclusions - something I had noticed in Big Wedding - and loses the thread of the story he's telling. On the other hand, his research is extensive and while its implications are often chilling, Sander himself is cheerful, optimistic, and patriotic. He turns from the darkness to speak of grassroots progressive change, of his faith in democratic participation by citizens.

And interestingly, as he turned from the dark underbelly of September 11 and the Bush family to express these positive sentiments (and his religious faith), people started to walk out. The risers at Beyond Baroque creak loudly and Sander had to talk over quite a bit of ruckus.

Following his talk - which eventually included the whole story of the death of Dr. David Graham, a 9/11 researcher who died a suspicious death in 2006 - a group of us ended up at La Cabana, a nearby Mexican place that is convenient even if it is not to everybody's taste.

I had the pleasure of giving my old college mate a ride back to his hotel in downtown Los Angeles. On the way there, in mid-conversation, Sander fell asleep. His head dipped and the seatbelt kept him from falling forward, and he slept the brief, deep catnap of an activist on a rock and roll schedule.

At his hotel he hugged me, grabbed his box of unsold books, told me to find him on LinkedIn.com, and was gone. The next day, he was in Santa Barbara and today he's in San Francisco, making his way north all the way to Seattle. By then, he should have his story down pretty well. Theatre is like that sometimes - you get it right just in time for closing.

Then he'll go home to his coffee shop, a woman who loves him, and his adorable 2-year old son.

A Brief Word About the Republican Contests

The political experts and pundits are falling over with their brains coming out of their ears! Mike Huckabee is still around and winning primaries! How could it be?

Apparently, some folks still insist on voting for what they want.

They were told that McCain is now the frontrunner, they were told their candidate cannot win the nomination, they were told to silence their wishes and exercise their right to vote strategically. Indeed, from the perspective of a sincere Huckabee voter, what the establishment was ordering them to do was vote for the worser of two evils - for the good of their party.

And in Kansas and Louisiana yesterday, voters said, "Hey, thanks for the tip, but all the same we're gonna cast a vote for the candidate we like."

Amazing. If that keeps up, Mike Huckabee will still not be the nominee - but the mandate behind him establishes a constituency. Conservative Republicans are not inclined to be pushed aside by expediency. They consider their party as something that belongs to them as much as it belongs to other voters.

Progressive democrats might learn something from the people voting for Mike Huckabee. I can't tell you how many Dems I've heard lamenting that they couldn't possibly vote for Dennis Kucinich even though, on issues and philosophy, he was their candidate. Democrats have learned that they can't vote for the person they really want. That's why Russ Feingold didn't run for President, and that's why Congressman Kucinich couldn't even get into Democratic debates. That's why Democrats run in fear of being called "liberal." That's why they forever bet against their ideals and best aspirations.

The Huckabee voters do not subscribe to such self-defeating malaise. They compare the two remaining candidates for their party's nomination, and - against all conventional wisdom - vote for the candidate they want.

I applaud them. And no, I am not applauding them because it might tip the GOP further to the right and give the Democrats an advantage. No sir, I am sincerely applauding their willingness to vote for the candidate they want and to make their voices heard.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Controlled Drowning?

Previously, this blog has addressed our country's use of waterboarding as an interrogation technique. We've looked at various euphemisms employed by the press and the government for the technique, and marveled at the claims by our new Attorney General, and a candidate for President of the United States, that they didn't know what waterboarding was.

In particular, I took offense to the mainstream press's pet euphemism - "simulated drowning." There is in fact nothing whatsoever "simulated" about it. Waterboarding is drowning.


Meanwhile, some news media continue to use this "simulated drowning" abstraction to refer to drowning interrogations, including ABC and the Washington Post. However, a new euphemism has appeared in some newspapers and NPR, perhaps in an effort to get a little closer to the truth. We begin to see waterboarding referred to as "controlled drowning."

It acknowledges the drowning aspect - good. Still, coupled with "controlled," the expression is meaningless. We KNOW it's controlled. We figure Khalid Sheikh Muhammad didn't fall asleep in the bathtub while special forces agents sat by rapping with him about the Q'ran.

If waterboarding is "controlled drowning," what the hell is execution in the electric chair? "Controlled microwaving?"

Sunday, February 03, 2008

What If They Gave A Race, and Everybody Strolled?

This might be a good year for us to start questioning the need to inject "race" into our political campaigns. And no, I am not talking about the Clintons flirting with the race card in the Democratic primary or whether it's really Obama playing race.

No, I'm talking about this persistent illusion that an election is a race. It's called a "race" in all of the news coverage. Its progress is followed by news commentators who narrate it as if it were a football game (gosh, I wonder why a football metaphor occurs to me today!) We could hear more deliberative and in-depth analysis of policy positions and fact-checking from our press, but most of the time it's a blow-by-blow of sound bytes and zingers and one-liners.

Sarah likes to listen to KFWB in the morning. One morning last week, the commentators spent several minutes trying to parse McCain and Romney's personal feelings for each other, as if this were relevant to anything. Sadly, a great deal of mainstream news coverage compares meagerly to the gossip among sixth graders in a lunch room.

Then of course there are the polls. The constantly-refreshing opinion samples are compared and built up as if Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were actually running a marathon. Yesterday's numbers show her a little bit ahead, but oh! Look! This new poll shows Obama pulling ahead.

They do this so that we keep watching, and keep exposing ourselves to their advertisers.

May I say this about the emperor's clothes? THERE IS NO RACE. And frankly, I don't want one. I am not voting for captain of the track team. I am voting to select someone for the highest office in the land, someone who will be commander in chief of the world's most powerful military arsenal, someone who will be burdened with the tremendous responsibility over the executive branch of my government and speaking for the United States on the world stage.

The only aspect of the primary I will recognize as a "race" is a race against the clock. The candidates running for their parties' nominations are, I will grant, in a bit of a race to make their case to voters across 24 states and American Samoa. Fine, I'll give you that.

Other than the rushing around to address as many audiences as possible before the voting, there is no race. There is a period of debate: candidates debating each other, and the rest of us chattering amongst ourselves. There are advertisements and rallies. There are parades of endorsements. Boil it down, and what you have is a period of talking and thinking. Finally, the day comes, and we vote. Then the votes are counted and a winner is declared.

If we must resort to a dramatic metaphor to give elections some character, how about swapping the "race" for a "trial?" If it's a trial, voters become jurors, and we have a responsibility to listen to the cases presented by these candidates and assess something beyond the price of their haircuts or whether they are polling better among left-handed Hispanic piano-tuners. The juror listens to the opposing arguments, deliberates, and issues a verdict on election day.

I'll keep squawking it as long as I have this tiny soapbox in cyberspace: the only opinion poll that matters - at ALL - is the general election. The polls are only there to feed the narrative of "the race" and give the news programs something to gossip about while they wait for the election. Perhaps they feel that's a safer bet than actually bringing on knowledgable people to talk about the candidates' ideas and tell us which ones are full of shit. Too many important questions are going unasked while we are fed fake news.

On Tuesday morning, California has its primary. Sarah and I plan on getting up early in the morning and walking down the hill to the church where we vote. We will stroll languidly, enjoying the neighbors' gardens and the morning sky. We definitely will not race.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Mr. Baker Kneads The Dough

While scanning the news, it is always a joy to come across someone whose name mirrors his profession. For instance, an orthopedist named Dr. Bones or an electrician named Watt.

Thus, although I am really not interested in the affairs of the Spears family and the sad distress that appears to plague Brittany Spears in particular, I am delighted that the conservator of her estate is named Andrew Wallet!