Friday, January 30, 2009

A Gershwin Friday Meets The Song Stuck in My Head When I Woke Up This Morning

"By Strauss" was one of George Gershwin's last tunes, written with Ira for their friend Vernon Duke's 1936 Broadway production The Show Is On. It's a playful song about someone (a girl in the original version) who prefers the waltzes of Johann Strauss II to the coarse, loud "new music."

I've always thought this was one of the finest examples of Ira Gershwin's intelligence and wit as a lyricist. The entire first verse is wonderful, and any work that rhymes "souses" with "Strauss's" and "free and easy" with "Viennese-y" is pretty much a miracle of the songwriting craft. Those generations raised in the shadow of the Bob Dylan colossus too often forget (or, sadly, never know) just how damn good some of the tin-pin alley folks were when it came to playing with the English language.

And, of course, the song also features George Gershwin goofing with the waltz form, which was a rare and fascinating occasion in itself.

Ella Fitzgerald has a good version on her George and Ira Gershwin Songbook. Unfortunately, I couldn't find it on YouTube. This one, by Lesley Garrett, is a little too PBS-y for my taste, but she doesn't screw around with the lyrics, and she does give it a fun rendition.

"By Strauss"
(George and Ira Gershwin)

Away with the music of Broadway
Be off with your Irving Berlin
Oh, I give no quarter to Kern or Cole Porter
And Gershwin keeps pounding on tin

How can I be civil when hearing such drivel?
It's only for night-clubbing souses
Oh, give me the free-'n'-easy
waltz that is Vienneasy
and Go tell the band
if they want a hand,
The waltz must be Strauss's

Jah Jah Jah, give me oom-pa-pah
When I want a melody
Lilting through the house
Then I want a melody
By Strauss
It laughs, it sings, the world is in rhyme
Swinging in three-quarter time

Let the Danube flow along
And the Fledermauss
Keep the wine and give me song
By Strauss

By Jove, by Jing, by Strauss is the thing
So, I say to ha-cha-cha, heraus!
Just give me an oom-pa-pah by Strauss!

Let the Danube flow along
And the Fledermauss
Keep the wine and give me song
By Strauss

By Jove, by Jing, by Strauss is the thing
So, I say to ha-cha-cha, heraus!
Just give me an oom-pa-pah by Strauss!

More on "By Strauss" from All Music Guide:
Gershwin wrote this song, featuring lyrics by his brother Ira, for the 1936 Vernon Duke Broadway revue The Show Is On. The Strauss in the title is Johann Strauss, the "waltz king," and the humorous lyrics call for the banishment of the Broadway music of Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, and of Gershwin. This was Gershwin's only song for that production and, ironically, it turned to be the last one to be performed on Broadway before his death in 1937, at the age of 38. Another oddity associated with "By Strauss" is that its original orchestration was lost shortly after the show closed. Now the song is heard in various arrangements by different composers or with Gershwin's original piano accompaniment. "By Strauss" presents a colorful theme sung to a waltz rhythm, its character quite different from Gershwin's style in Porgy and Bess and his earlier Broadway musicals like Oh, Kay! The mood is light, the music lively, and brief passages at the beginning and end quote from Strauss. While there is little jazz here and none of the black American folk idiom so pervasive in much of Gershwin's music, there is that unmistakable wit, that charming impudence typically found in the composer's songs. This is a delightful gem.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Beatles thought dream 012809

Your mother should know I’m so tired when I get home.
Yesterday, she came in through the bathroom window.

“Do you want to know a secret,” she said.
She said, “Baby, it’s you. I need you.”

“Wait, slow down, Michelle. You like me too much.”

Tell me why I saw her standing there, Julia.

She came in through the bathroom window the night before.

“Good day sunshine,” she said.
She said, “I want to tell you it’s only love.
I want to tell you I feel fine.”

“I’m so tired, Michelle. Good night.”

“Ask me why I need you, honey pie.”

No reply.

“Because I’m down,” she said.
She said, “Because in my life I’m a loser.”

I’ve got a feeling she’s leaving home. Something.

“I want to hold your hand, little child.
Hold me tight. I need you. I want you.”

She’s so heavy. Help, Julia.

“Oh! darling, please please me,” she said.
She said, “There’s a place . . . here,
there and everywhere. A taste of honey.”

“You can’t do that, Michelle, what you’re doing.”

“Bad boy. Why don’t we do it in the road?
Every little thing.
Every little thing,” she said.
She said the word “chains.”

“Get back, Michelle. Don’t bother me.”

She’s a woman, I should’ve known better.

“Honey, don’t. Don’t let me down.
All my loving. I need you.”

“Goodnight, Michelle.”

“I’ll be back. I will.”

“You won’t see me, Michelle.”

“I’ll get you,” she said.
She said, “It won’t be long.
I’ll get you. I will. Any time at all.
Run for your life, honey pie.”

It’s all too much, Julia.

Happiness is a warm gun,” she said.
She said, “Happiness is a warm gun.
All I’ve got to do . . .

P.S. I love you.”

Let it be the end, Julia.
Let it be the end.

thought dream 012709.2

O colossal cobra, demon of my mind,
rising up on reptilian muscle
from the core, the woven
wicker basket of the soul,
where you lay curled in darkness,
waiting for some mysterious
music to call you forth.

You're from the wrong culture.

It's the rattlesnake I fear.
Serpent of the Texas landscape,
hiding in crags of limestone in
rock shelves down by the river,
me rising out of the water
on a hot summer day, trying
to pull myself up on a ledge
in the August sun, hand
reaching out for something
to hold onto, you waiting
in the cool shadows. Always
waiting. Will I ever hear
your rattle before you strike?

God, I hate snakes.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

thought dream 012709

The Dark Knight driven backwards
into a field of poppies. A tractor.
A herd of sheep. The wind shrieks

out of caves and grottoes, demanding
recompense for all the damage. Your
Batmobile will do you no good here.

The men still hunt rabbits and cook
them in garlic. The 22,000 variations
of the Virgin Mary will not hear

your cry for help, your loneliness,
your bat signal. Gotham will go down
into the abyss, we all know that.

No billionaire capitalist in a rubber
suit can stop us from eviscerating
ourselves. It's the field of poppies

and the dirt road covered in paper-
thin garlic skins that you should fear.
The ten-thousand year-old demon

of the ordinary that awaits you.

Monday, January 26, 2009

thought dream 012109.2

5:27 pm january 21 sky bludgeoned
deep blue and turning black. tire tracks
in the hardened snow. waiting

for a bus in the slow upheaval.
somewhere, the towers burning.
the borders blurring. shadows

from skeletal trees grabbing at
the road. a dunkin donuts

in green light from a traffic
signal. night
scratching at the door.

gold christmas
lights (still)
draped on groomed

pine trees in the parking
lot of a bank. man
in desert camouflage

jacket walking
a black lab, the black

getting tangled
around his jeans. a taped

from the MTA about
broadcast over the loud-

speakers on an empty
train platform. when the bus
comes, I will pause

for a moment, say hello
to the driver, and carefully

the coins in the box.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

thought dream 012109

Excuse the mess.
Excuse the miss.
Excuse the mist.
Excuse the most.
Excuse the lost.
Excuse the list.
Excuse the lust.
Excuse the bust.
Excuse the best.
Excuse the beat
Excuse the bear.
Excuse the beer.
Excuse the seer.
Excuse the seen.
Excuse the seem.
Excuse the stem.
Excuse the step.
Excuse the stop.
Excuse the slop.
Excuse the slip.
Excuse the clip.
Excuse the clap.
Excuse the clam.
Excuse the clan.
Excuse the plan.
Excuse the flan.
Excuse the flap.
Excuse the flat.
Excuse the slat.
Excuse the seat.
Excuse the meat.
Excuse the melt.
Excuse the belt.
Excuse the bell.
Excuse the bill.
Excuse the bile.
Excuse the bite.
Excuse the bits.
Excuse the bets.
Excuse the Mets.
Excuse the mess.

Excuse this wayward journey back to the point where I began.

Friday, January 23, 2009

thought dream 011909

Sally sells sea shells by the seashore
without a vendor's license from the City Bigs.
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
exploited by The Man. Down on his luck,

drinking too much, driving a 1977 Impala
with a rusted tailpipe. Sally drowning
her sorrows at the Crazy Horse Saloon
on the under-developed side of town,

away from the waterfront gentrification.
Cops hassling her all day for selling
hand-painted conch shells, starfish
and silver dollars. Peter Piper laid off

by the multinational agri-business concern,
half his Mexican friends from the fields
rounded up by The Man in an orchestrated
media event to show the Senator is tough

on illegal Mescan alien terrorists. Eduardo
and Emilia in a Family Detention Center
somewhere in the desert, with their two
young girls who need medical attention,

forgotten until long after the Inauguration.
Sally shooting pool with Blind Boy Bill, who
once danced with the Nicholas Brothers
in a colored club down the coast after their

movie career was over. Peter Piper pleased
by Sally's smell and her finesse with a pool cue
as he watchers her play. It's not all bad news.
Peter and Sally will go home together. Drunk,

it's true, but sober enough in the morning
to realize they like each other's company.
She has kids. But that's okay. Peter Piper
slaps her butt while she's cooking them eggs.

It'll all work out.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Oscar Nominations

Penélope Cruz gets a nod for Best Supporting Actress

Nominations for the 81st Academy Awards are out this morning. Here are some of the major categories:

1. Best Picture: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "Frost/Nixon," "Milk," "The Reader," "Slumdog Millionaire."

2. Actor: Richard Jenkins, "The Visitor"; Frank Langella, "Frost/Nixon"; Sean Penn, "Milk"; Brad Pitt, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"; Mickey Rourke, "The Wrestler."

3. Actress: Anne Hathaway, "Rachel Getting Married"; Angelina Jolie, "Changeling"; Melissa Leo, "Frozen River"; Meryl Streep, "Doubt"; Kate Winslet, "The Reader."

4. Supporting Actor: Josh Brolin, "Milk"; Robert Downey Jr., "Tropic Thunder"; Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Doubt"; Heath Ledger, "The Dark Knight"; Michael Shannon, "Revolutionary Road."

5. Supporting Actress: Amy Adams, "Doubt"; Penelope Cruz, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"; Viola Davis, "Doubt"; Taraji P. Henson, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"; Marisa Tomei, "The Wrestler."

6. Director: David Fincher, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"; Ron Howard, "Frost/Nixon"; Gus Van Sant, "Milk"; Stephen Daldry, "The Reader"; Danny Boyle, "Slumdog Millionaire."

7. Foreign Film: "The Baader Meinhof Complex," Germany; "The Class," France; "Departures," Japan; "Revanche," Austria; "Waltz With Bashir," Israel.

8. Adapted Screenplay: Eric Roth and Robin Swicord, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"; John Patrick Shanley, "Doubt"; Peter Morgan, "Frost/Nixon"; David Hare, "The Reader"; Simon Beaufoy, "Slumdog Millionaire."

9. Original Screenplay: Courtney Hunt, "Frozen River"; Mike Leigh, "Happy-Go-Lucky"; Martin McDonagh, "In Bruges"; Dustin Lance Black, "Milk"; Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon and Pete Docter, "WALL-E."

10. Animated Feature Film: "Bolt"; "Kung Fu Panda"; "WALL-E."
The big surprise has to be Benjamin Button getting 13 nominations, including Best Actor (Brad Pitt), Best Supporting Actress (Tarajip Henson) and Best Director (David Fincher). I haven't heard anything exceptional about it. Two serious film-going friends both gave it lukewarm reviews.

WALL-E was sadly relegated to the children's table, getting a nomination for Best Animated Feature Film but not Best Picture.

With the exception of Heath Ledger's nod for Best Supporting Actor, The Dark Knight is ignored in the major categories, though it did reap a number of nominations in technical areas like Sound Mixing, Visual Effects, etc.

Cultural Hell: Brad Pitt wins Best Actor and Angelina Jolie wins Best Actress. All media would fuse into one Brangelina channel. You will soon be forced to adopt children from other countries.

Irish playwright and film director Martin McDonagh received a nomination for Best Original Screenplay for In Bruges, but that was it for one of my favorite films in a long time.

How about Robert Downey Jr. getting a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Tropic Thunder?

The most interesting competition this year has to be Best Actor: Frank Langella, Sean Penn and Mickey Rourke have all received tremendous praise for their roles.

Clint and Gran Torino get shut out.

I haven't seen any of the Best Picture nominees. We tried to go see Frost/Nixon on Monday, but it wasn't showing anywhere nearby.

I'd be curious to hear everyone's thoughts on the nominations. What caught your attention?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

thought dream 011809

He burned the toast
He buttered the dog
He butchered the beans
He buttressed the omelet
He blemished the poultry
He burnished the peas
He bit down on a chunk of broken glass
(What the hell?!)
He bruised the oven
He bumped his noggin
He bludgeoned the turnips
He blundered the backstroke
He bloodied the pinstripe
He blistered the swordfish
He broke the bread-knife
He boxed up his hopes and aspirations
He burped up his buttons
He buttoned up his breakfast
He blew up his black balloons
and sat back and watched it all burn down.

It was, all in all, not a good start to the day.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Commemorate the Inauguration!

For those wanting to commemorate today's historic occasion, I can think of no better option....

The Chia Obama Handmade Decorative Planter.

It comes in two models: Happy (seen at left) and Determined (below).

Only $20 at

Act now!

Alternative Inaugural Poem

For those not impressed with Elizabeth Alexander's poem for the Inauguration of Barack Obama, an alternative:

Frank O' Hara
Having a Coke with You

is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, Irún, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne
or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona
partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St. Sebastian
partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for yoghurt
partly because of the fluorescent orange tulips around the birches
partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and statuary
it is hard to believe when I’m with you that there can be anything as still
as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of it
in the warm New York 4 o’clock light we are drifting back and forth
between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles

and the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint
you suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever did them

I look
at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world
except possibly for the Polish Rider occasionally and anyway it’s in the Frick
which thank heavens you haven’t gone to yet so we can go together the first time
and the fact that you move so beautifully more or less takes care of Futurism
just as at home I never think of the Nude Descending a Staircase or
at a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that used to wow me
and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them
when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when the sun sank
or for that matter Marino Marini when he didn’t pick the rider as carefully
as the horse
it seems they were all cheated of some marvellous experience
which is not going to go wasted on me which is why I’m telling you about it

Another excellent alternative:

Allen Ginsberg: America

Monday, January 19, 2009

thought dream 010909

Coltrane playing "The Damned Don't Cry,"
Africa / Brass.
It could be midnight
from the sound of that double bass,
but it's not.
It's just morning on a bus
headed nowhere. The horn section
tragic and mournful.
Booker Little
(dead at 23)
on trumpet, calling out
to some dark or vanished god.
I'm still waking up.
Trying to make sense of the
hollowness that has become my life.
The routine much heavier
than I expected. The air
crushing downward
upon the shoulders.
Eric Dolphy
(dead at 36)
One of the reeds
in that cloudy response
from the darkness.
Some people fight in wars
and die
or become heroes (momentary).
Some people save lives
for a living. Nothing
in the catalog
about a respectable job,
face-painted emptiness,
the dry mouth,
the slow, stunned silence.
It's too dull
to even grieve or shed a tear.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

thought dreams and new directions

Portrait prémonitoire de Guillaume Apollinaire (Premonitory Portrait of Guillaume Apollinaire). Giorgio de Chirico, 1914.

A new year has started, and I've been in a reflective mood lately, wondering what I'm actually doing in/with my life.

Part of that has means mulling over what I'm doing - and not doing - with ZONE. After blogging for almost two and half years (hard to believe), I'm still not comfortable with the process or the results.

The name ZONE comes from the title of a long poem by French poet Guillaume Apollinaire, and the first post on the blog was "A Word from Guillaume." The subtitle of ZONE is "improvisations on literature, music, film. . ." Yet there has been very little literature on my blog. Mostly because there's been very little literature in my life.

Somewhere back down the road, I burned out on "literature." For 25 years or so, I had tried my best to live "the writer's life," which meant writing all the time, devouring literature constantly, editing literary journals, and participating to one degree or another in the poetry scenes of various cities. And, most importantly, living in an open and creative manner.

Then, suddenly, it just stopped.

For a while, I blamed too many bad submissions and dull poetry readings for making me jaded. Having to read or listen to a lot of crappy, self-indulgent "creative work" can do that. Especially when some of it's your own. The whole process seemed pointless and terribly narcissistic.

Luckily, I've been able to meet some excellent and genuinely creative writers whose work I really enjoy. Interestingly, the only "literature" I've been able to stomach during during this time has been that of my friends. Otherwise, I think I've finished one novel in the last three years, and only cracked open a few books of poetry. I write very little beyond the bits and pieces on this blog, and my journal, which I used to keep regularly, has gaps of several months.

So . . . what happens when the thing on which you've based most of your life suddenly vanishes?

And what if that thing was deeply intertwined with your spiritual journey? Or was the spiritual journey?

A time in the desert, one might say. Actually, that's not true. Having spent a lot of time in the deserts of the American West, I can tell you that a desert is filled with much more beauty, excitement and life. My experience has been more like sitting in the dark on the floor of a closet for two years. Just nothing happening.

(Except then there's not floor to the closet. You just have to learn how to stay afloat.)

In the end, it's not about "literature." It's not the endless mediocre submissions I had to read for Terra Incognita, or poets reciting dull, lifeless work. It's me. I've been struggling with a profound emptiness that lies within myself.

We have met the black hole, and it is us.

(And I wonder why blogging doesn't satisfy!)

What does all of this mean for ZONE? I'm not sure. But I think I'm going to try some new things this year.

Bob Dylan, circa 1965.

When I was younger, I used to write spontaneous pieces/poems on a regular basis, just as a warm-up exercise, or a way to let out whatever needed to come out. I called these "thought dreams," after one of my favorites lines from Bob Dylan: "And if my thought-dreams could be seen / They'd probably put my head in a guillotine / But it's alright, Ma, it's life, and life only."

Perhaps going back to my "thought dreams" will help prime the pump of a well that's been dry, dry, dry. I hate to inflict the world at large with these pieces, many of which can be downright awful. But my desire to jolt the blog into some new directions - and my own need to publicly express/embarrass myself - makes me want to give it a try.

Also, I've been inspired by Steve Caratzas at The Blog of Lewd Enlightenment, who's been publishing a poem a day for over four years now. Quite an accomplishment. Especially for someone like me who can't even raise a flabby, atrophied arm to the poetic page more than a few times a year.

I'm not going to try and duplicate Steve's heroic effort. I'd like to knock out a few of these a week, if at all possible. And even that may feel like too much. But I want to do something different, head in some new directions.

Don't worry - ZONE is not going to become all bad poetry from a perplexed, dried up writer. I'll continue with the other things I've been doing as well. And hopefully get back to doing more film reviews.

We'll see what happens. I need to open some new doors. Head down some new paths. That's really what I really wanted ZONE to be about.

That's what I still want my life to be about.

(Below this post, my first attempt at reviving the thought dreams...)

thought dream 010809

3 dogs / nondescript
one having rolled around in the oily
dirt where Delbert changed
the water pump on his 1982 Buick,
one eying the chicken coop,
one with his tongue
hanging out in the Texas heat
late August
no wind
a rattlesnake way out of range
nestled in the well-house
on the other side
of an old peanut field
overgrown with mesquite trees
a single cloud
hovering over Indian Hill
a sprinkler trying to save
what's left of the beans,
Delbert and Louise gone to town
for lumber and feed
coyote angel /ragged wings
and dusty boots / hunkered down
in a live oak tree / bored
to tears, watching over
the house
the 3 dogs
looking around
sniffing at the air
knowing something somewhere ain't quite right

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Happy Birthday, Rev. King

Had he lived, Martin Luther King Jr. would've turned 80 years old today.

The inauguration of Barack Obama seems like a pretty good 80th birthday present. King knew it would happen. One day.

And it did.

Here's a two-minute excerpt from a speech he delivered on March 25, 1965 in Montgomery, Alabama.

Friday, January 09, 2009

David Kersh on Gaza

My friend David Kersh sent me an email on Gaza. David is one of the most thoughtful, intelligent and cultured (in the absolute best sense of the word) people I know. I was moved by what he wrote and asked if I could post it here.

On Gaza

I am an American Jew. My life began on 6/6/1967 at exactly the same time the six-day war began, which in many ways sparked the present conflict. At one point in my life, I spent six months (lots of 6’s here) in Jerusalem, where I felt utterly homeless, wondering where the Jews like me were. I did find a couple of them- my two Argentine roommates. One of the most awe-inspiring and refreshing memories of an intense 6 months in the holy land was discovering The Marx Brothers' Night at the Opera one late Friday night at the Jerusalem Cinemateque while everything else in sight was closed down for Shabbat.

The situation in the Middle East is not so cut and dry. I am tired of being silent.

I read article after article and get the talking points made by each side, and I can somewhat modify my perspective in the course of a day. And yet I just can’t accept that macho man (and woman) Israeli military force is a solution to the “problem.”

I look at the troubling photographs of dead Palestinian children, I see the poverty-stricken Gaza streets, and I am also troubled that, yes, these same photographs become part of a Hamas PR machine to get the West to side with them.

I am sickened by the one-sided perspective of the American political class who can only sympathize with Israel and only gets their side of the story.

I am sickened by the contextually false and empty comparisons of bombs coming from Canada and Mexico and how we would surely and without a blink respond to this by crushing them with all our might.

I am bothered by Israel the Victim.

I am bothered by progressive Jews who would otherwise deplore violence in all other situations but who can so easily rationalize the Israeli aggression.

I know former Primer Minister Menachem Begin was part of a terrorist organization, but that was okay, of course, because it was a Jewish terrorist organization.

I get it that Palestinians were treated like shit by the Egyptians and the Jordanians before 1967, and that the Arab world treats them like unwanted step children, and that supporting the Palestinian cause serves their purpose of having a common enemy of Israel so they can keep their repressive regimes in tact.

I get the role of Iran in this geopolitical equation, and don’t want Iran to get any stronger.

I get it that the Palestinians would be better off if they had a Gandhi running their show, and that they have been unable to get their act together.

I read somewhere that Hamas was created by the US and Israel to counter Arafat and Fatah, which does not surprise me one bit.

I am sure that Israel was not negotiating in good faith, and that the Palestinians were not negotiating in good faith either.

I get it that Hamas probably wants more Palestinians to die because it benefits their campaign, and that they are all a bunch of no good thugs and killers.

I am bothered that, according to the American political class, Israeli children are “traumatized” by having to endure unexpected home-made rockets from Hamas, but Palestinian children living under occupation, seige or blockade are not traumatized living in such dire circumstances.

I believe each side has a different starting point for the conflict and of who started what and where.

I am bothered by a lack of nuance, of depth in understanding the complexity of the situation by the American political class (except for good ole Kucinich).

I believe the line between defense and offense is fuzzy.

I can find nothing to love or look up to in any of the repressive Arab political systems in the Middle East .

I sometimes comprehend the desire my fellow Jews have for a Jewish homeland, though never at the expense of another group, and never as a place for me to call home.

I know I am probably naïve, and my fellow Jews in Israel will think I don’t know what the hell I am talking about because I am not there, on the ground. And yet, I just can’t accept that macho man (and woman) Israeli military force is a solution to the “problem.”

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Bush Years

Some "then & now" numbers from NBC. See the full list at First Read.

Then: +236.2 billion (2000, Congressional Budget Office)
Now: -$1.2 trillion (projected figure for 2009, Congressional Budget Office)

Then: 6.4 million (Census numbers for 2000)
Now: 7.6 million (Census numbers for 2007 -- most recent numbers available)


Then: 39.8 million (Census numbers for 2000)
Now: 45.7 million (Census numbers for 2007 -- most recent available)


Then: 4.2% (Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 2001)
Now: 6.7% (Bureau of Labor Statistics, November 2008)

Then: 115.7 (Conference Board, January 2001)
Now: 38.0, which is an all-time low (Conference Board, December 2008)

Then: 10,587 (close of Friday, Jan. 19, 2001)
Now: 9,015 (close of Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2009)

Then: 45% (1/01 NBC/WSJ poll)
Now: 26% (12/08 NBC/WSJ poll)
Of course, these numbers don't include the worst attack on American soil, Hurricane Katrina, two botched wars, shredding of the U.S. Constitution, shredding of our standing in the world, our new reputation for torturing people, etc., etc.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Jean the Birdman

David Sylvian & Robert Fripp
from the album The First Day

Hat's off to Roy Harper John Schertzer, for introducing me to David Sylvian.

I've been waiting for years to hear a Buddhist cowboy song. . . Albeit, this is a winged cowboy. But that's nothing too unusual.

Unfortunately, the video doesn't really go with the words. I'd skip the pictures (interesting as they may be) and go with the text on this one.

He gambles on the saddle
He's pulling on the mane
He thrashes at the horse's back
Ambition is a bloody game

Horse doesn't want to jump
The river looks too wide
Well, he faces every hurdle
With a nervous state of mind

Stay with me, breathe deeply,
Take three paces back,
Turn and make a full attack

The gods are laughing
And they're tugging at the reins
But he's taken to his wings
And they hit the bank

Heaven may stone him,
But Jean the Birdman pulls it off (x2)

His finger's on the trigger
His eye is on the clock
He doesn't give the game away
And quickly fires the bullets off

Six hearts cut short
Still dreaming they're alive
Blown 'round in dusty circles
Like an absent state of mind

Who hunter? Who victim?
God love America
He surely doesn't love him

Hitching out of nowhere
Lines of traffic knee-deep
A chance to stave the morning off
And get some sleep

Heaven may stone him,
But Jean the Birdman pulls it off (x2)

He wears a crucifix
His mother left to him
It's wrapped in chains around his heart
Rusted and wafer thin

Don't count on luck son,
All the angels sing
Don't need to check a weather vane
We all know what tomorrow brings

Life is a cattle farm
Coyotes with the mules
Life is a bullring
For taking risks and flouting rules

Who needs a safety net
The world is open wide
Just look out for the card sharks
And the danger signs

Heaven may stone him,
But Jean the Birdman pulls it off (x4)

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Jon Stewart on the War in Gaza

Jon Stewart returned last night after a seemingly endless break . . . and he didn't flinch for a moment.

Once more, like some Jubu master, he applies a much-needed sandal slap across the face of the American media.

I think it's so important - and admirable - for Jewish-Americans to speak out like this about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Stewart could take a lot of heat for his comments, but I think he knows that perceptive criticism of American media coverage is crucial if we're going to have a healthier and more open dialog about this ongoing crisis. The endless bloodshed between Israel and Palestine not only destroys too many innocent lives in that region, it has a direct affect on our own economy (billions of dollars a year), foreign policy, and national security.

Bravo, Jon.

When the history of early 21st-century journalism is written, how interesting (and shameful) that it basically took two comedians and a sportscaster to shake the media out of its lethargy and subservience.

Stewart continues to raise the issue of media coverage in his interview with David Gregory, the new host of Meet the Press.