Wednesday, September 26, 2007


A brief acknowledgement, if you please, that today, the American military deaths in Iraq rolled over to 3801. Deepest and most profound sympathies to the 3801 families who have suffered a loss from which they may never recover.

There was never a good war nor a bad peace. ~Benjamin Franklin~


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Jumbo Shrimp. Military Intelligence. Peacekeeping Force. Black Republican.

Today, Huffington Post offered up this headline:

Black Republicans Sharply Divided Over GOP's Shunning of Black Voter Forum

Really? Golly. I'm shocked that any of them are shocked, frankly. What the hell did they think was going on here? Did they think the GOP was prepared to embrace them and offer up an open and public debate for them, after doing everything from simply failing to count their votes in the Florida in the 2000 election, to racially gerrymandering them into obscurity in Texas in 2003, in a clear effort to undermine any and all black (and other minority) voting? Did they think, somehow, that the GOP differentiated between "good blacks" (the ones who agreed with their dark, sinister little platform) and "bad blacks" (the ones who -- gasp! -- didn't)? Why would they think that?

The fact that there even are black Republicans is stunning to me. It's the same when I hear the phrase "gay Republicans." I don't get it. Oh, sure. I get that the Democratic party hasn't been that constructive for minorities since the late sixties. But to be fair, the Democratic party hasn't exactly been a wellspring of vitality and political nuance for any of us since then, either. And, yes, racism exists everywhere, even the Democratic party, and there are many, many Democratic racists, to be sure. But the Republican party has made it a tacit policy to undercut, disenfranchise and silence the electoral voices of urban and poor rural African Americans.

I understand that not all African Americans speak with the same voice, or have the same positions and issues. I also understand that as a middle-class, WASP-y woman from the San Fernando Valley, I will never understand what it means to be "of color" in America.

But beyond that, what I know about human nature is this. When a political group has set an unspoken but clearly perceivable agenda designed to exclude, deny, or disable the political expression of a whole race -- your race -- from the Constitutionally ordained electoral process, and you continue to whole-heartedly support those efforts by supporting and pledging loyalty to said political group, then you have resigned any privilege of being shocked when said political group then turns on you like a badly trained cocker spaniel with distemper. Hey, this is America, and here, any person can become a member of any party they choose, and that's a good thing. But to be suddenly thrown into a tizzy because a collection of people who have stood famously, solidly, unwaiveringly against the Civil Rights movement, the abolition of Jim Crow Laws, the desegregation of public schools, and the support and expansion of inner-city education, food and housing assistance programs doesn't seem to me to be too forward looking. The single biggest predictor of future performance, after all, is past performance.

I'm sorry that black Republicans have become so disillusioned. I'm hopeful, though, that perhaps they've realized that by becoming Republicans, they haven't opened the minds of the GOP. They've simply given the GOP a small enclave of black supporters to point to and say, "See? Blacks love us!"

Best of luck to them. Truly. And when they finally eat a little protein, drink some water, have a good night's sleep, and come back to their senses, we Dems will be waiting for them with open arms.


Sunday, September 02, 2007

Is It Hot Out Here, or Is It Gabriela Montero?

(cross-posted at MySpace blog)

The answer to both questions last night at the Hollywood Bowl last night was, "yes." Last night, for the first time in the nearly forty years of attending the Hollywood Bowl (including the three seasons I worked there as an usher), I've sat the entire concert in a cotton t-shirt and no blanket, and was still hot. The "cool vortex" that is the Hollywood Bowl failed to deliver last night with respect to the climate.

With respect to the music, though, the Bowl didn't disappoint. It was Tchaikovsky-and-fireworks night, performed by a shirt-sleeved L.A. Phil (thank God, since I'm sure the sight of a jacket or bow tie would have been too much to bear), lead by very enthusiastic and charming conductor, Thomas Wilkins, a man who clearly loves his job.

The program consisted of most of Tchaikovsky's best known, best loved work, beginning with the Festival Coronation March. Then, Wilkins brought out the evening's soloist, Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero, to play the notorious Piano Concerto No. 1. Sopranos have certain solos -- the Queen of the Night aria, the arias from Abduction of the Seraglio, and anything by Wagner -- that are spoken of in dreaded hushed whispers. To pianists, Tchaikovsky's Pioano concerto No. 1 must be the same. I haven't played the piano since I was nine, but I can tell -- it's tough. Montero was amazing, never missing a beat. Bowl audiences aren't the most sophisticated music fans, and you always get the occasional wave of applause between movements (a no-no, folks, in case you were wondering). Last night, it was unavoidable. After the first movement, we were so enthralled, we had to applaud. When she'd finished with the piece, she got a standing ovation, and agreed to perform a small encore. Montero is known for her improvisational abilities (see her website for more detail). Principal cellist Peter Stumpf played a brief theme, and Ms. Montero proceeded to improvise a thrilling and amusing piece around it, which included elements of classical, jazz and latin influences. It was such a treat. She really was astounding. I'm considering becoming a weird, creepy stalker fan, if I can work it into my schedule.

The second act consisted of Tchaikovsky dances, starting with the famous waltz from the ballet Sleeping Beauty, known to parents of girls everywhere as Once Upon A Dream, from the Disney animated feature. The Act 1 pas de deux from Swan Lake was next (not one of my favorite pieces, actually), and finally the Dance of the Buffoons, incidental music from The Snow Maiden. It was lovely. In the interests of full disclosure, I was eating dessert at the time, so anything might have seemed lovely.

But the event that everyone waits for on Tchaikovsky night is the 1812 Overture, and the reenactment of the Russian victory over Napoleon. (Spoiler alert: Napoleon gets his ass kicked. Every time.) The USC marching band provided the extra brass required for the piece, and the pyrotechnicians took a slightly different tack than in previous years. They set the Bowl on fire. I didn't get the idea to take digital photos until I saw someone else doing it (the one benefit digital has over film -- the "Fireworks" setting), so I missed capturing the moment when the rim of the procenium was aflame. It was indescribable. I'll remember next time, I promise. But I did get a couple of nifty fireworks shots for you.

Other things I missed photographing were the white waning gibbous moon, rising over the eastern hills and the stars directly overhead. The heat was so bad all day that it broke the inversion layer and the air was quite clear last night, leaving the city lights on both sides of the hills (Hollywood and the Valley) brilliant. Because of my responsibilities last year, I wasn't able to go to the Bowl at all, when I usually attend two to three times a summer. Last night was my first Bowl trip in over a year. Way too long. If I were ever to move away from Los Angeles, I'd have to plan a trip back every year to go to the Bowl a few times. It's one of my favorite places on the planet.

Sorry you couldn't all be there with me. But there just wasn't enough dessert.


Saturday, September 01, 2007

And The Hits Just Keep On Coming

Dear Tony,

We're going to miss you more than we miss dental surgery without anaesthesia. More than we miss being forced to eat canned Chef Boyardee ravioli. More than a sucking chest wound.

Now get out and don't ever come back.

Best to the wife and kids.