Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Coming to you live from Richmond, Virginia!

First things first, check out more of the Tales of the Merchant's Friend. Wrote the latest entry earlier this afternoon during a rare couple of hours to myself.

We didn't actually get to VA until early Monday morning, delayed two days by the kids being so sick, particularly India whose nasty litte bug (thankfully not the flu!) led to a bad ear infection, to go with the constant throwing up, the last such episode at 10pm Sunday night in a Denny's somewhere in Maryland off I-95, seconds after our food got to the table. How exhausted were we? We cleaned everything up, changed India's clothes and kept right on eating. Fun!

They're both considerably better now and Salomé and I seem to have fought off the worst of it ourselves so now we're just chilling at my mother's house. Nice place, a good thing since they'll go to their graves poor and still paying for it. The American Dream! :-/

Went to the store last night (Wal-Mart, et al, thrive in these suburban areas like evil cockroaches with the keys to the only refrigerator on a deserted island) and driving around brought back memories of two years ago when we moved down here, hopeful for a new start, and the unexpected 10 months of hell that followed.

With our delayed arrival, we'll now be spending New Year's Eve down here, which will be extremely weird as we got the hell out of dodge just before the holidays last year.

I feel rather out of touch here - the lack of broadband access doesn't help, not to mention the emails and phone calls I haven't returned yet! - but at the same time I recognize the little seductions of the suburbs. It is nice here and, of all the houses they've had in my lifetime, this one, ironically, is probably my favorite. Reminds me a little of Yorktown as it has some sense of being an actual neighborhood as opposed to a pre-planned, cookie cutter subdivision. Which it is. It just feels a little different. Certainly wouldn't want to live here, though.

Being here instead of at home, tomorrow night's going to feel a bit anti-climactic. The fact that we'll end the year in the same place the disastrous 2002 kicked off should put a hopeful spin on the new year, though.

We've come a long way, in so many respects, it'll almost be like putting the final demons of 2002 to rest.

Happy New Year and best wishes to all! Peace.

Friday, December 26, 2003

Two quick things:

1. The D&D novelization is up and running here: Tales of the Merchant's Friend

2. Happy holidays! This Christmas was notable for multiple duplicate gifts and sick & puking kids! Despite all that, it comes at the end of the one of the best years I've had in a looooooong time. Best wishes to all for a great 2004!


Tuesday, December 23, 2003

I think Verizon's out to get me! Ever since we've switched to cable internet and forsaken the land line, I've been encouraging others to do the same. Now, on the weekend I get my super-duper Napster MP3 player, our cable is suddenly and mysteriously screwed up and I haven't had internet access since sometime on Saturday. A technician's coming by tomorrow to check things out. Fortunately I downloaded my 20 free songs from Napster before it crapped out so I have something to listen to on the train but I'm getting anxious to add to my collection before we hit the road to Virginia on Friday night. Elton John's Tiny Dancer is tops on the list, though Salomé thinks we have it somewhere on CD already. Guess I know what I'll be doing on Christmas day!

Caught Alvin Ailey on Saturday night at City Center and they were amazing as always. Revelations, in particular, continues to floor me every time I see it and three of the four other performances were top-notch, too. Weird thing about dance is I find the men much more fascinating than the women. The women are amazing, no question, but you kind of expect that. (Is that sexist?) The men, though, are just ridiculous specimens of human perfection and the way they move makes me jealous. I can almost understand why so many of them are gay! There was one woman, though, who really stood out because she was so tall and angular that you couldn't help but notice her. She had an odd grace that you wouldn't expect from someone her size. They're around through January 4th and I heartily recommend catching a performance.

Sunday was an impromptu session of Dungeons & Dragons as Omar was in town for the weekend and we were able to round up a couple of other people on short notice, including my slacker cousin who still claims he's getting an adventure together! I'd been working on my own throughout the week (I think I've checked out every DnD-related site on the internet!) and went into overdrive Saturday night, deciding to write something from scratch--writing until 3am when I finally passed out. Spent another three hours the next afternoon polishing it off while Omar, Ed, Oscar and Juan created their characters. [oops! would this be considered outing them? then i won't mention what race Oscar chose... ;-) ] At the same time, I was trying to learn/incorporate this great game management program I came across, DM Genie, so the process was kind of choppy early on. Once we finally got going, though, we had a good time with it, getting approx. halfway through the game, not bad considering I haven't played in years. Like not since 1986! The best thing is the amount of writing I've done for it in the past few days, exactly the boost I was hoping for. I'm going to set up another blog this week to track the progress of the game; a novelization of sorts and a great writing exercise.

You're Avante Garde Indie.

You listen to abstract music like free-jazz and Krautrock. You drink too much coffee and you scare the fuck out of the rest of us. We're afraid to call you pretentious because we know that we all just don't get it. There are few of you out there, and most of you will probably die soon.

You Know Yer Indie. Let's Sub-Categorize.
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Saturday, December 20, 2003

One thing led to another, Santa came early and now I'm a Napster-maniac!

What happened was, we were supposed to go to my cousin's kids' Christmas show last night but, minutes before we were ready to leave, India starts throwing up all over the place! She's been sick all week - congested, runny nose - but I think the Robitussin we gave her after she ate dinner pushed her over the edge and there it all was, all over the floor. Oddly, there was phlegm and strawberry milk but no sign of the food she'd just eaten minutes before. Needless to say, we didn't make it to the show.

Plans having changed, I locked myself in the bedroom for a few minutes to wrap Salomé's Christmas gifts and, by the time I was done, particularly excited about the great stuff I'd picked up yesterday at the Union Square Holiday Fair (from Nirvanna Designs and my favorite, Bombora Trading), I was ready to have an early Christmas! So was she, luckily having picked up my gift earlier that day after waiting weeks for it to come back in stock.

What did I get?

Napster Samsung YP-910Word!

The funny thing is that she claims to not have read my journal entry from a couple of months ago where I said I wanted it, coming close to buying me an evil iPOD instead!

Anyway, it comes with 20 free songs from Napster which was a lot harder to pick than I thought it would be, not wanting to duplicate stuff I already have on CD or dig too extensively through the crates. It took about 30 minutes to pick them (plus the hour or so it took to get the thing hooked up to my computer properly!) but only 10 minutes to download and transfer.

I LOVE Napster!!!!

Napster 20_v1

Lose Yourself, Eminem
Youth of the Nation, P.O.D.
The Boys of Summer, The Ataris
Harder to Breathe, Maroon 5
The Freshman, The Verve Pipe
Superman, Five for Fighting
White Flag, Dido
Drift Away, Uncle Kracker
Landslide, Dixie Chicks
How You Gonna Act Like That?, Tyrese
My Love is Like...Wo!, Mya
Where is the Love?, Black Eyed Peas
Cell Therapy, Goodie Mob
Hey Ya!, Outkast
Relax, Frankie Goes to Hollywood
Blurry, Puddle of Mudd
Plush, Stone Temple Pilots
Kryptonite, 3 Doors Down
Be Like That, 3 Doors Down
Wasting My Time, Default

Friday, December 19, 2003

This will have to last through Monday...

1. What did you do in 2003 that you'd never done before? Contributed $$$ to a political campaign.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year? Don't generally make specific resolutions other than to be true to myself. I am resolving to quit (or more likely, drastically cut down on) drinking. It's been 17 days...

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Not that I recall, though Frandie announced they're expecting early next year! :-)

4. Did anyone close to you die? No. Knock wood.

5. What countries did you visit? None.

6. What would you like to have in 2004 that you lacked in 2003? A clear head.

7. What date from 2003 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? May 26th, my last night running the reading series at Bar 13, formerly known as a little bit louder.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Getting back on my feet, financially and psychologically, after a tough 2002.

9. What was your biggest failure? Don't believe I failed at anything this year.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Nothing serious. Knock wood.

11. What was the best thing you bought? Can't say until after Christmas but it's probably the coolest gift I've ever gotten someone.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration? This is rather abstract so I'll say, on a global level, every single person that spoke out against Bush's war on Iraq.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? Going with the previous answer, everyone that attempted to demean, disparage or dissaude those that spoke out.

14. Where did most of your money go? Most recently, Christmas presents... :-)

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? When we moved to our apartment in the Bronx in June.

16. What song will always remind you of 2003? Hey Ya, Outkast. And Where is the Love?, Black Eyed Peas.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you better off: Much, much, much, much, much, much, much better off. :-)

i. happier or sadder? Not even close. Definitely happier.

ii. thinner or fatter? Slightly thinner.

iii. richer or poorer? Richer. Of course, that's relative.
18. What do you wish you'd done more of? Writing.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of? Wasting time with the slam scene after I realized I was done with it.

20. How will you be spending Christmas? Quietly, with family.

21. Did you fall in love in 2003? Back in love, actually. :-)

22. How many one-night stands? Having two kids, every time is like a one-night stand!

23. What was your favorite TV program? Smallville.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year? Hate's a rather harsh word. Disappointed is closer to it.

25. What was the best book you read? Jessica Rydill's Children of the Shaman.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery? Maroon 5's Harder to Breathe.

27. What did you want and get? A fresh start.

28. What was your favorite film of this year? Though I haven't seen it yet, I have no doubt that it will be Return of the King.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I turned 34 and spent a week in a cabin in the Poconos with family.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? To be honest, I don't think it could have been any better.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2003? Old Navy.

32. What kept you sane? Remembering 2002.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? What the hell does "fancy" mean in that context? I was particularly impressed with Dennis Kucinich.

34. What political issue stirred you the most? The Democratic primaries and all the issues surrounding it.

35. Who did you miss? My mother, actually. Kind of got used to being around her again.

36. Who was the best new person you met? As a group, the entire Acentos camp.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2003: Follow your heart, no matter the short-term cost, and you will be happy with where you end up.

Happy holidays!
Arkansan Wesley Clark to Plug Patriots
Wesley Clark: LOSER!
So Wesley Clark, good old Southern boy that he is, is a...Patriots fan? As in the New England Patriots?

And this only a few days after Madonna endorses him for President?

Can you spell loser? C-L-A-R-K.

Heroic Courage
You are a very brave person who puts others before yourself, believes in helping those in need. People would consider you noble and caring, and someone to always count on.

Which Characteristic From the Samurai Code Matches You Best? (You may find out your best trait)
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"I am beautiful no matter what they say / Words can't bring me down"
An interesting take on politics and the current election for President for those who think voting is a waste of time:

How an anarchist came to run the Kucinich campaign in Rhode Island. Part 1. (excerpted from infoshop.org article)

Since we’re nowhere near revolution right now, someone is going to be President. To pretend that not voting or not being involved in the political process will make the Presidency disappear is to be more foolish than the libertarians who pretend that by working to make someone else richer your freedom, individuality, dignity, and basic rights should disappear.

So as a pragmatic anarchist, I think that we should be working towards a free society, but we also need to deal with the political realities of today. The reality is that we will have a President, and the reality is that who that President is matters.

...the simple truth is that the progress of the Movement is affected by who is in power. Anarchism, radicalism, progressivism, and the labor movement made no great gains under Reagan. Nor did they under Bush. They moved forward somewhat under Clinton, not because he helped us along, but because we were able to move forward. Then Bush II got in office and instead of fighting to move forward, we were fighting to only lose half of our past gains instead of all of them. Reactionary rulers force us to fight defensive battles, while reformist rulers allow us to fight offensive battles. It’s that simple. And though some might believe that it is better for the Movement to have Bush in office because it will radicalize “the masses”, I think that it is disgustingly immoral to hope that others will be miserable so that you may profit. Furthermore, I think such ‘logic’ is easily disproved by looking at the German Communist Party’s early 1930’s slogan: “First Hitler, then us.”

So that’s why as an anarchist I think it is still important to recognize the realities of electoral politics and have neither illusions about a savior from above nor delusions about revolution by dropping out. In the next part I’ll talk about how I specifically got involved with the Kucinich campaign.

Are you registered to vote?

Your Vote Matters
Rock the Vote
Declare Yourself
The National Mail Voter Registration Form
Make a difference....be a voter!

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Look Charlie, let's face it. We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket. It's run by a big eastern syndicate, you know. --Lucy Van Pelt

It really isn't that I hate Christmas. Not exactly. I just hate the obligatory feel of the whole gift-giving process. You can say it's the thought that counts all you want but the reality is, for many people, it's the gift that counts. Whether driven by the expectations of the receiver or the insecurities of the giver, the value of a gift is often perceived literally: $20? $50? $100? What's the appropriate "value" for a close relative? A family friend? A co-worker? Is one expensive gift enough or does it need to be buttressed by a couple of smaller ones to be satisfactory? When giving cash (or a gift card), why is it always for more than the gift you would have bought otherwise?

And, why is it that any of these questions need to be asked at all? Maybe they don't. Maybe it's just me.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

More fun with the Doctor, courtesy of Slate:

Answering the question about [his foreign policy] inexperience, [Howard] Dean says he studied "under what I consider to be the best history department in the United States, at Yale University." I can see the ad. Left half of the screen: "Bush. Won Two Wars." Right half: "Dean. Studied at Yale."

But for now, Dean just wants to make clear he's no hippie. He says he belongs to the tradition of "Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and the first President Bush." The big lie of the campaign, [Dean's chief foreign policy adviser, Ivo] Daalder tells the reporters in Washington, is that if you're against the Iraq war, you're against war. Dean is a "centrist," Daalder insists. "If there's a radical in this fight, it is the president. And if there's a conservative … it's Howard Dean." Would Dean cut defense spending? "No," Daalder replies emphatically, without a moment's pause.

On my way out, I ask Daalder about something Dean said in Iowa four months ago: that he wants a foreign policy more like Jimmy Carter's. Daalder practically jerks backward, as though he's just been told somebody saw his candidate wearing a dress. You can be sure we won't be hearing stuff like that from Howard Dean anymore.
Elvis has left the building!
Rev. Pedro Pietri, is seriously ill

One of the cornerstones of the original Nuyorican movement is in need of help. Please pass this on.


"Woke up this morning / feeling excellent! / Picked up the
telephone / dialed the number / Of my equal opportunity /
employer to inform him / I will not be in / to work today! /
Are you feeling sick? / the Boss asked me, / "No Sir I
replied, / I am feeling too good / to report to work today! /
If I feel sick tomorrow / I will come in early."

-from Telephone Booth Number 905 1/2, El Reverendo Pedro Pietri
c/o Nuyorican Poets Café
P.O. Box 20794
New York, NY 10009

December 14, 2003

[street address] [or email address]
[city, state, zip]

Dear Friend:

If you have ever laughed, reveled in, or enjoyed one of Pedro's poems--or if you can recall a line from any one of his countless poems--then this letter is of utmost urgency to you. It is with great pain that we report publicly that renowned Puerto Rican / Nuyorican poet, Rev. Pedro Pietri, is seriously ill. Recently he has had surgery at Bronx Lebanon Hospital to treat his ailments. However, the medical prognosis is dismal. El Rev Pedro Pietri, the author of Puerto Rican Obituary, in its tenth printing is a classic in the Puerto Rican literature...his entire life is poetry. He is an outspoken advocate for the Puerto Rican Diaspora.

The life of this eminent poet is a reflection of the circumstances of our age--from the Puerto Rican migrations, through the disintegration of the New York neighborhoods, to the Vietnam War era and the aftermath of environmental pollution, El Rev. Pedro Pietri has been the creative voice to the madness that surrounds us. The life of a poet has never been easy. Pedro was victimized by the war as a result of Agent Orange exposure and ignored by the parties responsible for his condition. Now he is succumbing to an ever-increasing number of illnesses related to this and the attendant stress that has slowly ravaged his body. These include glaucoma, a compromised circulatory system from high blood pressure; his skin tissue affected by advanced vitiligo; stomach ulcers; and now, a cancerous tumor.

This is a Mission Critical Appeal. Especially since there is hope.

Again reflecting our times, the treatments that could be his saving mechanisms are not available nor recognized by the medical establishment in the U.S.A.

His friends, his fellow poets, and his family have organized this effort. Our hope entails treatment at the Oasis of Hope Hospital in Mexico. Results from their treatment indicate a high degree of recovery and non-recurrence in many of their patients. It is expensive beyond Pedro and his family's financial means. Expenses include treatment, travel expenses, lodging, post-treatment, health management, and a healthy return home.

The cost of treatment at minimum is about $30,000. An individual contribution of a $1,000 (tax deductible) would be most helpful. However, any contribution will be deeply appreciated. Please make checks payable to:

Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Inc.,
with memo: Pedro Pietri Health Benefit Fund

c/o Nuyorican Poets Cafe
P.O. Box 20794
New York, New York 10009

We are seeking your support and contributions for Pedro's treatment in Mexico by January 2004. We pray that you will.

Friends and Family of Pedro Pietri

Tuesday, December 16, 2003


1. Eat a bug?: If circumstances called for it, probably. ie: Survivor.
2. Bungee jump?: Not interested. Crazy-ass white people!
4. Kill someone?: If they're threatening me and mine, most definitely.
5. Kiss someone of the same sex?: I'm not deadset against it but I've never had the urge, either. Women are much better to kiss than men.
6. Have sex with someone of the same sex?: Magic 8-Ball says "Nope."
7. Parachute from a plane?: Been there, done that, collected the hazard pay for it.
8. Walk on hot coals?: Whatever for? An epsiode of Jackass? No thanks.
9. Go out with someone for their looks?: Sure, though it wouldn't last long if that was the only thing.
10. Be a vegetarian?: I've considered it. Don't know that I have the self-discipline, though.
12. Wear plaid with stripes?: Not purposely, though I wouldn't be surprised if I have in the past. Fashion isn't my strong suit.
13. IM a stranger?: For what purpose? I don't do prank calls anymore and cybersex is pretty lame.
14. Sing Karaoke?: Only when drunk.
15. Get drunk off your Ass?: More times than I'm comfortable with these days.
16. Shoplift?: Been there, done that, over it.
17. Run a red light?: I try not to but there are times when it's necessary. Screaming kids in the back seat three blocks from home comes to mind...
18. Star in a porn video?: As Rey Mysterio, maybe.
19. Dye your hair blue?: I've always been partial to platinum blonde but Salomé's not feeling it!
20. Be on Survivor?: I would LOVE to be on Survivor!
21. Wear makeup in public?: As a lark, sure.
22. Not wear makeup in public?: That's how you'll usually find me.
23. Cheat on a test?: Did it once because the teacher sucked and none of us were prepared so we all chipped in answers to pass.
24. Make someone cry?: Depends on the context. I'm not averse to it as a goal under the right circumstances.
25. Date someone more than 10 years older than you: 44? Sorry to say but that's less likely the older I get. Call me shallow.
26. Stay up all night?: Harder to do these days when you know that'll probably mean a 36-hour day.

Not sure what happened to questions 3 and 11. Mr. Ashcroft?

PS: Check out my new glasses. Hard to tell the difference in pictures.

Monday, December 15, 2003

[A PS: to the whole Hussein thing, from a comment I posted elsewhere, re: admitting his capture (and overall downfall) was a good thing.]

Saddam=bad. No question. I doubt there are many that would argue that point.

I don't believe in the ends justifying the means, though, especially when those means equal 456 dead Americans and counting.

Having served in the Army (active and National Guard) for 8 1/2 years, I don't take lightly the realities of military life nor the gutless whims of those who've never served but would casually send others to their deaths. Every one of those 456 deaths represents a human being and resonates with me as if I personally knew every single one of them.

I also don't believe in the hypocrisy of targetting Hussein while ignoring say, Saudi Arabia, for which there is ample (not to mention confirmed) evidence of their support of terrorism.

I give the soldiers their due credit for a job well done. Bush, however, deserves no credit for his flawed, arrogant policies that have made this their job.
According to the


Dennis Kucinich
best matches my political views.

Who gets your vote?


My Full Results:

1. My ideal theoretical candidate. (100%)
2. Kucinich, Rep. Dennis, OH - Democrat (84%)
3. Socialist Candidate (72%)
4. Dean, Gov. Howard, VT - Democrat (72%)
5. Edwards, Senator John, NC - Democrat (68%)
6. Kerry, Senator John, MA - Democrat (66%)
7. Gephardt, Rep. Dick, MO - Democrat (63%)
8. Clark, Retired General Wesley K., AR - Democrat (63%)
9. Moseley-Braun, Former Senator Carol, IL - Democrat (59%)
10. Sharpton, Reverend Al - Democrat (56%)
11. Lieberman, Senator Joe, CT - Democrat (45%)
12. LaRouche, Lyndon H. Jr. - Democrat (40%)
13. Libertarian Candidate (20%)
14. Bush, President George W. - Republican (19%)
15. Phillips, Howard - Constitution (5%)

Not sure what to think of this when the unnamed Socialist Candidate and Howard Dean come up equal and Edwards, Kerry, Gephardt & Clark all come ahead of Moseley-Braun and Sharpton. I am curious what the 19% I agree with Bush on is, though!
So they captured Hussein. Congratulations to the soldiers for a job well done but, in the big picture, all I can say is big whoop. The reality is that his capture will have little effect on the ongoing guerilla war in Iraq that has seen 317 American soldiers die since Bush declared an end to major combat back on May 1st. MAY 1st! That's 7 1/2 months of...minor (?) combat following the "war" that apparently lasted only 5 weeks! Fun with semantics, brought to you by the most illiterate President in our history.

And all the analysts and pundits that keep referring to Hussein as "a common thug" simply undermine their own credibility. John Gotti was a common thug. 50 Cent was a common thug. Hussein was a cunning and ruthless dictator and it took two wars with the most ridiculously-powerful military in the history of the world to finally defeat him. Capturing "a common thug" certainly doesn't merit the amount of attention Hussein's capture has received. So which is it? The most ridiculous thing I've heard in connection to this, though, is the speculation that holiday spending will now surge in light of his capture. As if Joe American was avoiding the malls this year because Hussein was still on the loose! "Sorry kids, but Santa's not coming this year because Saddam represents an imminent threat and, along with our civil liberties, we're giving up shopping." More like, "Sorry kids, Santa's not coming this year because Mommy and Daddy are broke and drowning in debt and, despite what the news says, this economy sucks for regular people like us. Oh, and those tax cuts that gave us $800 to get your new school clothes and that new TV? You'll be paying for them when you get a little older. Merry Christmas!"

The other annoying speculation is what effect this will have on the Democratic candidates vying for a shot at Bush. If the media ever decided to focus on actual issues instead of poll numbers and sound bites, it wouldn't have much effect at all, other than drawing attention back to Bush's flawed reasoning for this war in the first place. Unfortunately, it will have some effect, particularly for Howard Dean who's hung his hopes on hypocritically bashing Bush (and many of his fellow candidates) over the war without offering a solid platform beneath all of the bluster.

In kind-of-related news, as I was writing here last week that I was done moving for a loooong time, Salomé was receiving an intriguing offer of a well-paying job in San Juan, PR! This at the same time I'm joking elsewhere about pulling a Gilligan's Island if Bush wins again next year, as I fear he will if Dean gets the Democratic nod. She's not the least bit tempted by it but I certainly was. Imagine?

Friday, December 12, 2003

Just like that, Andy Pettitte is now one of my favorite baseball players! Takes a lot to turn down the money and prestige that comes with being a Yankee, taking significantly less money to play closer to home and family. Surely he saw the writing on the wall that says the Yankees' better days are in the past but that doesn't lessen the integrity of his decision. You taking notes, A-Rod?

Some Yankee fans are complaining that he never intended to stay in NY, that he had one foot out the door at the end of the season, as if that's somehow a bad thing on his part. I read one article that speculated that it was his wife's "fault," that she pressured him to sign with Houston. Reminds me of some of my single friends who don't understand that sometimes I really do just want to go home and spend time with my wife and kids instead of hanging out after work. Not because I have to, but because I want to.

On the D&D front, I've got five people interested so far, unfortunately, three of them don't live in the area! Though I've always liked Austin - one of my Top 3 "If not NYC" places to live, along with Miami and Providence - I'm not moving again until Isaac and India no longer fit in their bedroom! One of the three may be moving back to the City soon, though, so I'm hopeful he'll be able to play. It'd be nice to find an interested female to balance the game a bit - most guys tend to want to do the hack-and-slash thing more than actual role-playing - but if I know any personally, they've kept it a pretty good secret.

Speaking of D&D, my Amazon.com boycott was really hard to stick to this week when I went shopping for my annual Christmas present to myself, picking up the DM Guide, Player's Handbook, Monster's Manual, a DM Screen, Miniatures Entry Pack and a set of die from Forbidden Planet, all at full price. Conviction costs!

I DO need to find somewhere else for my wish list, though, as one person overlooked my note posted on it (Unique Facts: Please don't shop from this Wish List until Borders offers their workers a fair contract and allows them to unionize!) and bought me something through it anyway!

On a related note, Overstock.com and their fair-tradish subsite, Worldstock, are my new favorite e-tailers. Good stuff, great prices, cheap shipping.

Thursday, December 11, 2003


You are Beast!

You are brilliant and extremely clever. You can handle almost any problem swiftly and efficiently. You are devoted to philosophy and are always up for a good discussion. Sometimes, though, your anger gets the best of you and you upset those whom you care about.

Which X-Men character are you most like?
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Wednesday, December 10, 2003

For all those ready to coronate Dean on the basis of his poll numbers in TWO small states that have been the center of attention, a look at the National numbers should be rather sobering:

Quinnipiac University Poll. (Dec. 4-8, 2003)

"Suppose the general election for president were being held today, and the candidates were [see below] the Democrat, and George W. Bush the Republican, for whom would you vote?"

Bush: 50% / Clark: 41% / Don't Know: 6%

Bush: 51% / Dean: 40% / Don't Know: 5%

Bush: 51% / Lieberman: 40% / Don't Know: 5%

Bush: 51% / Kerry: 39%/ Don't Know: 6%

Bush: 53% / Gephardt: 38% /Don't Know: 5%

Bush: 52% / Edwards: 37% / Don't Know: 6%

Bush: 56% / Moseley Braun: 33% / Don't Know: 6%

Bush: 55% / Kucinich: 32% / Don't Know: 8%

Bush: 59% / Sharpton: 29% / Don't Know: 6%
Interestingly, the so-called "major" candidates all experienced a 2-5% drop from their October highs, including the supposedly unstoppable Doctor (10/03: Bush 48%, Dean 42%). Meanwhile, a couple of the so-called longshots - with numbers being reported for the first time in the December poll - are within striking distance of all of them, especially when you factor in the differential in media coverage between the two tiers.

In other words, only 8% more people would vote for Dean than Kucinich and most people don't know who the hell Kucinich is yet!

Could this mean that Dean has peaked and the media frenzy that has thus far propped him up will now be looking for the next insurgent?

Keep hope alive!
Rushed home last night after an amazing Acentos (Alixa and Naima absolutely blew me away with a provocative and political performance piece that went way beyond simple poetry!) and some interesting political discussions to catch Niteline's airing of highlights from the debate in New Hampshire. From the news reports I've read this morning, and the transcript itself, they cut out some interesting moments to squeeze the 90 minute event into Niteline's 60 minute (minus commercials) time slot.

Overall, despite Ted Koppell being a terrible moderator, I was pleased to see Kucinich given as much air time as he was. More than Edwards and Gephardt, and on par with Kerry, Dean & Clark. If anything, someone at ABC seemed to make a point of giving Kucinich, Sharpton & Moseley Braun equal face time, unlike most of today's coverage that didn't see fit to do the same, focusing on the Dean/Gore connection and everyone's reactions to it. Particularly galling as it was, in my opinion, Kucinich's best performance yet - a heartening thing in an increasingly disheartening campaign.

KUCINICH: And with all due respect to you, Ted Koppel, who I've admired over the years greatly...

KOPPEL: There's a zinger coming now, isn't there?

KUCINICH: Yes. To begin this kind of a forum with a question about an endorsement, no matter by who, I think actually trivializes the issues that are before us.


For example, at this moment there are 130,000 troops in Iraq. I mean, I would like to hear you ask during this event what's the plan for getting out. This war is not over. I have a plan, which is on my Web site at kucinich.us, to get the United States out of Iraq. I want to talk about that tonight, and I hope we have a substantive discussion tonight and that we're not going to spend the night talking about endorsements.

Sharpton came out strong, too, denouncing the idea that any of the candidates should heed Gore's call to step down and unite behind Dean:

KOPPEL: The question is, will there come a point when polls, money and then ultimately the actual votes that will take place here in places like New Hampshire, the caucuses in Iowa, will there come a point when we can expect one or more of the three of you to drop out? Or are you in this as sort of a vanity candidacy? Reverend Sharpton, you go first.

SHARPTON: Well, first of all, I think the fact that I'm doing so well in many states in the polls and ahead in national polls of people with far more money shows that I know how to deal with the national deficit probably better than anybody on this stage.


So I think that in all seriousness the problem is that we are reducing politics to people with money. I think that Americans want people with ideas.


The suggestion is that if you can't buy your way now, that you can't seek the highest office in the land. That is to really sell the White House. I think that people with no money that can generate the kind of support I'm generating, that can galvanize a lot of young people, a lot of people that left this party and voted for Ralph Nader, this is what wins elections. I refuse to allow us to continue to act like the person with the best dollar -- or the biggest dollar -- has the best message. If money is going to win this, Bush is going to win. Nobody up here is going to raise the money Bush raises.

KOPPEL: You're out of time.

SHARPTON: What we must do is raise the votes he can't get. And you can't buy those votes.
Of particular note, Moseley Braun confirmed my suspicions of her true intentions (Vice President) by staying on the sidelines and playing peacemaker:

MOSELEY BRAUN: Well, just to say, in short, I think it's important that in the memory of Paul Simon and all the Democrats who are looking to us for leadership, that we turn toward each other, not against each other, and take on the real enemy here.

Slate has an excellent analysis of the whole thing. In the end, backtracking a bit from my defeated point of view yesterday, I think the nomination is still pretty wide open. I suspect there's a lot of backrooom dealing right now as KerryGephardtLeibermanEdwards figure out how to best counter DeanGore - you KNOW the Clinton's phone was ringing off the hook last night - and if Kucinich ever had a chance to gain some momentum, it's in these next five weeks. Hilary Clinton, of all people, said it best:

"I remember back in December of 1991 when my husband was I don't think above 4 percent in the polls," said Clinton, speaking after a housing conference in Manhattan. "Through the months of the primaries and the caucuses, there was a hard-fought battle and it finally ended in June of 1992 when Bill clinched the nomination. He was running third behind President Bush and Ross Perot. So I want to see how the process plays out.")
Well said.
theory slut
You are a Theory Slut. The true elite of the
postmodernists, you collect avant-garde
Indonesian hiphop compilations and eat journal
articles for breakfast. You positively live
for theory. It really doesn't matter what
kind, as long as the words are big and the
paragraph breaks few and far between.

What kind of postmodernist are you!?
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Tuesday, December 9, 2003

If you can watch this and not get mad, you're inhuman. It's work appropriate, but turn your volume down a bit because it's intense.

How many more?
An interesting take on things from the NY Times:

The move carries obvious potential rewards, but equally obvious risks, for both men. The sudden marriage of such a seeming odd couple could wind up being seen as so politically expedient as to seem almost unprincipled, playing into the public's worst perceptions that campaigns are about power and winning, not big ideas.

"It plays into Republicans, who want to re-fight the last election and run against Democrats as not having firm moral values or beliefs," one Democratic strategist said. "They're going to use it against Gore, saying he threw out everything he believes in, and they'll use it against Dean saying he sold out. The No. 1 picture in both Democratic and Republican direct mail is going to be Gore and Dean together."
Say it ain't so, Al! Gore Endorses Dean

This is just politics at its pettiest as Al Gore desperately tries to remain relevant in the Democratic Party. He's a sore loser looking for revenge. MoveOn.org gave him a couple of nice handjobs over the last year, providing partisan forums where he could safely bash Bush (where was that passion when it could have helped?) and now he's addicted to the rush.

How can he possibly justify circumventing the primary process (knowing exactly how influential his endorsement is at this early stage of the game) and hop on the bandwagon of a venal opportunist who's branded himself an insurgent and selectively bashed the so-called "insiders" that he's now openly sucking up to? If Al Gore isn't an insider, who the hell is?!?!

This pretty much makes the primaries another rubber stamp formality, justifying the states that have decided to cancel theirs. It's now a question of who will throw in the towel and when.

Gephardt is hoping against hope that he can still pull off Iowa, otherwise he's out of the game. Kerry needs to take 2nd in Iowa and win New Hampshire or else all the profanity and ketchup money in the world won't keep his sinking ship afloat. Edwards will try to stick it out to the South Carolina primary but without a victory there, he's done. Leiberman? I almost feel sorry for the little guy. Have to give him credit for sticking to his beliefs, unlike his backstabbing buddy, Gore.

Kucinich, Sharpton and Mosley-Braun? Thanks for playing along. You may return to your seats now.

But wait!

The interesting subplot to all of this is Wesley Clark, who stands to benefit the most if/when Kerry and Gephardt pull out - especially as the Southern primaries come around - but he'll need Bill Clinton - a behind-the-scenes supporter of his - to step forward and endorse him ASAP to keep him in the running. Clinton has so far chosen not to endorse anyone, saying "I don't intend to take a position until the voters decide who the nominee is." Imagine THAT for a concept.

If Clinton sticks to that, Dean's got the nod. If he steps up to bat for Clark - simultaneously bitch-slapping Al Gore - it becomes a battle-royal that could actually be fun to watch, especially as the two jockey for VP candidates. Tops on that list? I'd say Carol Mosley-Braun. She's not even a blip in the national polls but she's a woman and has NOW's endorsement, which Dean or Clark would love to have by proxy. Personally, I think it's the only reason NOW endorsed a candidate that had barely raised any money, was ready to drop out of the race back in September and, other than appearing at the debates, was making no real effort to attain the nomination. I think her goal has been the VP slot all along.

Of all the likely combinations (in other words, accepting that none of these knuckleheads will tag Kucinich as their running mate), Clark/Mosley-Braun is the most intriguing to me. Time for some more research...

Monday, December 8, 2003

Blogger/Google have come up with some ridiculous banner ads for my journal in the past but this one takes the cake:

Why use maquiladoras?

It links to a company called Made In Mexico, Inc., which eagerly offers the following information:

* The entry-level wage for low-level jobs in Mexico is approximately 25% of the hourly wage paid to workers in the U.S., which nets you enormous cost savings.

* Mexico's standard work-week of 48 hours yields unbeatable speed of production without the financial drain of overtime pay.

* Fast, easy startup with little capital investment turns projects that would be cost-prohibitive in the U.S. into lucrative possibilities.

* Tijuana's close proximity to the U.S. border eases time constraints and transportation costs.

* With wholly owned, cost-plus shelter and subcontracting maquiladora options available through Made In Mexico, Inc., you can have as much or as little involvement with the administrative and labor-related responsibilities of your Mexican operation as you desire.

Maquiladora: (mäkelädo´rä ) n. Synonymous with Mexico manufacturing, maquiladoras are Mexican assembly plants that manufacture finished goods for export. Maquiladoras are generally owned by non-Mexican corporations that take advantage of low-cost Mexican labor, advantageous tariff regulations, and close proximity to U.S markets. Maquiladoras are one of Mexico primary sources of foreign exchange.
I fucking despise capitalism!
Where's my nerds at? My role-playing ones, specifically, because I'm itching for some D&D!

Haven't played in years...since 1985 or so. Was big on it in early high school. We played more than D&D, too, branching out into Marvel Superheroes, James Bond and a few others I can't remember. D&D was the King, though, and the one that holds the most interest for me these days.

Back then, we used to compete over who could steal the best stuff from our local hobby shop in Mt. Vernon as it was all too expensive for us. It was a small store on West 1st Street, mainly full of models of ships and cars and stuff, but there was one shelf that held all of the D&D books. Our MO was always the same: send the old guy into the back to see if our "special order" had arrived, stuff what we could into our backpacks without leaving the shelf obviously barren before he returned, and buy a 20-sided die or something like it before leaving. Later, we'd add up the "cost" of our booty and whomever's was worth more won. Every now and then, I'd feel guilty and buy a cheap snap-together model that I'd never get around to snapping together - my idea of penance.

For the past couple of months, my cousin Juan has been teasing me that he's putting together a campaign but I'm getting impatient so I borrowed his Dungeon Master's Guide this weekend so I could start putting together my own. Part of my logic is that constructing a campaign is not unlike writing a story and that it might be a good way to flesh out my Mateo de Orikeno story that's hit that wall called lack of time, especially since I read through the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting and found a couple of great areas I could set my story. (It's similar to how writing an earlier idea for a novel out as a screenplay helped me to get that story out of my system, if not actually finished. And, ultimately, got me into the slams at the Nuyorican! But that's another story.)

Slipped at one point, explaining to Salomé what a "SLAM"-master does in the game! I meant Dungeon Master, of course, but when you think about it, there's not really that much difference. Both create the setting in which the players act out their roles - some choosing characters similar to themselves while others pretend to be someone completely different - and guide the action through to the end, striving for a balance of excitement and fairplay. If only you could kill off a "character" in slam, though...

So I need a few interested friends - four, ideally, so I don't have to press Salomé into service - to step up to the plate for a semi-monthly (that's twice a month, jerky!) campaign. Straightforward role-playing, 3rd level party, using the Forgotten Realms setting, to start sometime in January. No dressing up or anything extreme like that! Drop me a note in the guestbook if you're proud of your nerdhood, or via email if you're in the closet.

In other news: The Fantasy Football playoffs began this past weekend without me for the third year in a row in my Exit42 leagues. In Yahoo!, however, Clinton Portis guaranteed my Midnight Rockers a playoff spot with a final week blowout of my buddy, Danny, as I walloped his Miami Jets 118-51 in my best game of the season.

Friday, December 5, 2003

The Grand Concourse is covered in snow. Our living room window overlooks the Concourse. It is stunningly beautiful outside right now, in that way New York only ever is during the first snow of the winter. Eight inches fell so far and there's at least that much coming tomorrow.

I want to wake up early enough to see the sunrise and the snowfall.

Have I said how happy I am to be living in the Bronx again recently? 'Cause I am. :-)
In response to a promotional email I received from Borders today:

To: (ccare@bordersstores.com)
Sent: 12/05/2003 8:49:26 AM
Subject: Re: Save 15% for a Limited Time Only (Fwd By Digital Impact)

In solidarity with your workers in Ann Arbor and Minneapolis, I will not be shopping at Borders (or Waldenbooks or Amazon.com) until management reaches an acceptable agreement on a contract.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez
Bronx, NY
And their response:

To: "" (glecharles@yahoo.com)
From: "ccare@bordersstores.com" (ccare@bordersstores.co)
Subject: RE: Re: Save 15% for a Limited Time Only (Fwd By Digital Impact)
Date: Fri, 05 Dec 2003 11:31:38 -0600


Thank you for contacting Borders about the strike at our downtown Ann Arbor store.

We appreciate your sharing your comments with us. We have included them with information presented to our executives for their review. We are currently at the negotiating table with our Ann Arbor store and hope to resolve the situation very soon.

Please don't hesitate to contact us if you have any further questions or comments.

Borders Customer Service
Drop them a line and express your support: ccare@bordersstores.com. Be sure to note your city and state as one of the things Borders has been trying to do is pretend the strike isn't even happening and responses from all over the country will show them it's not working.
Salomé's going to kill me if I say I'm boycotting another of our favorite stores but, here's some more Christmas spirit for you anyway:

Support H&M Workers

Hundreds of protesters and H&M workers rallied outside H&M outlets in New York City and Washington, DC October 24, exposing the Swedish clothing retailer's global record of worker harassment and sweatshop abuses. In New York City, where activists staged a mock fashion show, H&M rescheduled the grand opening of a new store at the last minute after getting word of the action.

"Within the past year, I've been seriously injured three times," says Deyanire Bautista, an H&M distribution center worker in Secaucus, NJ. "I've had boxes weighing 50 pounds topple off of shelves onto me, but management just tells me to keep working."

Every H&M employee in Sweden and most of Europe is covered by a union contract and the company publicly commits to respecting workers' freedom to join a union. However, management responded with threats, law breaking, and harsh anti-union tactics when U.S. workers demanded union representation.

This holiday season, UNITE, H&M workers and allies will protest H&M's business and expose the company's record of labor abuse to customers. Additionally, UNITE is working with Swedish unions to mobilize a global campaign and hold the company accountable to workers' rights.

For more information, check out: UNITE!
There's a reason their prices are so cheap, people!

To her credit, I should say that Salomé does what she can to support my attempts to live responsibly wherever possible, even coming up with a few web sites that we can use for Christmas shopping: Ten Thousand Villages, Global Marketplace and Lucuma Designs. There's also Co-op America's Green Pages Online, a directory of companies with demonstrated commitments to social and environmental responsibility.

It's sad that it's not more convenient to do the right thing - community banking, in particular, is a tough one once you've gotten used to online banking - but then that's exactly why it's so important. It's the people that can and do that ultimately make it easier for others to join in. Basic economics of supply and demand: the more people demand responsible products, the more attention they receive, the more they become available and the easier it becomes to live responsibly. It's the same logic people seem to understand when it comes to consumer electronics (remember when you couldn't get a cheap computer for under $1000?) but can't quite seem to grasp when it comes to something like Fair Trade.

And yes, sometimes it costs more to do the right thing. That's short-term thinking, though. Like so many other conveniences of our society, we're simply mortgaging our kids' futures if we don't look at the long-term.

Thursday, December 4, 2003

In solidarity with the Borders workers who are attempting to unionize, I'm unlinking my Amazon.com wish list over on the right for the time being.

From workers at Borders Books in Ann Arbor:

Workers at Borders Books store #1 in Ann Arbor, MI are on strike as of Saturday, November 8, at 9:00 AM. We do not take this step lightly. By striking, we hope to convince Borders Management to negotiate with us in good faith so we can reach a fair contract and return to our jobs.

We are writing to ask you to support us by:

1. boycotting all Borders, Waldenbooks, and Amazon.com;
2. signing an online petition: Borders Readers
3. calling Borders Headquarters (734-477-1100) to tell them you support us;
4. forwarding this message to all your friends and colleagues!
5. leafleting at a Borders near you (email us at bru@riseup.net and we’ll find you help!)

If you’re near Ann Arbor, you can also support us by:

1. volunteering to picket with workers in front of the store! (9am-11pm M-Sa, 9am-9pm Sun)
2. joining Borders Readers United, our community support coalition (email bru@riseup.net for info)

In solidarity and thanks,
Borders Workers Union Organizing Committee

Complete information, updates, and pictures at:
If you want more info on what's happening, check this site out, too: http://www.bordersunion.org/

And remember, instead of turning to Barnes & Noble, which has its own set of issues to deal with, there's Booksense.com, the independent bookstore alternative. Workers unite!
Back to work this morning and no pink slip waiting for me. Couple of snarky comments, though. Considering I don't remember the last 2-3 hours of the night, including the train ride home, that's a good thing, I guess.

I've always been a little coy about my drinking - for a long time even joked about being a functional alcoholic, which basically meant I never got fired from a job because of it. The truth of the matter, though, is I've got some family history combined with a tendency to ignore my limits and tempt fate.

The first time I ever blacked out was in late 1991, a couple of months after arriving in Ft. Campbell, KY after 6 months of basic training, mechanic school and Airborne school. It was right around this time of year, mid-holidays, and I was homesick and second-guessing my decision to enlist. A friend and I decided to hit a club that night and got an early start at a sports bar on the base, downing a pitcher of beer each in a little over an hour. Since the club didn't really get going until around 11pm, we stopped off at a strip club along the way that had a BOB policy - $5/bottle to bring in whatever you wanted. I brought Southern Comfort, mixing it with Coca-Cola until I spilled my cup of soda and started hitting the SoCo straight from the bottle. To this day, there remains that moment in time where a curtain is drawn on the night and, other than brief flashes and my friend filling me in the next day, I completely lost several hours. I was apparently in quite a festive mood early on as I took the stage at one point, mike in hand, and encouraged the audience to take good care of the dancers. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the phrase "cheap motherfuckers" was in there somewhere. Later, I decided to take a private dance with one dancer I had a crush on, much to my friend's dismay as he convinced me to at least let him hold on to my wallet. I remember a Prince song playing at some point, though not which one. Within 15 minutes, the dancer was running from the back room to get my friend because I had started puking my brains out. He carried me to the bathroom, cleaned me up as best he could and took me back to the barracks. I woke up the next morning in my bed, fully dressed and confused, my contacts still in but nearly bone dry. Thanks to my roomate, I was able to put together that after I was brought to my room, I spent three hours in the bathroom puking some more before falling asleep. My roommate brought me back to bed. I was a total wreck and only nature saved me from probably killing myself as a scheduled jump (as in from an airplane) that morning was canceled at the last minute due to weather.

While that remains the worst episode by far, I've had several lesser ones over the years.

Back in 1995, I went to AA for 89 days. Initially, I went because of a girl I was interested in and the night we met, she was heading to a meeting so I tagged along. Predictably, she turned out to be a bit unstable (she was in NA, too, and had a history of paternal sexual abuse), culminating in the first and only time I've publicly fought out in the street (within a relationship) as she broke a bottle and threatened to cut me with it! Anyway, AA was interesting at first, and the writer in me indulged in the drama of the meetings, the stories being shared, the way coffee and cigarettes and willing ears were so unblinkingly substituted for alcohol. The first thirty days or so, I hit at least three meetings a week, well below the recommended meeting each day but not bad for someone not really willing to admit to that first step: that I was powerless over alcohol. In my mind, alcohol was simply the symptom of a larger ill, an addicitive personality that manifests itself in overindulgence of all kinds. Alcohol wasn't the problem; I was. Sixty days in, I started to get annoyed with many of the people in the meetings and was only going once a week. A couple of people offered to sponsor me - to be that 24/7 ear when John Barleycorn comes calling - but I couldn't get past the blind leading the blind feeling. On my 89th day, the eve of AA's first significant milestone of 90 days sober, I skipped the meeting I was planning on attending and went to JR's (the bar on 46th Street where I had my first real drink - a screwdriver - bought for me by father back in 1989 when I'd moved back to the City from Westchester; I was 20.) and had a drink out of spite. Not really sure who I thought I was spiting but I saw it as a statement to myself that alchohol held no power over me.

I still believe the problem is much larger than alcohol itself but I've come to realize it's time to stop playing coy about its effects. With myself, at least. Oddly, there was something about waking up yesterday and finding $35 in my wallet and having no idea where it came from that really threw me. Last I remember was giving my final dollar to the coat check person at Noche, around 10pm. I found the ATM receipt a little later which simultaneously eased my mind a bit (I didn't DO something I got paid for!) while disturbing me that I don't remember withdrawing the money at all (what if it were more?) and have no idea what I spent $5 on in a drunken haze.

So all that to say my New Year's resolution to stop drinking is legit. And it's not waiting for January 1st to take effect. I'm not some dumb single kid anymore with nothing to lose and I need to stop acting like I am. As Blogger is my witness, I'm off the sauce. A single glass of wine in social settings will be my only indulgence. Whatever friends that are reading this, I fully empower you to hold me to this.

How I'll survive through poetry readings anymore is something I need to figure out. ;-)

Wednesday, December 3, 2003

Office Holiday party.

Vodka and Tonic.


No memory of coming home.

Called in sick.

New Year's Resolution: Stop drinking.


Tuesday, December 2, 2003

Christmas time. Hmmph!

I'm already sick of all the commercials for diamonds and Lexus and power tools. The diamond ones are particularly offensive as they make women look pretty shallow and encourage men to indulge that shallowness. Or guilt them into it might be more appropriate. I've always had a problem with the whole engagement ring tradition, too. How come the guy doesn't get anything? If the logic of "a diamond is a girl's best friend" is to be believed, shouldn't the groom-to-be get a dog? If so, would size count? If you really love him, you'll get him a Great Dane! The whole thing is part of the view of marriage that saw [still sees] women as property and yet somehow, it's still acceptable? I don't get it. And that's not even getting into the whole cruelty issue surrounding where diamonds come from. (Nina Parrilla does a much better job breaking it down than I could.)

As for power tools, I just don't get it. You give me a power tool for Christmas (or my birthday!) and I'm giving you a sideways look while I ask for the gift receipt. Would you give a woman a vacuum cleaner for Christmas? It's the same dumbass stereotype!

We spent Saturday shopping for the kids' Christmas gifts and I have to admit to this odd twinge of guilt and hypocrisy about it. I love getting them stuff, especially the cool educational-but-fun stuff we got, but how do you balance your disdain for our consumerist economy and shopping mall lemming mentality with the desire to do right by your kids? I'm not so out there that I want to set up a yurt in the woods and separate from society but damn if I can't figure out where the middle ground is. And if I have found it, as I sometimes believe, I don't always feel so comfortable there.

I realize that this Christmas season in particular is a major battleground in next year's elections as free-spending Americans will boost the economy a bit and Bush will declare his policies a success as the short-term thinking press buys into it, blaring meaningless numbers on the news and giving people a false sense of hope. Or helplessness, if you're a half-empty kind of person like me.

If Salomé would let me get away with it, the only gifts we'd give this year would be to non-profits! Or even better, to Dennis Kucinich's campaign!

Bah-humbug! :-/

Christmas Time is Here, by Golly!

You are Christmas Time is Here, by Golly!, by Tom Lehrer.

Hmm, you really don't like Christmas, do you? From the moment they start playing carols in the shops in October to the appearance of the first Easter Eggs in the shops on New Years Eve, the rampant hypocrisy of the Christmas spirit sets your teeth on edge.

You know just how many family fights start over Christmas dinner, how many people are injured in the Boxing Day sales, and how few people actually find Christmas even remotely merry. You liked Scrooge far better before those ghosts got to him, and you are only doing this quiz because you are bored at work and anything is better than listening to everyone else discuss their Christmas shopping.

Still, it is two days off work, which does count for something... Enjoy the break.

What Christmas Carol are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Sunday, November 30, 2003

A message from the '80s for my generation and the one right behind us:

...don't you realize? The next time we see sky it'll be over another town. The next time you take a test, it'll be in some other school. Our parents, they want the bestest stuff for us. But right now they gotta do what's right for them, 'cause it's their time. Their time, up there. Down here it's our time. It's our time down here. That's all over the second we ride up "Troy's bucket".
--Mikey, from The Goonies
Think about it.

Then do something.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Last night was just plain stupid. I mean Stooopid! Like the younguns say it.

It started off shaky as the quintet of drunken, rowdy firemen did much to make you forget these guys risk their lives playing with fire. I know it's a stressful job and they need to blow off steam like anyone else but damn...try to rise above the stereotype! Thankfully, they cut out just before we got started and it was smooth sailing for the rest of the show. (A few of them did come back after the show was over, leaving M.C. Siegel and I in the surreal position of drinking at the bar with drunken firemen to our left and drunken policemen to our right. Every poet's dream!)

The open mic was tight, like a 38-year old grandmother squeezed into her granddaughter's spandex. No, wait...that's not a good thing. And the open mic most certainly was. A good thing, I mean.

I kicked things off with Adrian Castro's Pulling the Muse from the Drum:

It is you
It is me
It is
unidos Latinos
A collection of feathered drums
red & white
We pulling the muse
from the drum
the muse that is we.
Maya Azucena went next and things flowed nicely from there. Eric came through and had me read his new-to-me piece with him, Security, quite possibly my new favorite of his.

We squeezed all 16 poets into the open mic before taking a break and coming back for Fish's feature. His parents were in the audience, seeing him read for the first time and I can only imagine the pride they must have felt because he absolutely left it all on the stage. From Puerto Rico to the Bronx, raw to heartfelt, shouts to tears, he displayed a range that surpassed all of my expectations. It's cliché to talk about taking it to the next level but that's exactly what he did. With gusto!

It was the kind of night that leaves you hopeful and inspired and excited to be a part of something special. If you missed it, you missed it.
What Irrational Number Are You?
You are e

Of all the irrational numbers, you are the most intense. By nature you are powerful, although sometimes you can spiral out of control. You are good with money; the interest seems to just compound whenever you are near. When someone uses the word "exponential" they are probably talking about you.

In some ways you and φ are a nearly perfect match. Not to mention how attractive φ is. But then, there is the remarkable π...

Your lucky number is approximately 2.71828183

Shiny Lemur
Straif's Blog

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Tonight is Acentos and I'm feeling a little giddy already. When Oscar and Fish asked me to host tonight's show a couple of months back, I didn't think twice. I was honored! Now, the nerves are starting to kick in a little bit as it's only eight hours away. I haven't hosted anything in while and have probably been on stage for less than an hour over the past few months so it'll be tricky knocking off the rust. Fish is expecting a strong turnout which should be fun in the cozy confines of the Blue Ox. Old school Nuyorican with people all over the floor and each other. The open mic should be fun, too, as some first-timers will be popping in, including Maya Azucena!

I vaguely remember making a deal at the last show with the new bartender, Tina, for tonight's show but I'll be damned if I can remember what it was. I hope it involved me getting a free drink! Ahem.

Sunday night will be an...interesting?...show, as I'll be at CBGB's for The Poetry Summit, a reading organized by the guy doing the documentary on Keith Roach, who will be hosting the festivities! Keith isn't what makes it interesting, though, as we've pretty much made our peace and moved on from the drama of years past. The lineup for the night includes several people I've had beef with over the years, including a couple of recent episodes that are still pretty fresh. It'd be funny if they showed clips of our interviews for the documentary as intros! I'm most looking forward to seeing Alix, Dot and Felice. The question is, what the hell do I read there? Cryptogram, perhaps? LOL!

Come on out and buy me a drink!
Phil West has a great write-up on last night's debate. Funny stuff.

My take on things? It was all a little depressing, really.

With Kucinich, I'm at the point where I'm just hoping he sticks it out for the long haul and snags enough delegates to be a presence at the national convention. It says many sad and depressing things that someone like him doesn't have a shot to lead this country of ours. (In related news, I just found out that I may not be allowed to vote in NY's Democratic primary as some previously unknown deadline to change my party affiliation may have passed! Looking into that today but, if true, color me pissed!)

Sharpton is more and more obviously positioning himself as something of an agent provocateur and Dean is his primary target. He's going to come out of the primaries smelling like roses and mush-mouthed Jesse Jackson will finally be kicked to the curb.

Carol Mosley-Braun? I just can't take her seriously when her platform continues to revolve around the fact that she's a woman. Gee, really? I mean, I hadn't noticed! It's as bad as if Sharpton would say something like, "It's time to put some color up in that White House!" Not to mention she's been incredibly vague and disturbingly chipper in the debates I've seen so far. There's kind of a gee whiz, I'm so happy to be here vibe about her.

John Edwards? He's smarter than Dan Quayle, but way out of his league nonetheless. If by some miracle he gets the nod, I think he picks Mosley-Braun as his VP and Bush takes all 50 states.

Phil West pegs Wesley Clark as "Mean Dad." So true. I think all his Army buds airing his dirty laundry recently must have pissed him off because he was angrier than Dean last night. His penchant for not giving direct answers (especially on anything related to Gay & Lesbian issues) makes him a bit untrustworthy. Unless he screws up bad, though, he's the most likely pick for Vice-President. Imagine him and Cheney in a debate? Paramedics on standby!

Dean? Still can't stand him and he's inching up on Lieberman for the supporting role of "Smug Bastard." I think all the money he's raised - and the lemming-like state of his followers - has made him think his shit doesn't stink and he's not prepared for the kind of beating the frontrunner in a Presidential primary tends to receive. This ain't Vermont any more, bub. Start practicing that concession speech.

Kerry and Gephardt? Kerry's the more Presidential of the two but both of them make me cringe. For better or worse, they're the most experienced of the bunch and in crunch time, that could make all the difference. If Dean tanks sooner rather than later, they have the edge.

All in all, once you get past Kucinich, it's an uninspiring bunch and I wonder how much they'll have left in their tanks once they finish beating up on each other to take on little Dubya. People underestimated him last time and I'm afraid they're going to do it again. :-\

Monday, November 24, 2003

It's been a long time since I've walked out on a movie. It has to be really, really bad for me to call it a loss and give in. Dragnet (the Tom Hanks/Dan Akroyd version) was pretty damn terrible but I stuck it out to the disappointing end. Same for American Beauty.

Not so The Cat in the Hat.

We caught a matinee on Saturday and lasted 40 minutes before giving up. It didn't help that it was India's first movie and we found out she's not a movie baby. That didn't happen until we were 30 minutes into the suckfest and were already whispering about leaving as it was obvious that Isaac was equally unimpressed. Basically, it falls victim to a horrible script and the always ill-fated combination of egotistical comedian and first-time director. Boo!

Friday was a different kind of disappointment as the Kucinich event, "Bringing Vision Back into Politics," highlighted my biggest concern about his campaign: lack of crossover. The audience was mostly white, mostly older with a smattering of college-age kids - almost all of them the types you generally see at peace rallies (not protests, but rallies) and left-leaning non-profit benefits; all likely voted for Nader in 2000. Nothing wrong with that, per se, it's just that they're the choir. (NOTE: I never did write about the MeetUp I went to back in August for similar reasons.) Thanks to Dubya trying to ram his offensive energy and Medicare "legislation" through Congress, Kucinich couldn't even be there in person, appearing via a videotaped speech and live audio from Washington, DC during a short recess in the session. He presented himself well despite the awkward format and certainly energized the audience.

The best line of the night came from the moderator, James Schamus, introducing the opening band, Harbor of Refuge - an impressive acid jazz/rock quintet - noting that none of them would be voting for Kucinich next year as the oldest member was 15, but that in four years he hoped they would still be playing their musical instruments and not carrying Bush's weapons of war. And, of course, casting their vote to re-elect Kucinich.

It was a sobering moment that stayed with me through the night, putting into words the worst case scenario of four more years of Bush: perpetual war.

Today is another debate, this time from Iowa, and MSNBC will have it live @ 4pm, then rebroadcast at 9pm. I look forward to more Dean-bashing and hope Kucinich can break through the pack with something the media can't ignore. Maybe bitch-slap Dean when he claims to be the anti-war candidate or something?

Friday, November 21, 2003

How do much do I hate the Democratic Panderers...I mean Party today?

GLLC "Bloody Mary Brunch"
November 23, 2003 :: New York, NY

The Gay & Lesbian Leadership Council of the Democratic National Committee invites you to a reception with the cast members of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" as we continue our quest to makeover the White House in 2004.



I'm young! I'm a victim of the Bush economy! I'll take ___ tickets at $250 per ticket.

Here! Take my tax cut! I'll take ___ tickets at $600 per ticket.

You're Right! The White House needs a totally new look! I'll take ___ tickets at $1200 per ticket.

The GOP's worst nightmare! I'll take ___ tickets at $2400 per ticket. (Includes a private champagne reception.)
A hand job and no call the next morning free with every ticket! Just don't go expecting us to support you getting married or anything! [air kiss]
An idealist is a person who helps other people to be prosperous.
-Henry Ford
Next Tuesday is the first anniversary of the day we decided to come back to New York, officially declaring an end to the Virginia Experiment.

Coincidentally, I've been on the fence the past few weeks about whether or not to pursue an opportunity to get back into the financial services business on more agreeable terms. Primerica has a program for financial advisers that, on the surface, seems to be exactly what I've been looking for: relatively independent, on your own schedule, and, most importantly, no quotas. They basically count on you working your own personal network, no different from American Express and the others, except they don't charge for the initial financial plan (or financial needs analysis, as they call it) which was the big hurdle at Amex, and don't expect you to risk relationships with hard-sell pressure tactics, aka no quotas.

The people I've always been interested in helping generally don't have $400-700 to drop on a plan intended to help them save money for their goals, no matter how well-intentioned. Most of them need debt management and budgeting help before they can even start to think about 401(k)s, 529s and Life Insurance. They're certainly not the types to sustain a full-time financial adviser with kids to feed and rent to pay! If anything, they're the types most advisers ignore.

The big problem is many of them are young and short-sighted, live paycheck-to-paycheck, are resistant to advice and uncomfortable taking it from a friend when it means sharing their dirty financial laundry, and, most unfortunately, generally ignorant of how finances work.

Whenever I think of the extreme shit I went through to get these licenses (Series 7, 66, Life & Health) I get totally pissed. Not so much because it didn't work out at American Express - that situation was doomed from the beginning - but that they give me the ability to really help people and I can't take advantage of it! It doesn't help that I work for magazines written for financial advisers, write articles on mutual funds and other financial products, and watch scandal after scandal unfold. Never mind the people I've seen make bonehead decisions (like buying a house they can only afford if they never quit their post-retirement job and their spouse's expensive health issues don't get any worse) because of pride or ignorance.

What do you do when you have the power to help and the desire to do so, but those in need won't cooperate?

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Add Tito Puente's to my short list of favorite restaurants; top of the list on City Island.

Went last night for Salomé's birthday and I am still full! We both had these monster seafood dishes - lobster, snow crab, scallops, clams, mussels, oh my!; her's with pasta, mine with mofongo, both in an amazing red sauce - along with a filling appetizer of lobster empanadas, coconut shrimp, maduros and tostones. Yum! Their mojitos are really good, too; nice and smooth, less hardcore than Esperanto's. It's on the pricey side and I'd never go anywhere near it on the weekends, but last night was perfect with salsa playing quietly in the background and only a handful of tables full ensuring attentive service. Compared to the other seafood places we've been to on the strip - from the cheap fry shacks to the ones with valet parking - the latin flavor of the dishes puts Tito's a step above all of them.

Other favorites: Acme, Esperanto, Ghenet, Lan, Rice.

Earlier in the day, I finally broke down and went to the eye doctor for an exam and new glasses. My current pair broke again and I'm tired of krazy gluing the damn things back together. Plus, it's been at least two years, maybe three, since I got them so I figured it's time to give in to nature and get a new prescription. Surprisingly, the doctor tells me he's going to decrease the prescription as it's stronger than I need! That's what I get for going to LensCrafters last time, I guess. The downside is that the insurance I have - VSP - while pretty good, is primarily taken by small optometrists who generally have a limited selection of frames. (Damn the Wal-Marting of my thinking sometimes!) Even looking beyond the ones I'd get free, it was slim pickings. It's also the first time I picked out frames without anyone else's input! By the time I picked something I think I liked, I was practically blind from my dilated pupils and am now crossing my fingers that they look okay. They're kind of a Batman-variation of my current frames so we'll see in two weeks.

The cool thing is that, even with the slimming of what would otherwise be Coke-bottle lenses, the exam and everything came out to only $89! Mind you, that is in no way an endorsement of the profit-driven system of insurance in this country. I know several people who are stuck in a job they hate - or worse, may actually be life-threatening - purely because they can't afford to lose their insurance. Never mind those who don't have any at all because of shady employers. But there I go getting political again!


Rocking the Hip-Hop Vote

deMOCKcracyIn accordance with the short tradition of youth-vote mobilization, rockers, rappers and wrestlers hope to spark a good debate. But they are keeping it nonpartisan. The punks are a different story. "We are taking sides, and we want to offend a lot of people," says NOFX's Fat Mike (Mike Burkett), who founded a voter-registration website called Punkvoter "to expose the Bush administration and unite punks to stand against their inane policies." The website is the first step in an effort to spur punks to vote against Bush in 2004; next is a compilation album called Rock Against Bush. There will be some twenty bands on the album – including hot sellers Green Day and Sum 41 and the more politically charged Anti-Flag – some of which will kick off a tour in March to spread the outrage, and registration booths will be on-site at every event.

The website lists a few reasons the young voting bloc should be angry at the Bush Administration: Kids under the legal drinking age are dying in Iraq, the unemployment rate hit a nine-year high in 2003, more college graduates are moving back in with their parents because they can't find jobs. Whereas Hip-Hop Team Vote is supported by Simmons and other deep-pockets music industry types, on-the-cheap Punkvoter hopes to harness pure punk-rock rage to achieve its goals, one punk at a time. After the 2000 presidential election, says Fat Mike, "I wasn't sleeping well because of the outcome. I thought that if only 600 NOFX fans in Florida would have voted, everything could have been different."

By Kristin V. Jones, The Nation, November 20, 2003

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Phil West started it, so here's my own Top 10 List of Singers (defined as "...those that are immediately compelling, distinctive, built for fascination."), offered alphabetically:

Christina Aguilera
Louis Armstrong
Maya Azucena
Celia Cruz
Al Green
Sananda Maitreya (aka Terence Trent D'Arby)
Tupac Shakur
Uncle Kracker


Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Last cigarette: One week ago. A Newport while at Acentos.
Last big car ride: This past June, to VA and back, getting our stuff out of storage.
Last kiss: Quick one this morning, better one last night.
Last good cry: Not recently enough.
Last library book checked out: What's a library? Last one I bought was Prayer for America.
Last movie seen: Bones, on DVD. (I feel like I'm wearing dirty underwear on the day I get hit by a car!)
Last beverage drank: Coffee! Coffee! Coffee! Coffee!
Last food consumed: Jalapeño & Cheddar Bagel w/Cream Cheese.
Last crush: My wife was the last serious one.
Last phone call: Last one made? Geez, I owe several people a call, don't I?
Last TV show watched: Other than channel surfing, Smallville.
Last time showered: 4 hours ago.
Last shoes worn: Aldo 3/4 black leathers. Every day.
Last CD played: All on Random/Shuffle - Stripped, Christina Aguilera; Justified, Justin Timberlake; Greatest Hits, Lenny Kravitz; Can't Take Me Home, Pink; Whoa, Nelly!, Nelly Furtado; Def Jam Greatest Hits, Various.
Last item bought: Bagel.
Last annoyance: My boss, 10 minutes ago, asking me how to do something I've explained multiple times over the past four months!
Last disappointment: The end of a long-term friendship.
Last soda drank: Good-O Champagne Kola.
Last ice cream eaten: Ben & Jerry's Coffee for a Change.
Last time scolded: Last Wednesday.
Last website visited: Victor Infante's LiveJournal
YOU are the helper.

Fairy godmother, good witch/wizard, good fairy.
Almost a sidekick, but better. You aren't always
around, but your presence is well known.

You do everything you can to make every
situation better. Like the heart and soul of
the story, without you all would be lost.

What fairy tale role do you play? (this time with pictures)
brought to you by Quizilla

Monday, November 17, 2003

And these are the people that want to manage the Iraqi's assets to reconstruct their country?!?!

Indian rights still ignored

More than a century ago, the U.S. government took control of [American] Indian assets, including grazing fees, oil royalties and the like. The government promised to manage the assets in the Indians' best interests but instead grossly mishandled the accounts for decades. Today, the trust funds are such a shambles that the government can't figure out how much the Indians are owed.

The money at stake isn't welfare or tax dollars. Instead, the assets are the personal property of up to 500,000 Indians nationwide. The multi-billion-dollar government swindle dwarfs the Wall Street stock and mutual fund scandals of recent years.

The Indians sued the government over the matter in 1996. They since have won key court victories. This fall, a federal judge told the government to repair the trust fund accounting by 2007.

But last week, the White House convinced a House-Senate conference committee to insert an ugly and damaging provision into an Interior Department spending bill. The "midnight rider," as one opponent called it, erased many legal victories the Indians had won.


Senators and House members felt pressured to vote for the bill, including the anti-Indian rider, because it also contained money to fight forest fires and run the national parks. Even so, the bill passed by very narrow margins.

Most of Sunday was just me and the kids and I kept reminding myself that the two-year spread between them will be a good thing when they're a little older. Right now, though, at 3 and 1, they expend enough energy to decrease our dependence on foreign oil tenfold. Forget hydrogen cells and solar power, somebody needs to figure out a way to harness the seemingly boundless energy of toddlers. I totally get the concept behind The Matrix now!

Isaac has pretty much gotten over naps and India has cut hers down to two hours tops - and late in the afternoon at that - which basically means they're on the go nonstop from morning til night, when they usually pass out without much of a fight. Now that India's big enough to comfortably play along, the two of them are raging dynamos, running back and forth through the apartment, climbing on everything they can get a foothold on. Between them, they have an unseemly amount of toys - especially the small kind that tend to disappear under couches and re-appear underfoot - all of which must be played with for at least two minutes each and none ever put away lest they want to return to them minutes or hours later. Pulling all of their books from the bookshelf and spreading them across the floor is one of their favorite, and seemingly mandatory, activities.

Occasionally, they will pause in front of the TV for 10-15 minutes, transfixed by Bob the Builder or Blue's Clues or Pee Wee's Playhouse, which, as an adult, I now realize was incredibly bizarre for a kid's show and somewhat prophetic of Pee Wee's ultimate fate. It's just enough time to get something to drink, go to the bathroom or sneak a peek at the news before they're back in action.

Yesterday, Isaac and I read several books together for the first time in recent memory and I realized that ever since we've had two kids, it's somewhat diluted our ability to be the attentive parents we were in his first year and a half. Most days, it's a challenge to simply be good caretakers, making sure they eat (often an unpleasant battle of wills), get baths, and don't kill each other.

The fact that they have such different personalities - India is much more independent, almost militantly so! - doesn't make it any easier. Sitting together reading felt good, but there was a part of me that felt like spending that time focused on Isaac was somehow cheating her. At one point, I even tried to sit her down with us but she wasn't having it, squirming her way back on to the floor and heading off on her own.

No idea what the connection is but, later in the evening, I went on a cleaning spree and completely rearranged their bedroom, making it a bit less parent-friendly while giving them more room to play. I also took the opportunity to cull their toy collection a bit even though it felt like I hadn't made much of a dent when I was done.

Within minutes, their books were back on the floor and they were in the home stretch. :-)