Friday, January 30, 2004

When I asked for suggestions for non-political topics last week, I got some great feedback. Three of the suggestions were actually closely related so I figure what better way to end the week than with some exhibitionistic introspection?

"...your first experiences with poetry/performing/and your growing pains in the scene." - "How has becoming a father changed your perspective on life, if at all?" - "What are you doing now post louder arts?"

First, some quick background. I stumbled onto the poetry scene by accident in the summer of 1997, after three years of the Nuyorican Poets Café being a fun Friday night out and first-date spot. The first half of 1997 was without question the worst period of my life - emotionally and psychologically - with broken relationships, miscarriages, bad decisions and extreme self-doubts. In other words, perfect fodder for bad poetry. The first time I read in the Wednesday night Slam Open at the Café - July 16th, 1997 - my reasons had nothing to do with poetry. I had just completed an acting workshop and had written a screenplay that I'd converted to the stage, and really wanted to mount it at the Café - so I wanted to get to know the people in charge. I only had four poems, loosely defined, including a contemplation of suicide, a lost love piece, an old attempt at a rap song, and a rant that was really just an essay with random line breaks.

It must have been destiny because I won my first Friday night slam a month later, and qualified for the Finals two months after that when I won the semi-final against some pretty strong competition. My play was quickly forgotten and I dove headfirst into poetry and the scene itself, writing and reading like a man possessed, and getting caught up in the never-ending drama that follows self-destructive creative types like the paparazzi stalks J-Lo.

Where the first half of 1997 was full of personal disasters, the second half was classic road to self-destruction. I was a lightning rod for controversy, known for dissing people on and off stage, usually by name, and for drinking way too much way too often. At one point, Keith Roach pulled me aside for a lecture that included the infamous warning: "Broken hearts are bad for business." By the end of the year, I'd witnessed much incestuous drama, had been at the center of a lot of it, and somehow ended up as the host of the Open Room after the Friday night slam. To be honest, I think it was partly Keith's way of keeping a leash on me.

Three significant things happened in 1998: Salomé and I reconciled and got married that summer; I made the Nuyorican team and we won the Nationals; I added a slam format to my Monday night reading at 13 and shortly thereafter was banned from the Nuyorican.

The banning was a huge turning point for me, the equivalent of the privileged kid getting kicked out of the family home and disowned. Two of my Nuyorican teammates stood by me, one sold me out, and the other rose above the whole situation and did her own thing - a particularly awkward situation as we all toured together several times throughout 1999. Keeping the reading at 13 going became my primary mission, though - partly a personal crusade on behalf of those that saw it as a refuge from the slam scene, and partly out of spite to prove that I could succeed without the Café's blessing. Unfortunately, it had a detrimental effect on my writing, which slowed dramatically, not to mention my ability to promote myself as a poet instead of a curator/host. On the bright side, my writing was getting better and more precise as a result.

2000-2001 found me writing less and less, fully consumed with running the reading that had, against all odds, developed into a highly respected venue, locally and nationally. Ironically, it was the slam that began to wear me down and ultimately, pushed me away from poetry. Twice. The fiasco that was Seattle's Nationals was the beginning of the end for me and, by the end of 2001, when we were preparing to move to Virginia, I was fed up with the bullshit politics of the national scene, tired of fighting big fish in little ponds over their lack of vision. When I came back to NY last year - after a 2002 that was almost as bad as 1997, if for different reasons - I was disappointed to find much of what I hated about the national scene had infected our local scene. Go through the archives from last April and May for that BS, if you're interested.

It wasn't just the scene that had changed, though. I had, too. Being a father for a couple of years had slowly, maybe even grudgingly, given me a different perspective on life and what was really important to me. I still believed in the power of poetry, I just didn't necessarily believe in the poets themselves or the affected (sometimes hypocritical) lifestyle many of them choose to live. A year off the scene allowed me to see them all simply as people, separate from their sometimes incredible talents, and I didn't always like what I saw. This was difficult for me as I've never been one to overlook personality in favor of talent. WHO you are and HOW you live has always been as important to me as how well you write. And why. In this age of Def Poetry, I've found less and less people in it for the love and more for the affect. And yes, I mean Affect. For too many people, it's become a pose, a facade - propped up by empty words and shallow poems calculating and constructed more than crafted.

My distaste for all of this greatly outweighed my love for running the series and it quickly started feeling like the burden it had become in late-2001. When I tried to change things, I was stunned by the determined resistance I met. I also realized that the series was no longer mine to control, that several others had finally taken a vested interest in it during my absence, and that that was not necessarily a bad thing.

So I planned my exit, said a quiet goodbye from stage that I think initially went over most people's heads, and stepped down from the series that had been at the center of my life for over five years. That was on May 19, 2003.

Eight months have passed since then and I'm writing again. Not much poetry, and not necessarily what I would have ever expected, but the words are flowing like they haven't in years. The passion is back, too. I've found a new home in Acentos and relish the freedom of being just another face in the crowd, being a part of a community that puts the poetry first and foremost, but still knows how to have a good time. I've also, I think, become a much better husband and father.

I don't miss what I had because I still have it, in my head and in my heart. It's corny but true: no one can take your memories away from you. Life post-louderARTS has been very good for me, and looks better - and, perhaps more importantly, feels right - with each passing day.

PS: I donated another $25 to Kucinich's campaign today. With Dean on the ropes and about to hit the canvas, I'm hoping the well-intentioned but disillusioned progressives that backed him will realize there's no significant difference between KerryEdwardsClark and now go ahead and vote their conscience. Anyone that thinks that a primary vote for Kucinich is a waste simply doesn't understand how the process works. It's clear that KerryEdwardsClark will get the nomination so why not send them a clear message about where you stand? ;-)

[PPS: Yesterday was the 1st anniversary of this journal! Yay me!]

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Pumpkin Seeds

1. For those influenced by endorsements, especially those from political types, what does it say about the endorsee when they were the endorser's second choice? ie: these guys tripping over themselves to get on the Kerry bandwagon after their man Gephardt stumbled out of the gate and took himself out of the race. I mean, everyone's entitled to change their minds but it certainly doesn't reflect well on either party. Interestingly, Gephardt himself is saying he'll wait until after the Missouri primary before endorsing someone, letting the people of his state tell him who to support instead of the other way around. Imagine that?

2. Having a few sessions of D&D under my belt now - not to mention the obscene amount of related-reading I've done in the past two months - I have to say that I like most of the changes they've made since I last played in the 80s. To be honest, though, most of the differences people have pointed out don't even ring a bell for me; they just feel right, suggesting a natural evolution of the game. Despite what some people think, I've never been a very good detail person. I'm much more of a big picture impressionist. (And a pretty good BSer, too.) I mainly remember a relatively simple game where you created a character, equipped him with all the cool stuff and went off a'slashing. It's a much more complex game now, with an intense attention to detail that can be intimidating. But it's still fun to play - even if I'm actually paying for the stuff this time! - and that's what's most important. Ed put it best: "We seem much more occupied with creating an accurate and cohesive world where we can immerse ourselves with out inconsistencies to remind us it is only a game."

3. Not counting the news and general political coverage, I probably watch the least amount of TV these days than at any other time in my life, except for the year I lived in South Beach and didn't have one. I rarely find the time to catch my favorite shows - Smallville, Scrubs, Everybody Loves Raymond and Survivor, in particular - as there's always something else to do. American Idol remains a must-see, though even that gets bumped on occasion as the season wears on. (Billy Hung - "She bangs, she bangs!" - is my American Idol!) In general, TV's just not that good these days, though unlike many, I don't believe it's reality TV's fault. Like any other genre, there's good reality (Survivor, AI) and bad reality (the various Bachelor clones, Big Brother). Personally, I loved the Real World from day one. Still watch the Real World/Road Rules Challenges whenever I stumble across it. They're all fun in the same way the old Battle of the Network Stars was, but with more drama. Really good scripted TV shows, though, have always been the rare jewel in a pile of crap. Especially sitcoms. How many variations on a group of single white people or surburban white families do we need? And UPN's strategy of sticking black actors in cookie cutter sitcoms doesn't work for me, either. Honestly, I think the real problem is sprawl. Too many networks diluting the pot, looking to copy the last big thing instead of innovating the next. Surprisingly, the WB has probably had the best strategy of any of the networks over the past 10 years, narrowly targeting their desired demographic and delivering some pretty good shows. CBS used to do the same thing, successfully targetting an older market with shows like Murder, She Wrote and Diagnosis Murder until, Survivor and CSI took off and they got greedy, abandoning them for the more fickle 18-34 year old demographic.

4. Speaking of TV, Mad TV has some of the most off-the-wall, "oh no they didn't!" skits on regular TV. Ruthless, and often tasteless, they have the edge SNL seems to have lost sometime ago. And The Daily Show is quite possibly the best and smartest show on TV.
I really should have my own talk show. Radio or TV, I don't care which!

I first mentioned the following possibility on December 10, 2003:

The real New Hampshire winner is a former New York mayor

Politically speaking, a Bush-Giuliani ticket would solve a lot of problems...

Assume John Kerry and John Edwards make up the Democratic ticket, playing on the same populist themes that are serving them well in the current campaign. Set up against Bush-Cheney, the election becomes a war for turnout of the bases, with many in the political middle written off. Put Giuliani in the mix and the story is very different. The son of Italian immigrants, his political capital from Sept. 11, 2001, remains substantial. Overnight, liberal antipathy for him melted when he became a national hero and he remains a figure of unquestioned authority for Americans of every political stripe.

Giuliani would give Kerry a strong run even for the unionized firefighters who've been an unsung factor in Kerry's Iowa and New Hampshire victories.

As Cheney's did four years ago, Giuliani's aura would compensate for many of Bush's perceived vulnerabilities and defects. Most of all — Cheney is a loyal-enough Republican soldier to recognize this, too — he gives President Bush someone to hand the mantle to in 2008.

from the Seattle Times
Speaking of talk shows, I'm really starting to get hooked on them. The TV ones, at least. Dan Abrams has grown on me. I rarely agree with him and he can be a real schmuck at times but I do like how he approaches his show - not too shrill, not too smarmy, but very opinionated. Chris Matthews, on the other hand, gets tiring real fast with his in-your-face style, constantly interrupting anyone he doesn't agree with. I still don't forgive him for badgering Kucinich a while back (to the point DK refuses to appear on his show) while fawning over Dean at every opportunity. He has Darrell Hammond on Friday, though, so it should be interesting. The FOX "News" shows are entertaining because of their oh-so-obvious slant to the right. Brit Hume is a total prick, the kind of guy you'd rather punch in the face than have a conversation with, and Greta Van Susteren needs to sue her plastic surgeon.

Imagine me on one of those shows? I'd totally eat it up. Especially when I don't know what the hell I'm talking about - as is often the case on these shows - I can play devil's advocate and talk out of my ass with the best of them. That's actually how I became a Knicks fan for a little while in the early 90s, while I was in the Army, because I couldn't stand Michael Jordan (and still can't) and hated how everyone was jocking him. Talking smack has always been one of my favorite pasttimes and I always root for the underdog so John Starks naturally became my favorite player because he was one of the few that didn't kowtow to Jordan. Say what you will about his 2-18 playoff debacle but the Knicks wouldn't have even been in that game if not for his performance up to that point.

Glad to see Starks is now a head coach in the USBL for the Westchester Wildfire. He's one of those hard-playing guys that will probably make a great coach. I want him to be my first guest when I get my show.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

This is scary and sad, if you really think about it:

The top 10 U.S. employers based on their worldwide workforces, according to the latest data available from consulting firm D&B and company sources, where available, include:

McDonald's -- 1.5 million employees globally
Wal-Mart -- 1.5 million
GM (including GMAC and Hughes) -- 341,000 excluding contractors
United Parcel Service -- 359,000
Ford Motor Company -- 350,000
IBM -- 316,000
General Electric -- 315,000
Kroger -- 312,000
Sears -- 275,000, not counting seasonal workers
J.C. Penney -- 250,000

from CBS MarketWatch
Notes on New Hampshire

Other than it being painfully obvious that Joe Lieberman is totally out of touch with the Democratic Party, there was no clear message coming out of little New Hampshire beyond this: it's still wide open. Remember, the Democratic primaries award proportionate delegates, unlike the Republican's and the general election's winner-take-all format. You don't always have to win to win it all.

While Kerry won again, he's ill-prepared to fully capitalize on it in the February 3rd primaries. The states voting that day are both more conservative and racially-diverse than Iowa and NH and his being tagged as a New England liberal could swing many votes towards Edwards or Clark. Unless Gephardt backs him and helps him carry Missourri, he's far from having this thing locked up. Also, because so many party heavyweights jumped on the Dean bandwagon so early, there's no big endorsements lying in wait for him. Unless the Clintons come off the sidelines...

Dean is nowhere near dead, though losing NH by such a wide gap was a tough blow. He's going to have to come up with some solid numbers on February 3rd, not necessarily outright victories but definitely close seconds to someone other than Kerry. If his Deaniacs falter in the slightest, ie: the money slows down, the media will have a field day jumping on his grave.

Clark is fading fast. He skipped Iowa in favor of concentrating on NH and came away in a virtual tie for third with his fellow southerner, Edwards. On February 3rd, Clark must win a state or two and finish no less than third place anywhere else to stay in this thing. Without Dean as the frontrunner to offer a stark contrast, he's floundered badly. He may have to reconsider his statement that he's not interested in being anyone's VP.

Edwards, in my opinion, is the big winner so far. His second place finish in Iowa shocked everyone and the expectations for NH were favorably low as he hadn't focused on it nearly as much, placing his bets on a victory in South Carolina next week. That he tied with Clark yesterday was a huge victory for him.

With Sharpton looming large now that "the black vote" is coming into play, each of these guys need to shine brightly in the debate tomorrow night. Big Al is going to force them to focus on race issues like they haven't really had to so far and none of them can afford to come off wrong. And don't think he or Edwards aren't going to find a way to remind people about Dean's "pickup trucks and Confederate flags" faux pas, either. I expect a much livelier debate than the NH snoozefest as balls are now in the fire and at least two of these guys (Lieberman, for sure, and probably Clark) won't be in the race after February 4th.

This is better than any Super Bowl since Kevin Dyson was stopped at the 1-yard line and turned Kurt Warner into Superman!
Dear God, it's me, Guy. Enough with the fucking snow!!!!!

Let's call it ghetto-OnStar. That's when you get on your cell phone and have someone go online and give you directions via MapQuest because you're lost in a blizzard!

Last night, playing the good samaritan, I dropped off Bonafide and Jessica after a fun night at Acentos - didn't think that many people would brave the snow but they did! - and got lost in a white-out! Bonafide lives south of me, right on the Concourse, and wasn't a big deal. Jessica lives about 10 minutes away from me in...let's call it the Northwest Bronx so as not to destroy her street cred! Getting her home wasn't too bad until we hit the Saw Mill Parkway and even then, it was tolerable. Slow driving but nothing too crazy. Getting myself home, though, became a nightmare as the entrance back to the Saw Mill hadn't been plowed or even driven on, covered by a pristine blanket of snow. I had to inch my way up the ramp, gauging the distance between the guardrail on the left and the trees on the right through ice-encrusted windows, trying not to run up on the curb that was completely buried out of sight.

Once on the Saw Mill, I couldn't see more than 10 feet in front of me and the exit signs were practically invisible. Of course, I missed my exit and ended up crossing the bridge into Manhattan and getting off at Dyckman Street. That's when I called home and got Salomé on MapQuest. It took a few minutes to find an address that wouldn't send me back on the parkway before she was able to play OnStar operator and direct me to familiar ground. Going uphill on West Kingsbridge was a particular highlight as a couple of other cars - cabs, of course - were swerving all over the place. I finally made it home at 12:45am!

I've had enough of winter. Punxsutawney Phil better not see his damn shadow next Monday!

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Right-click and select 'Show Picture' if no picture is showing.

create your own visited states map
or write about it on the open travel guide

Of these, I've lived in NY, NJ, TN, FL and VA. The majority of the other states were solely thanks to poetry gigs as I would otherwise have never visited them at all. Specifically, California, Colorado, DC, Illinois, Minnesota, Texas, Rhode Island, Washington and Vermont. Yeeeeeeeeeeeeearrrrrrrgh! ;-)

From 1999-2000, when I did most of my sporadic "touring," my primary criteria for traveling somewhere was whether it was a place I'd likely never visit otherwise. As long as I could make enough money to break even, or treat it as a mini-vacation and take Salomé with me, I was down. Other than California, none of those other states were really on my radar, though a few of them turned out to be, and remain, some of my favorite places to visit, particularly Texas (Austin) and Rhode Island (Providence).

The time I visited northern California - March 1999, I think - was especially memorable. Salomé came with me for that one and the plan was to stay in Santa Cruz while hitting San José, Berkeley and San Francisco during the week. Our original accomodations were thanks to the terribly sweet - if slightly whacked out - SlamGranny, who put us up in her handbuilt cabin out in the middle of the redwoods. The place had no heating system, was in a terrible state of disrepair and, shortly after she left us for the evening, a power line came down that they couldn't repair til the next day so, when the sun went down, it was like a Friday the 13th scenario come to life as we were totally in the dark. (On her property lived some weird guy in a trailer that we never really got a good look at but I swear was wandering around at some point in the middle of the night.) It was a total nightmare as we hunkered down in one room, freezing our asses off because the wood stove in the living room didn't really kick out enough heat and the living room itself was too scary to sleep in. City mice totally freaked out by the country. And this was before I'd ever seen the movie Deliverance!

The next day, we checked into a motel in downtown Santa Cruz, walking distance to the boardwalk. The next night, SlamGranny lends us her van to drive out to Berkeley to check out Charles Ellik's slam at the Starry Plough. I ended up slamming and edging out SeeKing thanks to working the tie-breaking secret word into 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Minute. (SeeKing would narrowly outscore me later that summer in the 4th round of the NPS Finals, knocking us into 3rd place behind SF & San José who tied for the championship!) On the way back to Santa Cruz, in the middle of the steep mountains that separate it from San José, the van breaks down without warning, steam coming from the blown engine. It was nearly midnight. We finally made it back to the hotel around 2am and Roger Bonair-Agard joined us the next day as we paired up for a couple of gigs in Santa Cruz and Salinas. The rest of the trip was relatively uneventful [Roger had to leave his sneakers outside the room because they were kicking hard!] and we never did make it into San Francisco before heading home.

The southwest is where I'd most like to visit at some point in the future; New Mexico and Arizona, in particular. Both for their connections to Native America and proximity to Mexico, which is the country I'm most fascinated with.
A little perspective on the New Hampshire primary:

Population: 1,275,056 (est.)
--> The Bronx has 1,332,650 (est.)
Demographics: 95% White
--> The U.S. is 81% White
Registered Voters: 740,000 (est.)
--> 37% are registered as Republicans, 38% as independents, 26% as Democrats. Expected turnout today: 180,000.
Delegates: 22
--> Howard Dean currently leads with 104 delegates, followed by Kerry with 80. You need 2,162 to win the nomination.

In other words, this tiny, lilly-white northeastern state carries way too much weight in the nominating process if anyone but Lieberman is counted out after the results are in. February 3rd is the first real test for the other six candidates as seven pretty diverse states hold their primaries and 269 delegates are up for grabs. Whomever you're supporting, take tonight's results with a grain of salt and don't be tempted to abandon ship if your guy doesn't do so well. Yes, that includes the Deaniacs.

Monday, January 26, 2004


10. Because you'd like to see him elected legitimately this time.

9. Because women have too much control over their own bodies.

8. Because affirmative action is reverse racism and slavery was a long time ago.

7. Because you are a CEO or other high-ranking corporate executive.

6. Because you're single with no kids and drive an SUV.

5. Because you can afford your own health insurance, have significant money in the stock market and/or send your kids to parochial school.

4. Because those uncivilized Arabs need a Starbucks, Wal-Mart and McDonald's on every corner.

3. Because the Pentagon is strapped for cash.

2. Because Corporate America has the people's best interests at heart.

1. Because it will take at least another four years to find those weapons of mass destruction Saddam used against us on 9/11.

Wow! Thanks for all of the feedback. Didn't expect this much of a response, especially over the weekend. Keep it coming.

Non-poetry books: The only one so far that I've already read is Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea, though that was a long time ago. I went through my Hemingway phase somewhere in the very late-80s, early-90s and had a love/hate thing with him. While I liked his style, I felt he was a little overrated. His manly-man posturing was very appealing, though, especially since I believed I was going to put a bullet in my head when I turned thirty. I've read some Vonnegut but I'll be damned if I can remember which ones! A quick Amazon search and Hocus Pocus and Bluebeard both ring bells. I DO remember loving his writing style, though. Chabon's book has been on my to-read list since I got back into comic books last year. The others all sound interesting and I think I'll have to spend a lunch or two browsing through Borders checking them out.

Non-political topics: Some great stuff that I'll come back to in more depth in later entries, but I'll take a quick stab at some of them now.

* The first thing that struck me about the Mrs. Croc/Salvation Army endowment - right after, "Wow, that's a shitload of money!" - was why didn't she donate the money to the Ronald McDonald House instead? Then I remembered the Salvation Army's issues with gays and lesbians and wondered what McD's EOE policies were. Then I hoped it would help squash Dubya's plans to funnel federal money to religious organizations via "faith-based initiatives." I also flashed back to my American Express days and a class we had on how to sell rich people life insurance for charitable intentions and tax evasion purposes.

* The top-selling comic book ever - X-Men #1 (art by Jim Lee) - sold 8 million copies in 1991. Speculators and egotistical artists nearly killed the industry shortly thereafter and it's still very much on life support. Today's top-sellers, in the US, are lucky to hit the 100,000 mark. Licensing keeps Marvel and DC afloat while they try to figure out how to expand their audiences beyond the faithful and fickle fanboys. In Japan, on the other hand, manga is respected and treated as an actual art form. There isn't the stigma we have here of it being for kids or, in the case of some underground stuff, perverts. As for that ever changing, I think Peter David said it best: "It's possible. If there's a world war and we're conquered by France or Japan."

* I'm still in touch with one ex-girlfriend, from while I was in the Army at Ft. Campbell, KY. She's now married with a son and currently living in Houston, though on the verge of a long-intended move to NYC. [CB: If you're reading this, I know I still I owe you info on those neighborhoods! Very soon!] We still talk once a month or so. We would have likely divorced within two years if we'd gotten married as we were both pretty young, stubborn and nowhere near ready to settle down. Of the others - the significant relationships, at least - I haven't the slightest idea where they are these days and am only vaguely curious about a couple of them.

* Passion is stimulating. I don't care what the subject is, if someone is really passionate about it, I love to read/hear what they have to say. For me, politics has always been a fascinating subject and this particular election, as important as it is on so many levels, has gotten me riled up like few things ever have. When I first started this blog, it was mainly intended to be a place for me to let loose some of my frustrations about the poetry scene - the anti-loudNOTES, if you will. Having moved on from there, politics was the thing that grabbed my attention the most.

* On life after louderARTS...well, that's one that needs its own entry, preceded by some introspection and, perhaps, self-censoring, so I'll come back to that one! ;-)

More to come...

Saturday, January 24, 2004

There's a good reason for the idea that you don't discuss politics and religion in the company of strangers. Both can inspire passionate debates and sometimes, when facts and opinions aren't necessarily equal on one or both sides, that passion can overflow into outright hostility. It can interfere with one's sex life, too!

That said, I'm going to lay off the politics for at least a week - both here and in the physical world - to let my own emotions settle down a bit and come to terms with the fact that I can't singlehandedly change people's minds or force them to look beyond the surface - whether it's defined by FOX News or the Village Voice.

Of course, that means I need something else to talk about! Stealing from LJ-land, I'd like your input. In the guestbook, hit me off with your recommendations for:

1. A non-poetry book I should read.
2. A non-political topic (I know, I know, everything's political, but you know what I mean!) I should look into and rant about.
3. A journal not on my blogs of note list that I should check out regularly.

Along with your recommendations, tell me one thing about yourself that I don't know about you but should. If I don't know you at all, briefly introduce yourself. I'll respond to all either in the guestbook or, if you come up with something really good, here in the journal itself.

I'll be laying low for a couple of days, electronically at least, but will definitely be at Acentos on Tuesday to catch Raina Leon and all of my favorite poetry peeps at the best reading in the City. Word.

Friday, January 23, 2004

The most unfortunate victim of the Iowa caucuses was last night's lackluster debate in New Hampshire as everyone decided to play it safe with cautious, uninspiring performances that were unlikely to change anyone's minds or spur the undecideds in any particular direction. It actually made me feel sorry for Howard Dean as the way-over-the-top criticism of his Iowa concession speech left him off-balance, unable to really whack a couple of softballs thrown his way by the moderators. He did get one good shot in when given a second chance to comment on KerryEdwardsLieberman's voting for the war resolution - laying the blame for the deaths of the 500-and-counting US soldiers at their feet. Overall, he came off as the socially-liberal, fiscally conservative Democrat he really is. He probably stopped the bleeding but it may be too little, too late to get him back on top as Edwards seems to have firmly positioned himself in that seat now.

Clark, on the other hand, is still looking for his seat. It's ridiculous that, with the Republicrat Lieberman in the race, Clark has to deal with so many questions about his true party affiliation. Nevertheless, he looked ill-prepared last night and did nothing to establish himself as a credible alternative to the others. As one pundit put it, he's just not ready for prime time and it showed last night. [Yes, that's me climbing off the bandwagon. The search for Plan B continues as I glance in Edwards' direction...]

Kerry seems to have inexplicably reverted to his smug frontrunner persona that saw him practically written off three weeks ago. The polls are in his favor right now but, after Iowa, he must know that he can't take anything for granted. If he doesn't win in NH, his own backyard, he's toast.

Edwards probably came out of the debate with the most to gain. Unlike Dean and Kerry, he doesn't have to win New Hampshire. He doesn't even need the surprising finish he pulled off in Iowa. His real target next Tuesday is finishing ahead of Wesley Clark, the other southerner, who is looking more and more like a fish out of water. February 3rd is when Edwards will have his day of reckoning and, barring a total collapse of Dean's campaign (aka less than 2nd place in NH), this is going to be a horse race all the way to the convention. Which is just fine with me as it's the scenario that most works in Kucinich's favor.

NH Prediction: DeanKerry (pick), Edwards, Clark, KucinichLieberman (pick), Sharpton

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Nine random reasons that I'm addicted to this blogging thing:

Thought I saw him there tonight. Could have sworn I saw something like him kneeling and waiting. My heart jumped a bit thinking that maybe he knew and came. But when I blinked, I realized that it was someone else's him waiting for another her. I could only blink again, this time something wet and threatening to flood. Made my way to baggage claim and just stood there numb. Head down. Saw a faded pair of Levis and a pair of black and white shell toes next to me and my heart jumped again. Looked up and it was another him. He apologized for bumping into me. I wanted him to apologize for not being who I wanted him to be. And then I didn't blink back fast enough and the tears came. I wiped them away quickly and decided to feel nothing. --Bassey

last night- i read 'Getting Ronald Reagan to Visit the South Bronx' (the greatest title i have yet to dream up for any of my pieces) and when i got off stage- i could care less what 'my select few' thought. it was a great moment of being really free of my own constraints and, as things turn out in life, one of the select few made it a point to comlpiment me on the new work. others gave me the polite silence and some the 'not bad' and they all felt the same. --Oscar Bermeo

My therapist, knowing this, has asked me if the general air of dread in the country has contributed to my depression; she even is pushing the idea that I'm undergoing some kind of delayed reaction to the stress I dealt with on 9/11 and in the weeks following, especially all those weeks of "travel education" (read: grief counseling/shouting matches) I ran for all the folks here at work who lost friends and colleagues. Sessions I wasn't really qualified to run, but which I jumped in and did like a good soldier, because, you know, I'm like that. --Tony Brown

Kucinich wants to do too much, too fast. I'm not saying I disagree with the fellow, but his stances will fundamentally change America. Kucinich is not leaving a trail of crumbs for people to follow down his path. He's throwing the whole fruitcake at you, and tossing the decorative tin container it came in. Some people will go for this blunt approach, but most would prefer a gradual escalation. It's like getting your first driving lesson on the turnpike. --Dan Diaz

Their fangs were very noticable even though they had them placed on different teeth. You could see that people were a little afraid of them as they had a space buffer around them. Kind of like the ones that homeless people get regardless of how crowded the train is. Fangs menacing those around them with every word. The thing was that since I was right next to them I could hear every word they said. This is how their conversation went. Scary vampire #1: "So you know tomorrow is the day the new Yugioh cards come out." Scary Vamp 2: "yeah I can't wait." This was followed by more specific talk about Yugioh cards. I couldn't pay attention at this point because I was trying so very hard not to laugh out loud at how foolish appearances really are, also so I wouldn't be eaten. --Edward Garcia

so maybe there comes a point where you can control the crazed, arrythmic heart, or maybe you can repair it, but the fact is, over time, things go wrong to hearts in a different way than things go wrong to bones: there's no quick snap under pressure; just a slow, cataclysmic movement.

and hearts aren't likely to heal themselves through reknitting together, like a broken skull would.
--Daphne Gottlieb

So anyway, the thing thats the most sad about this email my mom forwarded to me is not that it is full of blatant lies. A quick trip to any right-wing discussion forum shows that these people live in a paranoid fantasy-land, so its no surprise someone sat down and typed up a bunch of lies that maybe occured to them in a dream or something. The really sad thing is that it took me all of 90 seconds to disprove all three claims (without even looking at Snopes), and yet people continue to forward this around as if it were true. It's like they want to believe the lies, even with the truth so readily accessible. Perhaps they are just comforted by the thought of screaming "I'll never shop here again!" at a store they want to believe is owned by a bunch of America-hating, queer-loving Frenchies. --David Grenier

i'm thinking sanctity and figuring it has something to do with clean. not only protected, but very, very clean.
which means that my room is Not a sanctuary.
which is sort of depressing, because that means i don't have one.
--Mara Jebsen

And I felt naive for wanting to beat the guy's ass because this kind of thing happens every day, and you can't fight every single person dumb enough to say some stupid shit. And I felt selfish, because I don't even know if it fully was about Diane, and the issue of guilt always comes into the equation, trying to differentiate yourself from the others whose pigment somehow screams that you are all the same....and it felt like the people apologizing were doing the same thing....all acting out our personal little dramas, and meanwhile all Diane wants to do is get away. And the reality was that this had nothing to do with me, that all my identities and how they shaped my reaction: as a man, as white.....all that was peripheral to just trying to understand what she was going through, but my own issues of being white and being a man just got in the way....and I'm not even sure if it's right to try to fully sever myself from these identities. --M.C. Siegel

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Found another Presidential Match site that has you rate various issues and, in a nice twist, at the end it lets you rank the general categories (ie: Social Issues, Security and International Policy, etc.) by personal importance. It then lists the candidates by how closely they match what you're looking for:

1 Kucinich Score: 100%
2 Sharpton Score: 89%
3 Kerry Score: 88%
4 Clark Score: 82%
5 Dean Score: 82%
6 Edwards Score: 79%
7 Lieberman Score: 69%
8 Bush Score: 3%
Not at all surprising that Kucinich came in first. Sharpton and Kerry running neck and neck speaks more to the general nature of the survey (ie: Sharpton has no specific economic plan) but I was most interested by the equality of Clark & Dean.

Early last year when I first started paying attention to the candidates - sparked by the impending war and's internet primary - I had flirted with reflexively supporting Dean, impressed with his outspokenness. A little research (and I do mean a little as it really didn't take much to get the lowdown on him, which is what pissed/s me off the most about so-called progressives that were/are supporting him without knowing anything other than his opportunistic anti-war stance) led me to Kucinich, the little known, surprisingly progressive congressman from Ohio who was not only against the war but was actively organizing opposition to it in Washington, as opposed to using it to raise funds for a stagnant campaign. You know the rest of that story, though...

Fast forward to today, barring any damning news that pops up in the next few weeks as the media begins to target him more closely, I'm starting to see Clark as my plan B. I'm still researching him but his lack of political experience, while refreshing, is frustrating my efforts. If nothing else, accepting that KucinichSharpton and Lieberman represent the opposite ends of the Democratic spectrum, and that the differences between KerryDeanClarkEdwards are relatively minor, I'll take the political neophyte with the vague platform and real leadership experience over the other guys' any day. Plus, he's the only one I can see credibly taking on Bush in a country where half the people are still inexplicably supporting him.

Something about Kerry has rubbed me wrong from way back and I think Salomé nailed it tonight when she said she didn't want to see another millionaire in the White House. That he's hedging on releasing his financial and lobbying records doesn't help, either.
A break from politics today as there's really nothing that needs to be said about Dubya's speech last night. He obviously thinks he's playing D&D or something because he's certainly not living in the real world. (PS: Dubya may be a dope but the Democrats really need to come up with better than Pelosi and Daschle for their rebuttal. Booooooooooooooring! Would have rathered see Howard Dean hulking up again.)

This weekend, Isaac decided out of the blue that he's ready to start using the toilet. Not his potty that's been sitting under the sink, defiantly neglected, but the regular toilet. Fortunately, we've got the little boy seat that keeps him from falling in. (It also allows him to pee right on the floor if he's not paying attention but that's another story.) My attitude towards potty training is that he'll do it when he's ready. There's really no other way to go about it without driving yourself crazy and possibly traumatizing the kid in the process.

Of course, when it comes to kids, with the good comes the bad. They learn to feed themselves, and they make a mess. They learn to talk, and they never stop. They learn logic, and question everything you tell them. They learn to use the toilet, and they have to go constantly. Sometimes back to back. To back. To back. And you have to indulge every request because you don't want them to backslide and feel bad about it. Most times, he really does go and it's a point of pride as he realizes it's one of those big boy steps. At his new daycare, all the kids are potty-trained and I'm sure that's what spurred his sudden interest because before this weekend, he couldn't care less, to the point of even denying he had a dirty diaper despite the overwhelming smell trailing behind him.

On Monday night, shortly before his bath, he used the toilet and we left him diaperless for a little while. At one point, Salomé looked into his room to find him laying on his little couch watching Bob the Builder, his pants pulled down and yanking away! Twenty minutes later, he peed on his rug.


Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Dear Dr. Dean:

I would like to offer my condolences on your embarassing third place finish yesterday in the Iowa caucuses. You really got yours handed to you on a platter. On the bright side, that sellout Gephardt took one square on the chin.

There's a line at the end of one of my poems that I think may fit how you're feeling right now:

To have come so far for this
seems such a waste.
I'm sure I'm not the first to say that you shouldn't feel that way, though, even if you realize you've got no one to blame but yourself, independent hip-shooter that you are. Remember, you've dedicated the last two years of your life to this campaign...I mean movement, and for that you should be proud. (A little guilt over secretly campaigning while you were still Governor and forcing the press to sue for access to your schedule may be appropriate, though.)

You've energized the heretofore disenfranchised upper middle class white people of this country into bold action, lending them your powerful voice raised against President Bush and his ill-conceived policies, not to mention your fellow Democrats. You've even managed to rally the pseudo-liberal wing of the Democratic Party to your cause, an odd marriage considering your centrist background, but deserving of kudos nevertheless.

I imagine you were awake most of the night with your campaign manager, that saavy Joe Trippi, trying to figure out where things went wrong and how it could have gone so stunningly bad so quickly. It probably took everything you had to not choke the living shit out of him. You were the frontrunner, dammit! Gore, Bradley and Harkin were backing you! You even went to church with Jimmy frickin' Carter and we know how you feel about public display of your religious beliefs! What were those crazy Iowans thinking voting for Kerry and that snot-nosed Edwards over you?

We both know you don't really believe that it was the negative tone of the campaign the past couple of weeks that did you in, as your fellow democrats hit you hard on everything from your unwillingness to release your records as Governor of Vermont to the whereabouts of your wife and whether or not she actually supported your campaign. After all, negativity is what got you to the top as you gleefully bashed everyone from George Bush to Dick Gephardt to that old guy in Iowa that had the nerve to offer an opinion that was different from yours. To blame negativity would be...well it would be hypocritical and we know you wouldn't walk down that road!

The question now, though, is what can you do to regain your momentum? What could juice your bid to "take this country back" in such a way that would empower and engage your followers that woke up this morning to the bad news and are right this minute wondering, "What next?" Not the die-hard Deaniacs, mind you. They'd follow you back to Vermont and live on your front lawn through the winter if you asked them to. I'm referring to those progressives that you hoodwinked into thinking you represented their ideals, taking their well-intentioned donations knowing you were no more their champion than Joe Lieberman is. Those people that would have been better served supporting Dennis Kucinich had you not hid behind the media-appointed label of anti-war liberal and their self-serving notions of electability.

Thanks to that same media, you've now lost your insurgent tag. Thanks to Gore & company, you've lost your outsider status. Thanks to Edwards, you've lost your momentum. Thanks to Clark, you don't have a prayer in the south. Thanks to Sharpton, Eminem's got a better chance of getting the black vote. And most importantly, thanks to yourself, you don't have a shot at any of your opponents supporting you until they grudgingly have no other choice. At which point they may just turn to Hilary Clinton and you'd be totally screwed.

So I have an idea for you. Are you sitting down?

What if you acknowledged your now clear unelectability and threw your support to Dennis Kucinich who, despite his politics being well to the left of yours, is now much more electable than you. Hell, Lieberman's more electable than you are now but he's not an option. Think about it. You'd regain credibility while being able to rant til you're red in the face without the worry of people looking at you thinking: "Jesus H. Christ! If I have to choose between the retarded puppet already in office or this schizophrenic manic-depressive, we're fucked." Like many of them did after your energetic concession "speech" last night.

I'm sure Kucinich could find a place for you in his administration. Ambassador to Canada would be perfect for you, I think.

Most sincerely,
Guy LeCharles Gonzalez

Monday, January 19, 2004

Surprising development out of Iowa as Dennis Kucinich and John Edwards have reportedly struck a deal to support whichever of them gets closer to the 15% support threshold - the minimum required to receive delegates in the ridiculously complicated caucus system. (In simple terms: 14.9% or less = ZERO delegates, better make a deal!) Both are being very specific in saying they are not endorsing each other and that this move is strictly about the Iowa caucuses. Neither of their web sites mentions the deal at all.

Even the most diehard Kucinich supporter has to realize this means he's backing the surging Edwards in Iowa (over Dean, Kerry or Gephardt) as the chances of him coming close to 15% and getting Edwards supporters to push him over the top is highly unlikely at this point. Dean may have stalled but he hasn't completely blown his engine just yet (lamely trotting out the awkward wife notwithstanding). The odd thing is that, politically speaking, other than Lieberman, Edwards is probably the candidate furthest to the right of Kucinich. I totally understand his not backing Dean, and don't blame him in the least, but certainly would have expected Kerry or even Gephardt before Edwards.

The only thing I can figure is that DK's taking a huge strategic gamble by supporting the guy least like him in the hopes of pushing Edwards into 2nd place ahead of Dean and kneecapping the Doctor's already slowing momentum headed into New Hampshire. The goal? That some of the progressives that are backing Dean purely on his presumed electability will realize he's not the inevitable one and swing back to voting their conscience - aka Kucinich - in the later primaries. Any potential backlash from it could be parried by the fact that Edwards is an inexperienced politician and Kucinich is hoping to gain his ear and influence some of his more centrist positions.

One thing's for sure: Kucinich is getting more media attention today than he has throughout the entire campaign.

Politics makes for strange bedfellows, indeed.

My early predictions:

IOWA: Kerry, Edwards, Dean, Gephardt.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Kerry, Clark, Dean, Edwards

Gephardt and Lieberman throw in the towel no later than February 4th. Sharpton surprises a lot of people in the Southern primaries with strong 3rd place finishes and supplants Jesse Jackson as the media-appointed political voice of black America. No one gets enough delegates to snag the nomination before the convention and Kerry and Edwards strike a deal, receving Sharpton's blessing and the gridlock is broken. The next day, citing health concerns, Dick Cheney announces he will not be on the ticket with Bush, maybe even taking some of the flak for the Iraq debacle, and Rudy Giuliani is announced as his replacement at the Republican New York City. The mother of all reality shows kicks off with the ugliest, most divisive election campaign in US history and the ultimate winner will have a lot of cleaning up to do.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Pumpkin Seeds

1. How do you spell implosion? D-E-A-N. In less than 24 hours, the Iowa caucus will have its say and, despite the high-profile endorsements, the internet-driven fundraising, the months-long blessing from the media, Howard Dean's campaign has hit a wall. Hard. It's looking more and more like the Matrix than Lord of the Rings: a great beginning overshadowed by an ending full of muddleheaded plotting and a lethal preference for style-over-substance. In his narcissistic attempt to "take our country back," he's not only distracted thousands of well-intentioned progressives from the candidate that's actually represented their ideals for years - that would be Dennis Kucinich for those just now starting to pay attention - but he's likely sabotaged the political credibility of several so-called Democratic "leaders" like Al Gore and Bill Bradley who sold out hoping to ride his coattails back to relevance. The latter isn't really a bad thing, though.

2. Thanks to Ricky Manning, Jr. and the Carolina Panthers, I don't have to deal with a Super Bowl featuring two of the teams I despise the most: the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles. Among other things, can you imagine the over-the-top, pseudo-patriotic symbology we would have been subjected to had those two faced off in the biggest sports event in the world?

3. D&D yesterday was a blast as we completed the first leg of the campaign I'm creating in the Forgotten Realms setting and simultaneuously novelizing for my own purposes. Being the DM is even harder than I'd imagined, especially as I'm still relearning all the rules, and running combat, in particular, is a bitch. There's so many variables to keep track of: little details like the obstacles halflings and dwarves living in a human-sized world face, or how much cover a huge 3-foot rat offers such little people in the middle of melee combat. Then there's the totally unexpected things players do, like raising a ruckus when they're sneaking through dangerous territory, or pausing in the middle of ranged combat to pick through a fallen opponents belongings! I mean, you don't want to kill them but you also can't blatantly save them from themselves, either.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Ta-da! Notice anything different? Picked up the design from Ellen Edgerton via and tweaked it a bit for that angry pumpkin feel. Trimmed my list of blogs as it was getting rather unwieldly with more and more people I like getting in on the fun. (Hello Mara Jebsen!) There's several other people I read irregularly that you can reach via the LiveJournal link at the end. Also, I've redone the archives and they're now broken out by day instead of week, making it easier to find stuff.

I'm planning a complete redo of at some point in the near future, too. When I get the time... (aka, I can't do that much at work!)

D&D tomorrow! And maybe Monday, too? Anyone want to volunteer to DM a session?

Enjoy the holiday weekend. Now in all 50 states! [Did you know: Martin Luther King Jr. Day became a national holiday in 1983 as President Ronald Reagan signed off on the legislation after it was approved by the House and Senate, 338-90 and 78-22, respectively. This was 13 years after California became the first state to recognize it as a school holiday. The Governor of California then? Ronald Reagan.]

Thursday, January 15, 2004

I’ll Be Voting For Wesley Clark / Good-Bye Mr. Bush — by Michael Moore

I don't usually give much creedence to political endorsements since most of them stem from self-serving agendas as opposed to personal beliefs, but this one stopped me in my tracks. I'm not a Michael Moore devotee - the self-proclaimed man of the people has several skeletons in his closet - but I respect his judgement and agree with him more often than not. Unlike most celebrities, he never backs down from his principles, even when muting them might be considered appropriate by some - ie: his controversial Oscar speech, which I loved.

Gonna have to sleep on this one.
When I got into Dungeons & Dragons back in High School, there were a number of other role-playing games I was familiar with - Gamma World, James Bond, Marvel Superheroes, etc. - and they all took place within fantasy worlds of some sort, past or future. Even James Bond, which took place in something resembling our "real" world, was at its core, a pen and paper version of the movies which are as far removed from the "real" world as dragons, elves and wizards.

Times changed and D&D [in a PC vs. Macintosh business model kind of way] evolved into an open platform called D20 which, through the Open Gaming License, enabled other publishers to create compatible content instead of competing content, allowing D&D to remain the big daddy of RPGs.

Of course, the D20 system spawned a multitude of new, non-D&D settings, moving beyond the standard worlds of fantasy and finally into...the real world. AKA D20 Modern. Instead of fighters and wizards, you play one of six different types of heroes: Strong, Fast, Tough, Smart, Dedicated or Charismatic. You also pick occupations like Academic or Athlete, Blue-Collar or Bohemian. When it comes to race, though, there's apparently only one: human.

Which, in a long-winded way, brings me to the point of this entry:

Solid!: The D20 Blaxploitation Experience

Solid!: The D20 blaxploitation experience is the most righteous book of 70's action role-playing to make it past The Man's censors. For use with d20 Modern, Solid allows players to experience the soul, power, and action of the movies that defined a generation. Features include:

- New advanced classes like the Private Dick, Preacher, Hustler, and Foxy Lady.
- New skills and feats designed specifically to help create the feel of over-the-top action!
- Enough style and attitude to empower any d20 Modern game.
I don't even know what to follow this up with...!
Political Pumpkin Patch

1. Braun to Quit Presidential Bid, Back Dean

Ah, Carol, we hardly knew ye! So much for her desire to "take the 'Men Only' sign off the White House door." Be interesting to see how she spins her backing Dean. Can you say high-profile cabinet position? Wonder who the National Organization for Women and the National Women's Political Caucus will endorse now since backing a winner was obviously never their goal. If they don't endorse Dean, what does that say about their committment to Moseley Braun? Considering they haven't helped her raise any siginificant money - one of the main side effects expected from such high-level, establishment endorsements - you have to believe they were only backing her symbolically, because she is a woman.

2. More Sniping As Democratic Race Tightens

Dick Gephardt accused Howard Dean of "manufactured anger and false conviction" in a hotly contested Democratic presidential campaign that turned sharply negative Wednesday...

"To me, there is no room for the cynical politics of manufactured anger and false conviction. I believe in standing for something," the Missouri lawmaker said.

"Howard Dean travels the country and yells and pounds the podium against NAFTA, against the secrecy of the Bush-Cheney White House, and against insider corporate deals," he said. "This is the same Howard Dean who said he strongly supported NAFTA, who won't release his records as governor, and who wanted Vermont to 'overtake Bermuda' as a tax haven for companies like Enron."
While I'm not a big fan of Gephardt's, I admire his willingness to give the Doctor a taste of his own medicine. It may be desperation but damn if he didn't pin the tail square on the donkey's ass!

3. Dean Accuses Clark of Being a Republican

Come on! There's plenty to be concerned about Clark's past (not to mention his vague present) but his voting for Nixon and Reagan don't even qualify as mildly interesting. Reagan got 52% of the vote in 1980 and 59% in 1984; Nixon squeaked by in 1968 (though the electoral college was a virtual landslide) but got 61% of the vote in 1972. For someone who's restated his positions more than Enron did their finances, and cannily wore the admittedly undeserved tag of liberal to boost the early stages of his candidacy, this is like Michael Jackson dissing Woody Allen on childcare.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Puke-arama: Night 2! The fun never ends...

And the snow is falling, and I'm cranky from a hectic day at work, and I'm exhausted from a lack of uninterrupted sleep. I do have several new comic books that I picked up at lunch, though, all but $5 of which were free thanks to my $20 rebate kicking in! So it's not all bad. :-)

In other news, you don't want to mess with me. Either of me! The allergy thing is odd, though. Either way, I'm a bad mofo.

Shut yo'mouth!

Your Supervillain Career by NinjaDiner
Your Name
Your Claim to FameAn orbital deathray. It may be cliche, but it's cliche because no one ever fucks with the guy with a deathray.
Your HQCenter of a volcano.
Your GoalGetting even more neat powers. Sure, you like the ones you have, but that evil god who was sealed away five thousand years ago could probably hook you up with better.
Your WeaknessAllergies. You can deal with the hero's skills, strategies, and allies, but God help you if he brings his cat.
Created with quill18's MemeGen!
Your Supervillain Career by NinjaDiner
Your Name
Your Claim to FameYou don't really have anything. Even that "demonstration" you gave the UN was just a clip from a war documentary. Still, they bought it, so you're in business, anyway.
Your HQDecaying church.
Your GoalHistorical infamy. For years after you're done, small children will be punished for saying your name at recess.
Your WeaknessAllergies. You can deal with the hero's skills, strategies, and allies, but God help you if he brings his cat.
Created with quill18's MemeGen!
Another facet of war that often gets overlooked:

Pentagon: Suicides of U.S. Troops Rising in Iraq

"There have been about 21 confirmed suicides during the past year associated with Operation Iraqi Freedom," Winkenwerder said, adding that 18 were Army troops and three others were in the Navy and Marine Corps.

The suicide toll is probably higher than 21, he added, because some "pending" non-hostile death cases are still being investigated.

All kids are germans. Not as in country of origin, but as in spreaders of sickness. Hoarders, too, I think, as they just pass their colds around amongst themselves and anyone else worn down enough to get in on the fun.

"At least it's not the flu" has little meaning at this point, as once again, the kids are getting sick after a week's respite. I'd almost welcome a bout with something more serious over these terribly inconvenient bugs they keep catching. As if maybe one good one would harden the immune system against the lesser ones and let them get through the rest of the winter in peace. India's feeling it the worst this time around, throwing up again last night about 10 minutes before I was to leave for Acentos. It was all of the food she'd just eaten but no phlegm at all which didn't bode well as Salomé was battling some stomach bug the day before. After cleaning off my shoes and pants, I decided to stay home, half-expecting a phone call that would end the night early anyway. As it turned out, she fell asleep normally and slept relatively well, only waking up a couple of times thanks to a dry, hacking cough.

On the bright side, I got some more writing done, tweaking the end of the first chapter of The Merchant's Friend a bit more and beginning the second chapter, which is now posted. This marks the first time in a looooong time that I'm actually having fun with a writing project as I've got most of the first arc plotted thanks to the concurrent DnD campaign I created that it's based on. Not having the pressure of creating the entire world from scratch (as with the NaNoWriMo/Oniat project) helps a lot as I can just let the story flow and turn to my DnD supplements for quick answers to background questions. At the same time, by choosing the little-used setting I have, there's plenty of leeway to be as creative as I'd like.

Speaking of the campaign, I've gone from being worried about finding enough people to play to possibly having more people than I can handle! Being the DM is tough work, especially when you're creating the campaign yourself, and I realize my initial hopes of playing twice a month are crazy unless I can alternate as a player in someone else's game. I created two new characters on Sunday - a Wild Elf Bard and a half-Wild Elf/half-Rakshasa Barbarian - that I'd love to get into a game sometime soon. Even developed a whole backstory for them that I'm going to expand into another "novelization" involving the circus, terrorism and some serious father issues!

Speaking of issues, I joined my first LiveJournal communities a week or so ago, Roleplayer's Community and DnDFanz, and got into an interesting discussion about some guys' reluctance to play a female character. One of the comments that caught my attention was a DM that said he discouraged the playing of the opposite gender, explaining:"We're already messing with so much, gender is one more thing to juggle, and it's one of the few things we all have real world experience of. Who can say if Dave is playing an elf realisticly? Not me. But I can say that his response to a situation, or his conversational style or whatever, isn't convincingly female." I replied: "How exactly do you do that? I mean, seriously, this suggests females are somehow less complex than males and can be easily categorized. Which, of course, is ridiculous, among other things."

We went back and forth on this a couple of times, as did many others and, as of this morning, there were 71 comments made. I think I may have found my slam list replacement! ;-)

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

re: Today's primary in Washington, DC, from the Washington Post:

Outside the Anacostia library, college student Andrea J. Young said she was content with the unusual exercise in political expression, given how few voting opportunities are generally afforded D.C. residents.

"In most elections we really don't have a say," the 19-year-old said. "Even if it's just a whisper, today I have a say."
It's a shame that most DC residents won't see it that way, not bothering to vote today, discouraged by the "non-binding" status their vote has been tagged with thanks to the outdated tradition that says Iowa and New Hampshire get the first say.

It's ridiculous enough that the 570,898 people who live in our country's capital don't have any representation in Congress (no senators, and one congressmen who cannot vote!), but it's downright offensive that their desire to bring attention to that fact by moving their primary from May, when their votes truly wouldn't matter, to January, when they could have a profound influence, would be rebuffed so disrespectfully by the Democratic [Lacking] Leadership Council.

I mean, not to get all Al Sharpton here but could it possibly have something to do with the fact that Washington, DC is only 30% white, whereas Iowa and New Hampshire are, respectively, 94% & 96% white? What other reason would the DLC have to not support the effort to bring national attention to DC's lack of representation? And not just not supporting it, but totally kneecapping it by convincing Kerry, Gephardt, Edwards, Clark and Lieberman to remove themselves from the ballot!

Despite that, there's still idiots in DC that are planning to write in their names anyway, ignoring the big middle finger each of them effectively threw in their direction by siding with the DLC.

No wonder someone like Dubya can end up President! George Bernard Shaw was right: Democracy really does "ensure we shall be governed no better than we deserve!"

"Even if it's just a whisper..." Thank you Andrea J. Young for my new motto.
Roger Clemens comes out of retirement to sign with the Houston Astros and Yankees fans are all in a tizzy. Suckers! What did you expect from a mercenary? Loyalty? He was a punk when he was with the Red Sox, knocking Yankees on their asses left and right, and yet they all happily bent over when Steinbrenner signed him in 1999.

You get what you pay for.


I can't wait for August 10-12 when the Astros come to Shea Stadium. Let's see if the Rocket has the balls to be in the rotation for that series. If I was Mike Piazza, I'd be aiming to retire Clemens for good. Assuming he makes it that far into the season. Welcome to the National League, punk!

Suspended decision. Initiation, divination, prophecy. Turning point in psychic powers. Trust in inner voice.

Suspension, change, reversal, boredom, abandonment, sacrifice, readjustment, improvement, rebirth. He usually represents a time of feeling in limbo, being stuck or being prevented from moving forward. He's usually depicted hanging upside down with his hands tied - that's just what it feels like! We need to remain flexible and willing to let go of things, it's probably a time for sacrifice. Like the man in this card from the Murciano Tarot, don't sweat it, take some time out and be patient.

External Meaning: Spiritual awareness and the happiness and assuredness it brings. Sacrificing for a noble purpose. Reversal of one's current way of life. Inner peace. Developed intuition and prophecy. Esoteric Meaning: The spirit of the mighty waters. Reversing false images. Sacrifice. Energys: Water

Which tarot card are you?

I am The Fool

The Fool can signal a new beginning or change of direction - one that will guide you onto a path of adventure, wonder and personal growth. He also reminds you to keep your faith and trust your natural responses. If you are facing a decision or moment of doubt, the Fool tells you to believe in yourself and follow your heart no matter how crazy or foolish your impulses may seem.

For a full description of your card and other goodies, please visit

What tarot card are you? Enter your birthdate.

Month: Day: Year:

Monday, January 12, 2004

Pumpkin Seeds:

1. I can't stand people who barely know their own jobs getting snippy and trying to tell other people how to do theirs. My boss has the worst phone manners with people in other departments, as well as with customer service people at other companies. And if I have to hear one more time about "When I was a publisher...," I just may snap. Get over it! Your Publisher days are over and, at the rate you're going, your marketing days aren't looking too bright, either.

2. Thanks to bonehead plays by Brett Favre and the Packer D, we get another playoff season of excessive hype for Donovan McNabb and the Philadelpia Eagles. Highlight of yesterday's game came from Cris Collinsworth, in reference to a fan wearing a mask with a football jammed forcefully into its mouth: "Glad to see Rush Limbaugh made it to the game."

3. From the "But some of my best friends are black!" Department:

Racial politics have not been prominent in the snow-white confines of Iowa and New Hampshire. But the primary contest moves to more diverse states beginning on Feb. 3, including South Carolina, where nearly half the voters are expected to be minorities and [Civil rights activist Al] Sharpton is looking to make a mark on the race.

[Howard] Dean initially denied Sharpton's accusation that he didn't have one Hispanic or black holding a senior policy position as governor, saying he had "a senior member of my staff on my fifth floor."

Sharpton said he was asking about the Cabinet, which has a small number of members.

"No, we did not," conceded Dean, whose state has a population that is nearly 98 percent white.

Former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun chastised Sharpton for instigating a "racial screaming match." Sharpton responded that he just wants Dean to be held accountable for his record.

Moments later, Dean noted that he has the endorsements of more members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus than any other presidential hopeful.

But Sharpton ridiculed that, saying, "I think you only need co-signers if your credit is bad."
Just admit when something is beyond your realm of experience and say you'll appoint someone with the appropriate experience as an adviser. Anything else is just shameful pandering.

4. In an interview on NBC's Today show this morning, Ron Suskind, Dubya-whistleblower Paul O'Neill's collaborator on The Price of Loyalty, said of O'Neill's coming forward: "He told me, 'I can tell the truth. I'm an older guy, I'm a rich guy, and there's nothing they can do to hurt me.'"

Saturday, January 10, 2004

While it's not the least bit surprising, it's always worse to have a strong suspicion actually be confirmed.

Bush planned Iraqi invasion pre-Sept. 11 - report
Reuters, 01.10.04, 12:56 PM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill charges in a new book that President Bush entered office in January 2001 intent on invading Iraq and was in search of a way to go about it.

O'Neill, fired in December 2002 as part of a shake-up of Bush's economic team, has become the first major insider of the Bush administration to launch an attack on the president.

He likened Bush at Cabinet meetings to "a blind man in a room full of deaf people," according to excerpts from a CBS interview to promote a book by former Wall Street Journal reporter Ron Suskind, "The Price of Loyalty."

( more...)

Friday, January 9, 2004

As I have nothing intelligent or insightful to say about Dubya's recently announced immigration policy reforms, I direct you to David Grenier instead, who does.

As for his desire to put men on Mars and the moon, does this mean the CIA has received credible evidence that they too might have weapons of mass destruction? Or is Osama hiding out up there? Because after the so-called war on terrorism, which is costing billions of dollars and counting and creating a deficit like we've never seen before, I can't imagine the next most important thing on the national agenda is...[in dramatic announcer's voice] the Final Frontier!
Onion: Does being a full-time writer limit your experiences and give you less to write about?

David Sedaris: Yes. It was never a goal of mine to be a full-time writer. I know other people who would never feel that they were a writer as long as they had another job, but I never felt that way. You meet people who say, "Oh, I'd like to do such-and-such, but I don't have the time." But it always seemed to me like you make the time. And if you have a wife or a job, if you have kids or whatever, you find a way. If you really want to do it, you make the time. When you have nothing but time, it's not nearly as satisfying. I don't have any place I need to be. I don't really fit in anywhere.

O: Have you considered any plans to remedy the situation, like going undercover?

DS: I don't really do very well when I'm sent somewhere. A lot of magazines want to send you somewhere to do something. They want you to stow away on a ship, or something like that. And it's never really worked for me, because it's homework, basically. When you're in the situation, you're looking too hard for what's strange about it. What's strange is that you're stowing away on a ship in the first place. For money. When you write things like that, you always have to make it sound like you just decided to stow away on a ship. Which, if you're the kind of person who decides to just stow away on a ship, they probably wouldn't have asked you to write the article. So, yeah, I don't do very well when I'm sent somewhere to do something. I would like to get a volunteer job, because I don't have any working papers. That would give me a place that I needed to be, and it wouldn't really matter to me what it is, as long as I'd be around other people. If they sent me out to clean graffiti off of mailboxes, that wouldn't be satisfying, because I would be by myself, and part of the goal is to improve my French. So I'd like some kind of a little job where I was with people. Like old people, or retarded people. I'd do anything. It wouldn't matter to me.

- The Onion A.V. Club

For those that don't know, The A.V. Club is the Onion's legit section, featuring great interviews with various creative types.

Thursday, January 8, 2004

Okay, okay! Not sure if I can come up with 20 things you may not know about me (especially if you've read this journal regularly the over the past year) but I'll give it a shot and try not to repeat anything. Take your pick in laying the blame for this: Dawn, Tony or RAC.

1. I skipped the first two weeks of all of my classes my senior year in High School. I lied my way back into all but one, my Health class, a half-year requirement. Took in the final semester and had to take my final on a different day thanks to a schedule conflict. The test was misplaced and not graded and the day before graduation, at rehearsal, I was told I wasn't graduating. They found it later that day and everything worked out but I was as scared as I'd ever been for those few hours.

2. I was on the Winter Track team that year. Hurdles and the 400m relay. Nearly blacked out during my first relay competition. Went from 1st to 5th in my first hurdles event after tripping over the last hurdle. The assistant coach was also my Meterology teacher (half-year elective, anyone?) and gave 5 points towards the final grade for every individual medal won. I won two medals. I got a 75 in the class. (Side note: He was also a Jets fan, his stated reason for letting me back into his Oceanography class after missing two weeks, per #1.)

3. I smoked weed for the first time that year, in the courtyard where most people openly smoked cigarettes. This was Lakeland High School, the school I was uprooted from Mt. Vernon for at the end of the 11th grade because it had better test scores and was in "a better environment." Translation: white neighborhood.

4. I turned down a scholarship to the School of Visual Arts (film) in 1987 to concentrate on being a full-time Jehovah's Witness.

5. My first roommate after I left home (and the JW's) in 1988 had a girlfriend that was on Pan Am's Flight 108 that crashed in Lockerbie that year. We had a Christmas party planned for that weekend and she was to come down for it and stay for the week.

6. I drank my first beer, Budweiser, in that apartment in late 1988, followed by three more during a game of quarters. I threw up, brushed my teeth and drank two more before passing out. The next morning, I was awakened by knocking on the door. My mother, who had no idea where I'd moved, had somehow found me. She claimed Jehovah led her to me.

7. I sold cars, Fords, for a week and a half in 1988. The first 4 days were spent in a back room watching videos about the different cars and cold-calling people right out of the phone book. Spent three days on the sales floor getting stepped on by more experienced, cutthroat salesmen. Lost my first potential sale when the manager kept trying to push them into a Taurus when what they wanted, and could afford, was a Tempo. Quit the next day and never picked up my paycheck.

8. In 1990, I moved to Miami Beach on a whim with my cousin and a friend after playing hooky from work one day and walking around Staten Island where we were living at the time. The move was sparked by an old 70s convertible Impala we saw that was for sale and dreams of an exciting road trip. Four weeks later, we were heading south, on Greyhound. Took a cab to South Beach, wandered Collins Avenue and ended up renting a room at the Geneva, a small unconverted art deco hotel that housed many a senior citizen.

9. While attending Miami-Dade Community College, I joined the school newspaper. At the height of Desert Shield, I fabricated a quote for my first published article from an unnamed student, comparing the FBI's questioning of Arab citizens to the Japanese internments of World War II. I felt the point needed to be made.

10. From 1987-1990, I worked at Friendly's, the Bank of New York, a Ford dealer, Friendly's again, the Federal Reserve Bank, Doubleday Bookshops, Reggae Rockers (dance club), Big Easy (Cajun restaurant), Suncoast Restaurant (in Jordan Marsh) and the Colony (hotel restaurant). The last four were in Miami. The Colony, struggling while I was there, became one of the hottest places in South Beach a few months after I left. I read about it in the Army.

11. I attempted to join the Army three times between 1988-1990 but couldn't get around needing a waiver for my flat feet. They clear your records after two years and I got in early March of 1991, clearing the medical screening by standing so it looked like my feet were arched normally. The Gulf War was on at the time.

12. Besides completing Airborne school and jumping out of a plane 12 times, I also went through Air Assault school, rappelling out of helicopters hovering 100 feet off the ground. I briefly considered attempting the Special Forces qualification course.

13. Upon returning to NYC from the Army in late 1993, I fell into the publishing field after two temp assignments at K-III Directory Corp (which later became Primedia, where I worked in 2001). On the 3rd day of my second assignment, one of the Circulation Assistants quit, leaving behind a mess. I quickly taught myself the fulfillment program she used and voluntarily took over her workload. Nine months later, I was hired full-time and began a "career" in audience marketing.

14. I slammed as an individual in five Friday night slams at the Nuyorican Poets Café in 1997-98 and only lost one: the Grand Slam Finalé. I tied another, with Alix Olson, when both of us made the team that won in Austin that summer.

15. I had already qualified for the Grand Slam Finale before I ever won a Wednesday night slam open. It was the only Wednesday slam open I ever won.

16. I proposed to Salomé from the stage at the Nuyorican on March 20, 1998 (the same week I took over the reading series at Bar 13) at the end of a team slam against Philadelphia. Roger Bonair-Agard, who came with me to pick up the ring having no idea beforehand, spent much of the evening trying to talk me out of it. He ended up being my best man.

17. The first year of a little bit louder, it lost money as often as it broke even. It wasn't until I added the slam format in September 1998 that it really got its legs and a more consistent following of poets and audience. Salomé was the regular door person the first year or so and I often doubled as host and DJ.

18. I've always liked what poetry does for people way more than poetry itself. I actually intensely dislike most poetry. Most poets, too.

19. From 1991-2003, I've worked for the US Army, K-III Directory Corp., Starbright Graphics, Habitat Magazine, Poets & Writers, The Academy of American Poets, Freelance, Primedia, American Express Financial Advisors and Thomson Media.

20. All things considered, I think Bloomberg is doing a pretty good job and would vote for his reelection. Right now, Ferrer is the only one that could take my vote from him.


I probably read this journal as much, if not more, than anyone else. As much as I like communicating, whomever you may be, it primarily serves as both a writing exercise and a release. (The site meter is set to ignore my visits, though.) I am interested in who's following along, though, so drop me a quick note in the guestbook. :-)

Wednesday, January 7, 2004

My god, it's like Candyman! Invoke their name and they appear!

Gary Hart Said to Be Mulling Senate Bid
By ROBERT GEHRKE, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Former Colorado Sen. Gary Hart is seriously considering a challenge to Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, according to party sources.

The two-term senator and two-time presidential candidate recently discussed a possible bid with national and state party leaders who are urging him to jump in, said Democratic sources in Washington and Colorado who requested anonymity.


Democratic leaders believe Campbell is vulnerable despite winning 62 percent of the vote in 1998 and being popular with voters for his no-nonsense image. He was recently treated for prostate cancer, but in announcing his candidacy insisted he is healthy and ready for a vigorous campaign.

Me Phi Me! Me Phi Me! Me Phi Me! You never know.
Got this off of nihilistic kid's LJ friends list:

It's been my experience that everyone does something that, to them, is meditation. You know, something that centers them, that makes them focus on nothing in particular - kina like Pirsig's Motorcyle Maintenence or that crazy guy in the corner that smells bad and his babbling to himself about conspiracy theory. One hopes it's not quite the same as the latter, but you get the point.

My question, then, is what is it you do? What brings your life into focus, or lets you just sort of center yourself?
For me, there's a couple of things. Listening to music is definitely tops on the list. My moods are easily enhanced and influenced by music. If I'm feeling melancholy, there's nothing better than the Cowboy Junkies' Trinity Sessions. For introspection, I turn to Dave Matthews' Crash. Sentimental? Jodeci or New Edition; all of the slow stuff like Good Luv or Home Again. I got through the end of 2002 thanks to endless replaying of Nelly Furtado's Whoa, Nelly! and Pink's Missundaztood.

Wandering the city aimlessly is the other. Clears my head like nothing else.

Tuesday, January 6, 2004

"I should have had the opportunity to get help, but baseball had no fancy rehab for gamblers like they do for drug addicts," [Pete] Rose wrote. "If I had admitted my guilt, it would have been the same as putting my head on the chopping block -- lifetime ban. Death penalty. I spent my entire life on the baseball fields of America, and I was not going to give up my profession without first seeing some hard evidence. ... Right or wrong, the punishment didn't fit the crime -- so I denied the crime."

Pete Rose is an arrogant, unrepentant dirtbag and deserves his lifetime ban from baseball and the Hall of Fame. Reinstatement for him would further damage an already broken game and cement Bud Selig's well-earned rep as the worst commissioner of baseball ever.

Comparing his gambling problem that he denied to the drug rehabilitation offered to others is just stupid and his whining about "the punishment didn't fit the crime" is laughably ironic considering the number of people locked up for ridiculously long sentences for non-violent drug possession offenses. If anything, the druggies should get banned too (the Strawberrys and the McGwires), and be ineligible for the Hall of Fame. That they don't, however, has nothing to do with him and his case.

Let Rose rot.
So the spineless Bill Bradley is endorsing Howard Dean and the still-fawning media is reporting it like it's some kind of coup. The same Bill Bradley who lacked the guts to keep pressing his own "insurgent" campaign in 2000 (when he had Gore on the ropes and could have brought his hard-earned delegates to the convention and demanded some concessions that might've made Gore a more appealing candidate to his own base), instead choosing to cozy up to him as if he didn't really mean all the Dean-like swipes he'd taken at him during his short-lived campaign.

Who's next in the "Desperate for a Return to Relevancy" campaign? Michael Dukakis? Gary Hart? Will Jesse Jackson now blink and decide to endorse Dean, too?

Wesley Clark is starting to look more and more appealing to me - in that lesser of two lesser evils, Anybody-But-Bush kind of way. I mean if I have to pick from one of these supposed major candidates, I'd rather pick the one that has a chance of beating Dubya. Can't say I'm too happy about it, though.

Still holding out a slim hope for Kucinich to hang in there and make a valiant stand at the convention.
Took another one of those online polls today, "What Pisses You Off?" I got "Stupid People Piss You Off." Well, duh! That's not worth posting.

On a lighter note, Sunday's Pietri benefit was a great success. Kudos to Fish for pulling it off lovely. I got there about an hour-and-a-half in, Isaac on one arm, his diaper bag NOT on the other! Realized it when I offered him his juice. Thankfully, he held the bodily functions in check the whole time and we made it home afterwards without incident. He's a funny kid - painfully shy in unfamiliar company but a nonstop chatterbox once he gets comfortable. The ride home and later to the store was a never-ending conversation that covered everything from his taste in music to talking about Eric wearing his vest on his head! (Uncle Kracker's Drift Away is his favorite song right now and he knows most of the words!)

The show itself flowed well as I took over the hosting from Oscar who held down the first half of the show. Several of the "special" guests were no-shows, including the overrated Barakas, but those that were in the house showed mad love for the Reverend, each sharing one of his poems along with some words of hope and praise, and usually a poem or two of their own. The one tacky moment - think beauty pageant stage mom tacky - came from the father of an impressive 5-year old who read a short Pietri piece and two of her own, offering one of them in English and Swahili..all memorized! (Not the Pietri piece.) The poetry itself was the standard rhymey black-power stuff that is only interesting coming out of a 5-year old's mouth but the real low point was when she finished to a rousing applause and her father leads her through the audience, press kits in hand, passing them out to anyone that would take one! Maybe I'm biased by my own disdain for blatant self-promotion but I couldn't help but be annoyed, especially as their buzz continued into the next person's performance.

Other than that, the afternoon was a blast. There's another one tonight, this time at the Nuyorican, and again on the 21st, then on February 12th uptown at the Julia de Burgos Center. No matter how much money they raise in the end, I imagine the positive vibes being pointed in Pietri's direction as a result may be equally effective.