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?, 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. :-)

Sunday, November 16, 2003

For those that believe[d] the War On Iraq was in the name of fighting terrorism, I wonder if they're feeling any safer these days? I wonder if they still believe that "supporting our troops" means blindly accepting whatever our government says? I wonder if they actually know anyone whose life has been put on the line, or already lost, because of their silence? I wonder if they regret denouncing those that spoke out from the beginning as "unAmerican?"

I hope they cannot sleep at night.

U.S. casualties from Iraq war top 9,000

In addition to the 397 service members who have died and the 1,967 wounded, 6,861 troops were medically evacuated for non-combat conditions between March 19 and Oct. 30, the Army Surgeon General's office said.

That brings total casualties among all services to more than 9,200, and represents an increase of nearly 3,000 non-combat medical evacuations reported since the first week of October. The Army offered no immediate explanation for the increase.

Friday, November 14, 2003

This has felt like an unusually long week that I managed to make feel even longer by taking an early lunch. The minutes they are a'ticking slowly...

I'm simultaneously reading Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America and Irving Rouse's The Tainos: Rise and Decline of the People Who Greeted Columbus. I resisted Nickel and Dimed for a couple of years, annoyed by the "duh!" factor of someone doing a study on how hard it is to be poor. Happily, though, I was wrong, finding Ehrenreich's honesty about her project refreshing ("Almost anyone could do what I did... In fact, millions of Americans do it every day, and with a lot less fanfare and dithering.") and that she is a solid writer with an excellent eye for the little details:

But as the days go by, my old life is beginning to look exceedingly strange. The e-mails and phone messages addressed to my former self come from a distant race of people with exotic concerns and far too much time on their hands. The neighborly market I used to cruise for produce now looks forbiddingly like a Manhattan yuppie emporium. And when I sit down one morning in my real home to pay bills from my past life, I am dazzled by the two- and three-figure sums owed to outfits like Club Body Tech and
Not surprisingly, Ehrenreich has endorsed Dennis Kucinich for President and is appearing with him next Friday at the Kaye Playhouse event. I suspect Howard Dean has never read her book. Certainly the majority of his Internet followers haven't. Pity. How do you profess to "Take Back America" when you're so obviously out of touch with the vast majority of Americans? [I know! I know! You assume they don't vote anyway and ignore them.]

Rouse's Tainos is an extremely fascinating book, if at times overly academic. It's exactly what I was hoping for, though, when I started thinking of combining my desire to write a fantasy novel with that of learning more about my long-neglected culture. A lot of interesting tidbits, like the fact that women could serve as caciques and this:

If [Tainos] had been allowed a few centuries of reprieve from Spanish rule they might well have bridged the gap across Guanahatabey territory in western Cuba and developed the kind of commercial linkage that they had already established with the inhabitants of northern South America. This would have made it possible for them to acquire writing, statehood, and other elements of the mainland civilizations, as their fellow islanders, the British and the Japanese, had already done in Europe and Asia.
Emphasis is mine but it is a powerful comparison Rouse makes about a people that were virtually eradicted within 20 years of Columbus' bumbling "discovery."

For some reason, I feel like watching Rosewood this weekend. Maybe make it a double feature with Do the Right Thing.

In other news...there is no other news! I'm spent.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Recipe for sea-sickness on land:

1 big helping of working in the financial district in lower Manhattan
1 extremely windy day
1 33-story office building creaking and swaying in the wind
3 out of 6 elevators in said building out of service
2 of the elevators in service randomly skipping floors

Mix in 7 trips between your office on the 25th floor to the art department on the 27th floor, and 4 cups of low-grade corporate coffee. Shake.
Nothing like the joys of Comic Book Wednesday to take the edge off of a tough hangover. Even better is when your Midtown Comics $20 rebate kicks in the same week 75% of the comics you usually buy unexpectedly come out at once. Yay!

Tuesday's Acentos was another great one with Willie Perdomo doing what he does best, reading poems with substance and leaving the spectacle to others who need it. The open mic was solid and it was one of the better overall turnouts so far. Not sure what was in the air - maybe the sight of Willie's old crew coming out to support him? - but afterwards I hung out much longer than usual, talking with MC Siegel and Juan Diaz, bonding with the new bartender, Tina (the first Acentos bartender with a personality, I felt like I was cheating on Maureen!), and drinking Coronas like water. The jukebox spit out old favorites and time flew by and the next thing we knew it was nearly 3am! Rich, Oscar and Jessica had hung around, too, and we all ultimately closed the place down. After three hours of sleep, I was totally useless yesterday.

It was worth it, though, as the night felt like one of those Fridays back in '97 when a handful of us first started to connect at the Nuyorican, drinking and debating late into the night, eventually workshopping and pushing each other creatively. As long as it skips that whole incestuous phase - and, of course, no one ends up getting banned - we should be all right! ;-)

Good stuff.

PS: From the Onion, Mom Finds Out About Blog!

Monday, November 10, 2003

Pumpkin Seeds

1. Finished The Glass Mountain on Friday. Rydill's hit another home run with this one. Where Children of the Shaman was a line drive over the left field fence, Mountain's more of a moonshot into the farthest reaches of McCovey Cove! Totally worth the lopsided exchange rate of the pound:dollar.

2. NaNoWriMo is kicking my ass but I did make some progress this weekend, organizing some of the research I've done on Taino culture for the backstory and incorporated it more fully into what I'd written already. May not get to 50,000 words but I should definitely end the month a few exits further down the turnpike than I would have otherwise.

3. Howard Dean's a slick little opportunist, isn't he? First, he concocts a totally slanted internet vote for his legion of lemmings to "decide" whether he should become the first Democrat to abandon the public financing system and gives them two whole days to get online and cast their ballot. 105,000 of his alleged 600,000 disciples do - a rather apathetic 18% - and 85% of them follow him off the cliff, declaring: "Go ahead, Howie, join forces with your ivy league drinking buddy Dubya, scrapping the campaign finance system that is supposed to ensure special interests cannot buy an election outright, despite your vow just a few months ago that you would make it an issue if any of your opponents were to do this exact same thing!" Then, he makes the announcement on a Saturday to ensure a minimum of press coverage. Karl Rove would be proud! Amazing what money and a lust for power can do to supposed principles. Should Kucinich fall by the wayside in the primiaries, I will officially be through with the Democratic party.

4. Fantasy football officially sucks this year as my three teams drop to a pathetic 8-23 combined. At least the Jets won a game, though.

5. You are an enzyme.
You are powerful, dark, variable, and can change many things at your whim...even when they're not supposed to be changed. Bad you. You can be dangerous or wonderful; it's your choice.

Which Biological Molecule Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Friday, November 7, 2003

Had the pleasure of doing a reading/Q&A at the Riverdale Neighborhood House last night for a group of teens from a workshop run by Corie Feiner (fka Corie Herman) as part of a residency she's had since 2000, thanks to Poets & Writers. One of the coolest gigs I could imagine, teaching kids writing in the Bronx. The RNH is a great setup, too, offering various after-school opportunities for local kids, many of whom aren't from Riverdale but from Marble Hill and Kingsbridge. Hope something like that is available when Isaac and India get older. Got a jar of teen-made apple butter for my efforts, too!

Almost makes me want an MFA. Of course, that would mean finishing my BA first which, with every passing year, is something I have less and less interest in. With Salomé back to taking classes this semester - and the $500 in books she had to get for them! - that interest is at an all-time low! I'm thinking I might instead look into one of the certificate programs at NYU's School of Continuing and Professional Studies. They've got a couple of interesting Marketing and Publishing certificates that seem to be exactly what I'm looking for. Pricey, yes, but much more focused and to the point.

Gonna take a break from politics for a few days before I pop a blood vessel. On the front end at least. I will continue the interesting discussion that's started in the guestbook, though. Hope some others join MC Siegel (who's raised another provocative subject on his own journal) and jump in with their input.

Consider this my parting shot and the web site of the day. ;-)

Wednesday, November 5, 2003

I can't believe how pissed I am over this whole political thing! Like throw-your-hands-in-the-air kind of fed up and I can't get it off my mind! While I can understand the apathy to some degree, I can't understand how people don't see that apathy is the very reason nothing will change.

It's like everyone's waiting for someone else to stand up and do something so they can follow.

And when someone DOES stand up, they laugh them off as a dreamer, or unpatriotic, or a wasted vote.

That thing I alluded to yesterday, where I said I'd admit to being wrong about something a while back? Psyche! It was about Ralph Nader and I wasn't wrong, and here's why.

I opposed Nader's run in 2000 for three reasons:

1) because he was an opportunistic blowhard with no political experience, using the Green Party's desire for legitimate national third party status as a platform for bashing the status quo without offering any viable solutions of his own;

2) the two-party system is firmly entrenched on the national level and change there will only come about when things get bad enough that the average American wakes up and starts to question the status quo;

3) Gore was a weak candidate, ripe for a seemingly everyday guy like Bush, malapropisms and all, to take down.

While there's a million reasons Gore lost that election - and he did lose, despite the overall vote tally in his favor, as the electoral college wasn't invented just for the 2000 elections - I believe Nader shares a small portion of the blame, if for no other reason, his shortsightedness.

The difference between Nader in 2000 and Kucinich today is that, by virtue of being part of the system (aka the Democratic party), Kucinich, though admittedly a longshot, would have a chance at beating Bush if he could get the Democratic nod. Coming from the belly of the beast, so to speak. Also, unlike Nader, he actually has plans for how to right the wrongs as opposed to complaints without any substantive solutions.

He's no spoiler and he in no way is a "wasted vote," especially not in the primaries.

His participating in the Democratic Primary process is a very necessary thing and, if you believe in what he represents, it's exactly the time to show your support for him - publicly, loudly and financially.

Not after Dean or Kerry snag the nomination before half the country even gets to weigh in (conventional wisdom currently says that the nominee will likely be decided after the first Super Tuesday, March 2, and definitely by the following on March 9).

Not after Americans decide they'd rather have the real thing instead of some watered-down version of a Republican like Leiberman, and re-elect Bush.

It's exactly what the primaries are supposed to be about: several candidates vying for the privilege to represent the Democratic party, explaining where they stand, what they'd propose and how they'd serve. It's about people voting for who best represents them and their beliefs, not who the media says has the best shot to win.

The only reason Kucinich is a long shot is that many of the people who believe in what he's saying don't have the guts to stand with him and make it happen. It's a calculated risk and people are afraid of the math. It challenges the status quo and that means going with the unknown. It requires that one actually believe in something for once in their lives and, more importantly, act on that belief.

Of course, this isn't the sixties anymore, when people had less to lose and more to gain. When injustice was too in-your-face to ignore. When standing for something meant, if necessary, dying for something. When the possibility for a better future outweighed the convenience of a could-be-worse today.

This is the 21st century and we are now the land of McDonald's and Starbucks and Wal-Mart and the NY Yankees and five conglomerates owning everything and, by extension, everybody, and health care that puts profit before people, and SUVs powered by the blood of our young, and a government that runs over the people instead of by and for them...

and I can't help but want to fucking scream myself hoarse but for the fact that I know few are listening, and even fewer give a damn.
WARNING: Today this journal lives up to its name. Grrr...

Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.
-George Bernard Shaw

So Proposal #3 was soundly defeated yesterday, 70-30%, and all 49 of the City Council incumbents were re-elected, most facing token opposition at best, leaving Democrats jumping for joy as their stranglehold on the City's political system continues as, of the 51 total districts, 47 are headed by Democrats!

For all the supposed discontent with Bloomberg and the job he's done as Mayor, it's the City Council that approves the vast majority of what happens - or doesn't happen - in this City and, as such, should receive at least equal villification. Of course, most people are stupid, reading no further than the headlines, if at all, and don't bother to show up at the polls unless there's a President to elect. If then!

Statewide, there are approx. 15.25 million registered voters. NYC has roughly 40% of those, 6.1 million. Further, it is estimated that roughly 25% of NYC residents that are eligible to vote are not even registered.

Yesterday, less than half a million people, a pathetic 8% of those registered, bothered to vote!

This all leads me to the conclusion that everything must be just fine here in the Big Apple. Right? Silence equaling consent and all. Vive le Bush! Right?


Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve. Indeed!

Tuesday, November 4, 2003

After a promising start, the Rock the Vote debate petered out into yet another convoluted forum where, not unlike slam, cliched soundbites won out over depth and I suspect anybody that is even moderately aware of the candidates walked away not really hearing anything new and, more unfortunately, not seeing enough to sway them in, or away from, any particular direction. Hopefully for anyone tuning in for the first time, it spurred them into getting more information. I agree with Kerry's wife that they're not the ideal way to do it but, at the same time, I think it's too early for any of the candidates to be excluded by anything other than their own choice. Except for Leiberman. The more I see him, the more I dislike him. I find it hard to believe he really thinks he stands a chance unless he's secretly running for Cheney's VP spot. He can stay home.

The beginning, though, was something to see as Dean took it on the chin over his ill-conceived "pickups and confederate flags" comment. Questioned on it by a young black male who said he found it offensive, and challenged by Sharpton as being "too arrogant to say 'I'm wrong,'" Dean refused, and instead tried to restate his comments in a less offensive way. Way too often he confuses hard-nosed determination with being an arrogant jackass. (Shut up! I know I can be that way, too - though not nearly as often! - that's why I recognize it for what it is; but I'm not running for President. Yet.) John Edwards said it best when he said Dean was condescending to and stereotyping white Southerners and that was no way to win that particular vote.

Another interesting moment was former Gen. Wesley Clark's vaguely noncommital take on the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. You feel like he agrees with it but is choosing to duck the issue by saying the military leadership needs to review the policy and tell the political leaders what they're going to do about it.

The post-debate wrap-up by Paula Zahn was some of the lamest and most biased interviewing I've ever seen as she grilled Kerry and Edwards about the Dean/Confederate Flag issue as if she were on Dean's payroll, then softballed Dean giving him every chance to clarify himself without any similar challenging, and didn't even bother to interview Kucinich, Sharpton or Mosley-Braun. Zahn's got a bright future waiting for her at FOX News: We Spin It, You Swallow It.

In related news, I bought my tickets today for Kucinich's upcoming appearance at Hunter's Kaye Playhouse, Bringing vision back into politics, on Friday, November 21 @ 8pm. For anyone that has no problem dropping $7-10 for a poetry show or a movie (or two coffees at Starbucks!), I'd strongly encourage them to pony up $15 and check it out. I suspect few will walk away from it feeling like his candidacy is pointless or that he'd be a "wasted vote."

More on that another day when - hold your breath - I admit I was wrong about something a while back!
From the "Maybe there's hope" file, there's a great Kucinich profile/interview in the latest Rolling Stone:

Your candidacy seems to be built on the idea that the people are looking for another New Deal-type program. But the New Deal didn't happen until the country was mired in a depression. Do you think things have really gotten that bad now?

When you consider that most Americans are maxed out on their credit cards, when you consider that most Americans are no longer guaranteed employment security, when you consider how many pension funds are going belly up, when you look at the corruption on Wall Street and the failure of the SEC to police Wall Street, when you consider that major corporations are cheating their stockholders -- last year 250 corporations restated their earnings, lied about their earnings . . . we have a system that's being run in a way that closely resembles a criminal enterprise.
Also, tonight on CNN is the Rock the Vote debate. The debate is the first to specifically target younger voters and the site has some cool features to compare the candidates on the issues, as well as to submit questions for the debate itself.
From the "No wonder people don't bother" file:

Went to vote this morning and realized that it's the first time I'm voting IN New York City. I've voted absentee while in the Army, in New Jersey while living there, and even in Virginia last year, where I was impressed by their hi-tech setup. My polling place for today was a beat-up warehouse of a church manned primarily by what appeared to be beneficiaries of their Meals On Wheels program. Seriously. Other than the three college-age kids helping out, there wasn't a volunteer there under the age of 70. I'm just saying...

Interestingly, for all of the multi-lingual advertising I've seen for this election, the official Board of Election handouts at the booth explaining the five proposals on the ballot were only available in English and Spanish despite the fact that there's a small Asian community (2.1% vs. 7.1% white, largely concentrated in Riverdale) within our district, many of them first-generation, many of them assigned to that particular polling place. The instructions on how to operate the ancient voting machine were available in several other languages, though.

"This is how you vote; don't worry about understanding what you're voting for. Thank you for participating in our democracy. Next!"

I was also annoyed to realize, having paid much more attention to the proposals than the actual candidates, that the whole outcry over eliminating partisan primaries was completely hypocritical when it came to the State Supreme Court as four of the six candidates vying for the four open spots were on both the Democratic and Republican ticket!!! One of them even managed to take a Conservative party slot, the only other party offering an alternative. Same thing for District Attorney as the only guy running represented all three party slots!

In arguing against non-partisan elections yesterday, the major party leaders on the City Council argued that it "could result in a system of stealth candidates who don whichever party label is most expedient...How are voters to know what these people really stand for or hold them accountable?" Yeah, sure. It's much easier to tell what they stand for when they're representing both major parties like unopposed DA Robert T. Johnson. Please!

Monday, November 3, 2003

Letter to the Editor, NY Daily News:

re: No to #3

In opposing Proposal #3, I find it ironic that the major party leaders on the City Council would stand together to proclaim that non-partisan elections "would make party labels meaningless and, more important, make choices much more difficult for voters."

I'd argue that it has been the parties themselves that have made their respective labels meaningless, both on the local and national level. If they were truly interested in making our choices less difficult, as opposed to simply preserving their two-party kingmaker gridlock, they'd abandon their partisan ways and start representing the people of New York whose needs and opinions on issues are far more complex than a simple Democrat or Republican label will ever be.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez
Bronx, NY
Tomorrow's Election Day and I've been hard-pressed to find any pro-"YES to Proposal #3" media coverage. There's a solid, well-reasoned piece in last week's Village Voice that includes this interesting counter to the argument that non-partisan voting harms minorities:

Unlike most major American cities with nonwhite and female voting age majorities, New York has elected just one black mayor, and no woman, Latino, or Asian mayor. In fact, Latinos, the city's largest minority, have yet to hold any of the three citywide posts, and Asians, the fastest growing minority with 10 percent of the voting age population, are represented by a solitary member of the 51-member City Council. The city's only black mayor was also the only Democratic incumbent in the 20th century to lose to a Republican challenger, with two of every three white Democratic voters deserting the party for Rudy Giuliani in 1993. So much for the empowering benefits of partisan politics.
as well as this jab to the notion that it's intended to benefit Bloomberg's re-election bid in 2005:
Bloomberg made the billionaire and other screeds even less likely when he changed his and the charter commission's mind and allowed candidates to list their party registration on the ballot, giving voters under the new system a greater chance of responding to "cues" other than high-priced name recognition. Most importantly, the mayor retreated from his own onetime self-serving motive for this initiative by making the effective date 2009, meaning he can't benefit from it in 2005.
That last point means I'll be holding off my own mayoral run for the 2009 election and will instead focus on something more local, like taking over Oliver Koppell's City Council spot.

In other news, NaNoWriMo is kicking my ass. I've got a ton of ideas floating around in my head that I'd prefer to massage a bit more before committing to "paper" but that completely contradicts the spirit of the thing. Also, finding the time to write is next to impossible as I'm limited to late-nights and early-mornings, both of which have their downsides. Two days in and I'm already roughly 8 pages in the hole! Regardless, I'm keeping at it and am heading over to Battery Park now, laptop in, lap?

Write on!

Saturday, November 1, 2003

Times when it's okay to lie to your kids:

#17: Because you can't go to Chuck E. Cheese every day!
#31: If you don't, they will eat all of the candy. Then, demand more.

Halloween was fun, though, as expected, no Hollywood insanity broke out. There were some insane parents, though, as well as some fun costumes, kids and adults alike. Isaac's turned out to be one of the best ones there and didn't have the misfortune of being one of fifty other kids in a cheap Batman outfit. (Side note: Homemade costumes are a much better option to ending up looking like everyone else, and can be very cool if done right, ie: Liberty MacMillan. Helps to have an adorable kid, too!)

Check out the coat. I'd cut Frankenstein out and wear it if it fit me!

Click on the picture for more. :-)