Sunday, February 29, 2004

a home abandoned long enough
returns to its base components
walls, windows, doors, floors and ceilings

the sum becomes considerably less
than its parts

old books lean listlessly on shelves
next to faded pictures of places
long-forgotten, friends
no longer familiar

a film of dust covers them all

the last mix tape from years ago hides
at the bottom of the box
at the back of the shelf
in the closet never opened

the dust on the doorknob
is proof of its neglect

we are more likely to pick at scabs
than encourage healed wounds
to remember the sting of antiseptic
over the soothing hand that applies it

if familiarity breeds contempt
complacency is the petri dish
and we are mad scientists
competing to find the cure
to our homemade ills

a heart left untreated long enough
hardens to stone
its only hope is to break
shatter into millions of pieces small enough
to dissolve and start anew

when the silence stretches too far
the hurt settles into a dull but tolerable ache
the blind faith of separate paths
intersecting in the unseen distance
starts to weaken, threatens the stability of
home and heart

on the stereo in the living room
store-bought CDs set on random
shuffle in vain to clear the toxins from the air

Saturday, February 28, 2004

I am the bad angel on Jack's right shoulder. I take advantage of his need to blow off steam every now and then. The longer he resists, the more power I have over him. With great power, comes great irresponsibility.

Friday, February 27, 2004

This whole gay marriage controversy is simply ridiculous. Sedalina has one of the better takes on the topic (as well as some particularly ignorant feedback from readers), and also led me to do to a little Googling to find the following:

An Act to Preserve Racial Integrity

5. It shall hereafter be unlawful for any white person in this State to marry any save a white person, or a person with no other admixture of blood than white and American Indian. For the purpose of this act, the term "white person" shall apply only to the person who has no trace whatsoever of any blood other than Caucasian; but persons who have one-sixteenth or less of the blood of the American Indian and have no other non-Caucasic blood shall be deemed to be white persons. All laws heretofore passed and now in effect regarding the intermarriage of white and colored persons shall apply to marriages prohibited by this act.

from the Virginia Racial Integrity Act of 1924

Eugenic Laws Against Race Mixing
Paul Lombardo, University of Virginia

By 1915, twenty-eight states made marriages between "Negroes and white persons" invalid; six states included this prohibition in their constitutions...

The 1958 case of Loving v. Commonwealth of Virginia initiated a challenge that would eventually overturn the law... By unanimous decision, in 1967 the [United States Supreme] Court struck down the Racial Integrity Act and similar laws of fifteen other states, saying: "[T]here can be no doubt that restricting the freedom to marry solely because of racial classifications violates the central meaning of the Equal Protection Clause... Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the state."

from the Image Archive on the American Eugenics Movement

equal protection: an overview

The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits states from denying any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. In other words, the laws of a state must treat an individual in the same manner as others in similar conditions and circumstances...

The equal protection clause is not intended to provide "equality" among individuals or classes but only "equal application" of the laws. The result, therefore, of a law is not relevant so long as there is no discrimination in its application. By denying states the ability to discriminate, the equal protection clause of the Constitution is crucial to the protection of civil rights.

from the Legal Information Institute
A lot of this country's past disgusts me. So does a lot of its present. Especially when it starts to mirror things from our ugly past that you'd think we'd have learned something from.

Gay marriage should be a "duh!" issue. (Just like the ERA should be.) That it's causing this much of a stir should be an alarming wake-up call for anyone that believes "things aren't that bad."

  Then they came for me,

and by that time there was no one
left to speak up for me.

--Rev. Martin Niemoller, 1945
We have the right to remain silent, and the obligation to speak.

The final excerpt on the 14th Ammendment shoots to hell the whole idea of letting states decide who can marry whom, as well as letting them decide to not honor a marriage licensed in another state. Kerry and Edwards are both scumbags for hiding behind that copout and with that realization, I've changed my mind about waiting for the results of Sunday's debate and am officially swinging my support back to Kucinich.

Fuck pragmatism. If Bush gets another four years, we deserve what's coming to us.

Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.
--George Bernard Shaw
My one-year review went better than expected. Only a 3% raise, but it's the max they're giving this year (after two years of no increases!) so I can't complain too much. More importantly, I negotiated a restructuring of the department that will move me from a generalist working on several different publications as needed to focusing on a few and putting my own imprint on them. I might also get to take a Quark and Photoshop class which would help in my overall plans for world domination. Or at least fleshing out my resumé.

Plus, I'll get a six-month review that might net me another increase and an official promotion by the end of the summer. All in all, a nice way to end the week.

And today is pay day so it's off to Midtown Comics for lunch!

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Initial reactions to tonight's debate (which will be repeated tonight on CNN at Midnight EST, 9pm PST):

1. Ted Koppell, you may step down from the #1 Jackass platform. Larry King, please take Mr. Koppell's place. Self-important moron!

2. Edwards came as close to getting the one-on-one he said he wanted as the panelists treated Kucinich and Sharpton like nerds at a frat party, focusing most of their attention on the two front-runners. And he blew it. Mostly. The nice guy schtick needs to stop if he really wants to be President as he was handed several greased softballs to zing Kerry with and he refused to do so, complimenting and agreeing with him more often than drawing clear distinctions. The couple of times he did take a shot, he was vague and tentative about it, and at least once allowed Kerry to get a shot in at him, making fun of a Kerry-like long-winded answer. Meanwhile, he took a few hard ones from Kucinich and Sharpton.

3. Kerry caught a couple on the chin from the dynamic duo, too, but they were mostly along with Edwards so the overall damage was minimal. His strategy of focusing more on Bush, while annoying as hell, especially when used to dodge a question, was pretty successful. He also brazenly ripped off Edwards' "positive and optimistic vision" and "offering real solutions" lines without being called on it. Part of me is starting to believe a deal's been cut between them to continue the primary process as long as possible to keep the heat on Bush, but to use only rubber bullets on each other.

4. Kucinich and Sharpton, when they were given the opportunity to participate, were at the top of their respective games. Both made strong cases for their remaining in the race despite King's obvious condescending attitude towards them throughout the debate. If Edwards doesn't get his act together by Sunday's debate and come out hungry and ready to rumble, I'm throwing my support back to Kucinich. If I'm going to back a loser, it's going to be the one I believe in most.
Pumpkin Seeds

1. Can The Passion of Christ be nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay next year? Or Best Foreign-Language Film? As I see it, that's the only legitimate controversy surrounding Mel Gibson's movie. I repeat: IT'S A MOVIE!

2. Lena Horne forces Janet Jackson to drop out of her bio-pic. Justin Timberlake is forced to step down from co-hosting a Motown tribute. J.C. Chasez, guilty by association, was booted from a Pro Bowl appearance. ER, completely unconnected, is forced to blur a peripheral shot of a dead woman's breasts. 20 more US soliders have been killed in Iraq since the Super Bowl, bringing the total to 549 in just under one year. George W. Bush still has a pretty good shot at being re-elected. More than 11 million people watched The Bachelorette last week. America is a very stupid place.

3. Tonight's Democratic Primary debate (CNN, 9pm EST) better be a good one. If someone doesn't land a couple of body shots on Kerry, this whole thing may be over by next Wednesday. And I mean the whole thing.

4. Have spent the past month trying to read The Black House, the Stephen King/Peter Straub sequel to The Talisman. I'm on page 29 and have read several of those 29 pages multiple times, desperately trying to get into the story. Barring skipping forward a couple of chapters, I don't think I will. It's tedious and not the least bit interesting.

5. Maroon 5 is a weird combination of Matchbox Twenty, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Mint Condition. Very cool.

6. Mike McGee is the reigning Indie Slam Champ. Sekou won the title in 2002. In contrast, Mayda del Valle won it in 2001, The Shane in 2000 and Roger in 1999. The inevitable bear market after the boom years?

7. On Tuesday at Acentos, I discovered a certain someone - a female someone - is a former role-player. She outed herself in a poem. Not a D&D player (White Wolf & Marvel Superheroes), but the foundation is there. If I can woo her to play, one of the guys in the group may have to get voted off the island. Can you hear the alliances forming?

8. Obligatory Eric Guerrieri Reference. Seriously, though, I think he needs to start an online journal. Send him an email and encourage this idea.

9. This picture was in the Daily News yesterday of A-Rod receiving instruction from Graig Nettles on playing third base. Brought a tear to my eye remembering the good old days. Graig Nettles remains my all-time favorite Yankee. They should retire his number 9 at the next Old Timer's Day. I'll be in the stands if and when they do.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

All kinds of random weirdness at Acentos last night, starting with the big ass pool table smack in the middle of the already-small-to-begin-with Blue Ox! Nice turnout, to the point where the open mic is starting to feel a little on the long side and Oscar even had to cut a couple of people. The double-edged sword of success.

All of the regulars were in the house, plus some surprise drop-ins like Seve, Jeannie (with Ed, who was taping the feature) and Eric, who met me at my place beforehand. Funny how the guy I initially didn't like thanks to some purposeful miscommunication on the part of a louder regular he was dating at the time, became one of my best friends on the scene and, more importantly, outside of it. Having him there gave things that final feels-like-old-times touch that I get from Acentos.

The much-ballyhooed National Slam Champ Mike McGee was there for a mini-set towards the end of the open mic and I have to admit to being...underwhelmed? Extremely underwhelmed, to be honest. Some funny stuff here and there but nothing particularly original or interesting and certainly nothing I'd want to, you know, read. Sean Connery impressions don't really translate all that well to the page. I had to go to the bathroom at one point because I knew my forced smile was getting more and more obvious as I got more and more bored. Kind of reinforced my being glad I didn't waste a week's vacation last summer at Nationals.

Omar was the feature and he delivered an interesting, if uneven set that seemed to have a surprisingly vibrant undercurrent of anger to it. The kind of performance that usually precedes some crazy act of self-destruction no one sees coming, emphasized by his closing with a piece about death being on his mind. Overall, it masked the more subtle layers his work tends to have by focusing too much attention on the surface, particularly with his "killing Europeans" piece that made even me a little uncomfortable - more for the delivery than the content. His stringing together of several of his journal entries was a lot of fun, though, and served as a nice reminder of how good he is in that rarest of forms: the really short poem. He can say more in a handful of lines than most people cram into their 3-minute diatribes.

After the show, we all hung out, played some pool, played random songs on the jukebox and had some drinks. Considering my very public decision to hop on the wagon a few months back, I feel obligated to mention that I hopped off again after about 40 days. Not surprisingly, it was a night at Acentos and, considering I'd resisted the urge at Urbana and a couple of other places, I think it says a lot about my comfort level there. Also, when your wife doesn't take your decision all that seriously, it suggests that maybe you're not as bad as you think you are. Still have to watch that tendency to ignore/test my limits and keep it social. It's all good, though.

On a side note, I bought the Maroon 5 CD, Songs About Jane, a couple of weeks ago and it is without question my favorite album of the past couple of years. Looooooooove it! Even more than Milli Vanilli. That's a compliment, by the way.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

If you've read this journal at any point during the past eight months or so, you know I love debating politics. If you know me personally, you also know I despise blind, unquestioning devotion to anyone or anything.

This weekend, I responded to a mass email from a Kucinich supporter offering their take on Johns Kerry & Edwards and cc'd DK's local Meetup group for the hell of it. It was a repost of my February 17th entry announcing/explaining my switch of support from Kucinich to Edwards, with a short preface for context. Not surprisingly, I received a reply questioning not only my decision - suggesting the differences between Kerry and Edwards were "tiny, if they even exist." - but also the legitimacy of my initial support for Kucinich.

So, of course, I responded:

From: "Guy LeCharles Gonzalez"
Date: Tue Feb 24, 2004 10:42 am
Subject: Re: Digest Number 105

<< Your logic of appealing to the "middle" (which keeps on moving right) would seem to dictate that you support Lieberman last summer, not Kucinich. >>

LOL! Not even close. And so laughable as to not be nearly as offensive as it was likely meant to be.

For the record, my email was in response to one forwarded by Jessica Flagg, Kucinich's NYS Volunteer Coordinator, from David Swanson, Kucinich's former Press Secretary, offering his take on the "favored candidates" (his words), Kerry and Edwards.

My decision to back Edwards next week - in spirit only thanks to the fact that I have no desire to officially declare myself a Democrat and as such, NY's rules on changing party affiliation will keep me from having a say in the primary - is based purely on the fact that I do not want to be faced with a choice between John Kerry and George Bush in November. Unlike most Democrats, I have never believed in the "Anybody But Bush" credo.

While Bush is undeniably a terrible President, he's obviously not bad enough for Democrats to wake up and nominate a true alternative. Given the choice between Kerry and Edwards, I believe Edwards represents the better alternative, both for defeating Bush and for the possibility of future reform in the party itself. That he enjoys some sort of personal friendship with Kucinich is also a plus in my mind.

What mystifies me most is Kucinich's (and his supporters') dogged support for the Democratic Party despite the fact that the party itself sees him (them) as a minor nuisance, at best. I appreciate his hard work and much of what he represents but I also recognize the fact that his moment has now passed and that if Edwards doesn't have an impressive showing on March 2nd, John Kerry will get the Democratic nod, the chances of Bush being reelected will increase, and Ralph Nader will be the only "other" voice the media will cover.

Kucinich needs Edwards to have a strong Super Tuesday in order to maintain his tenuous platform and limited media coverage. If Edwards goes down, the media will declare the primaries as being over, and Kucinich will be _completely_ blacked out.

My "logic of appealing to the 'middle'," as you put it, comes from the recognition that the vast majority of this country does NOT share my opinions on many of the issues. Just like Kucinich's last-minute deal with Edwards in Iowa, I realize that the primary season is a fluid one where you have to pick your battles carefully, and that sometimes compromises have to be made on the fly, and knowing _when_ to make them is as important as knowing which ones to make.

I have always encouraged people to vote their conscience and I fully respect your intent to vote for Kucinich next Tuesday and to support his campaign to the bitter end. I only hope that Tuesday's final results don't bring about that end sooner than necessary, leaving us all in the unenviable position of supporting another "lesser of two evils" candidate with absolutely nothing to show for it but four years of lip service and relative status quo.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez
Compromise is always a tricky subject as no one ever wants to admit they're doing it. What I find most ironic about Kucinich supporters, and Kucinich himself, is the unwillingness to acknowledge that supporting the Democratic party is itself a major compromise. While there is certainly a progressive wing of the party, it's about as viable as a Mets fan in the Bronx. We may be tolerated for our views but we're never going to effect major change and, if we push too far, we will be ignored; or silenced.

At this point in the process, if Kucinich really wanted to take a forceful stance, he'd say screw the Democrats and join forces with Nader. It would be political suicide, though, and at his core, as much as I love what he stands for, the guy is a politician and he's playing the game the best he can without breaking the rules. It's a compromise he's obviously comfortable with. As am I with mine.

John Edwards: The best option for real change that we've got. Get him in office, then on November 3rd continue the push for even more change, starting on the local level and bubbling up nationally in the 2008 elections. The worst thing any of us can do is to think that simply replacing Bush is enough.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Okay, okay. I give in!

You're Mexico!
While some people think you're poor and maybe a little corrupt, you know where it's at, enjoying good food and nice beaches.  You like to take things a little slower than those around you, and you really wish the air were cleaner, but sometimes compromises must be made.  For some reason, Chevrolet keeps trying to sell you Novas as well, even though they don't really go.

Take the Country Quiz at the Blue Pyramid

Stayed home from work today and slept til 1pm after dropping the kids off. Watched Dr. Phil and Oprah after realizing our On-Demand wasn't working! Still tired.

Update on media bias in movie box-office reporting, here's how E! Online spun 50 First Dates' 47% drop-off from last weekend, despite having no major competition opening this weekend:

"First Dates" Still First
by Bridget Byrne, E! News Online

Although dropping 47 percent, 50 First Dates averaged a solid $5,814 per theater at 3,612 sites (21 more than its debut week) and has now grossed $72.3 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.
The "solid" per screen average was a mere $60.00 more than Barbershop 2 managed in its second weekend which was reported with a considerably less-positive spin. Barbershop 2, BTW, took in another $6.3 million this weekend (a 40% drop, on 482 less screens than last week; 1383 less than 50 First Dates), bringing its three-week total to an estimated $53 million, a pace that should easily exceed its predecessor's surprising $78 million take.

I'm just saying.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

It's official. Ralph Nader's running for President. Again.

While my initial reaction was predictably negative, after I put my personal dislike of the guy aside and took a look at where he was coming from this time around, I came to the surprising conclusion that I agreed with his decision!

I believe the fact that John Kerry is the current Democratic "front-runner" and scarily close to wrapping up the nomination this early in the process is one of the main reasons he's decided to junp back in the race. A lot of the "I like Kucinich but Dean can win" people can take some of the responsibility for it, too.

Nader made it pretty clear early on in the process that Kucinich was his man. If he felt like DK was making a dent in the Dem's platform, he said he wouldn't run this time. He even spurned the Green Party because they wanted to run a strategic campaign, only targetting states that were clearly red or blue, to which Nader said you either run or you don't - which I totally agree with.

Because he's going independent, I actually respect his running this time more than last. He's running purely on his own principles now, not shrouding them in the Green's presumptuous attempts at establishing themselves as the third party. Because Dean and Kucinich have routinely professed their ultimate loyalty to the party, Nader is the one that scares Dems the most, and as a result, he wields more potential influence on the platform that comes out of Boston than anyone else.

Interestingly, like Howard Dean, he's made a point of noting a preference for Edwards, saying on NBC's Meet The Press: "I think the more organized the citizens are, the better a politician [Edwards is] going to be. He's like an expanding accordion, unlike President Bush, who is really a giant corporation in the White House masquerading as a human being." Presumably Kerry, whom he doesn't refer to once in the interview, is just another competing corporation and not a viable representative of the people. That's my interpretation, at least! ;-)

I welcome his decision to jump in the race the same way I support Kucinich and Sharpton's voices continuing to be included in the debates. His will be another voice raised against the Bush administration and, because he's Ralph Nader and the media loves the easy "spoiler" angle, he will get more coverage than Kucinich or the now-hobbled Dean.

Should Kerry ultimately get the nod from the Democrats to face off against Bush, I will strongly consider giving Nader my vote and encouraging others to do the same. Of course, that's assuming we're able to as the chances of him getting on most state's ballots is extremely slim without a party backing him. At the least, I'd love to see him sitting on stage between Dubya and Kerry, making them and their respective parties both look like the hypocritical idiots they are.

Welcome to the party, Ralph. And good luck.

Friday, February 20, 2004

One more for the road, a bit extreme in its conclusion but...damn! The botox thing is funny as hell, too! (Thanks, Razz, for the link.)

Inside John Kerry's Closet

A friend recently wrote, "I just ran into a woman in (the organic grocery) who's been working on the Kerry campaign for 18 months, when I asked her what his political accomplishments are, she hesitated and said, "Well, I don't know, check out his website."

Save yourself the website search, here's a synopsis:

It's deplorable. Three-hundred-seventeen bills introduced. Seven passed. And four of those were ceremonial ones -- designating special days. Voted for the horrific Telecommunications Act (in fact, led the charge); voted for the illegal war/occupation; voted for the Patriot Act (in fact, helped draft parts of it when it was first drafted under Clinton); brags about voting for class war on poor moms and kids--Clinton's welfare "reform" -- need I go on?

Yes, I will. One of the few Bills he got passed was 1999's Plan Columbia, the phony Drug War's defoliation of the rainforest with toxic chemicals. Since the Plan was launched some 325,000 acres of South America's oldest democracy have been sprayed with toxins, yet there has been no drop off in cocaine imports to the US. In fact, according to the Harvard Political Review, Columbia's cocaine production increased 11%.
For anyone still on the fence about John Kerry, here's a couple of articles to check out, courtesy of the muckrakers at Counterpunch.

Kerry: He's Peaking, Already

As yet Karl Rove has yet to launch the Shock and Awe barrage that will explode over Kerry's head some time in the late summer, after the Democrats have got their boost in Boston.

Rove's targeting plans will obviously include such easy, but telling hits as Kerry's support for Bush's tax cuts for the rich. (If elected President, according to the bean counters at Forbes', Kerry will be the third richest denizen of the Oval Office in American history.) Kerry voted for the Patriot Act and he voted for the '03 attack on Iraq.

And this wasn't just a resigned Aye. Kerry was up there with Bush, Rumsfeld and Blair as a huckster for all the lies that have come home to haunt Washington. "These weapons represent an unacceptable threat", he bellowed last year...

Kerry agrees with Bush about the tax cuts. He agrees with him about the Patriot Act. He agrees with him on trade. He agrees with him on the war. Why change horses, Bush will ask the American people. "I can manage things better," Kerry will respond. What else can he say? He's never once, in three senate terms, offered legislation to inconvenence the "special interests" at which he's lately launched a few pop-gun attacks...

This is where the timid legions of the left, cowed by furious bluster about their treachery in deserting the Democratic standard back in 2000, might ask some serious questions, and maybe even threaten desertion again. All Kerry can offer is superior management of the imperial bandwagon at home and abroad...

Why is Kerry Getting a Pass?

...even after the war began, Kerry was a vocal supporter. At house meetings in South Carolina, Kerry avowed that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the United States and had to be removed. It was not until the major media jumped on the "no-WsMD" bandwagon that Kerry dared to differ with the Bushies...

This is not the only curious case of Kerry sliding under the press's radar. Much has been made of Bush family connections with the band of thieves that ran Enron, but Kerry has his own history of complicity with corporate malfeasance. He had close connections to David Paul, CEO of the failed S&L, Centrust. Paul was convicted of ninety-seven counts of bank fraud and sent to prison for ten years, and the failure of CenTrust cost taxpayers $2 billion.

...the American mainline press suspended disbelief, sidled right up to the Bush administration, and spewed whatever nonsense about WsMD the prevari-cons decided to put out. Like Miller, the corporate media parroted drivel about Scuds, about mobile weapons labs, about anthrax spewing drones that might appear over Milwaukee or Paducah. So the big problem for them now is this: if they start to give Kerry a hard time for his spinelessness on Iraq, they might just have to confront their own spinelessness as well.
So what's the difference between Kerry and John Edwards, specifically on the issue of Iraq, when both of them voted for the war resolution?

There was a moment in the Wisconsin debate last week, when both were asked whether they felt "...any degree of responsibility for the war and its costs and casualties?" Kerry spent a couple of minutes avoiding the question, instead reminding everyone that he was a soldier once and took a potshot at Bush and his handling of the war. The panelist - Craig Gilbert, Washington bureau chief of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel - didn't let him off the hook, though: "But what about you? I mean, let me repeat the question. Do you have any degree of responsibility having voted to give him the authority to go to war?" He again avoided accepting any responsibility for his vote, instead offering another long-winded dodge, concluding it with: "My regret is not the vote. It was appropriate to stand up to Saddam Hussein. There was a right way to do it, a wrong way to do it. My regret is this president chose the wrong way, rushed to war, is now spending billions of American taxpayers' dollars that we didn't need to spend this way had he built a legitimate coalition, and has put our troops at greater risk."

Edwards, on the other hand, answered it this way:

GILBERT: You cast the same vote, Senator Edwards, is that the way you see it?

EDWARDS: That's the longest answer I ever heard to a yes or no question. The answer to your question is of course.

We all accept responsibility for what we did. I did what I believed was right. I took it very, very seriously.

I also said at the same time that it was critical when we got to this stage that America not be doing this alone. The president is doing it alone. And the result is what we see happening to our young men and women right now. We need to take a dramatic course. We will take a dramatic course.

And by the way, Senator Kerry just said he will beat George Bush; not so fast, John Kerry. We're going to have an election here in Wisconsin this Tuesday. And we've got a whole group of primaries coming up. And I, for one, intend to fight with everything I've got for every one of those votes.

And back to your question. What we will do, when I'm president of the United States, is we will change this course. We will bring in the rest of the world; we will internationalize this effort. We will bring NATO in to provide security.

For example, we could put NATO today in charge of the Saudi Arabian border, the Iranian border, allow us to concentrate on the Sunni Triangle, where so much of the violence has been occurring.

We do need to change course. And ultimately, we have to get on a real timetable for the Iraqis to govern themselves and provide for their own security.
There are many different ways to measure Presidentiality. In my mind, the willingness and ability to stand by one's actions and accept responsibility for their consequences is crucial. Edwards did so. As much as I can't stand him, I can understand how Bush's supporters might say the same about him. But Kerry? The only thing he stands by are the polls that tell him when it's time to change direction.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Maybe it's the time of year, winter having long worn out its welcome while spring remains little more than a distant hope. The mixed emotions of the holidays are long past and the bills are almost, but not quite, paid off. The memory of old hurts are as faded as those of recent highs. A palpable lull, easily interpreted as smooth sailing or the calm before the storm.

My head is in a million places these days, unable to focus on anything specific, for better or worse.

Work is in limbo as I await my one-year review, pretty sure it won't be bad but doubtful that it will be good enough to lift the melancholy that envelops the increasingly long hours between 9am and 5pm. The only thing worse than a job you hate is one you feel complete apathy towards. Hate is at least an energetic emotion that demands action.

The tangible results of the kind of marketing I'm doing now are completely unfulfilling. Doesn't even come close to the nourishment from a room full of people attending an event you put together - whether it's six for a session of D&D, or 100 for a poetry reading.

I have no interest in running another poetry reading.

Given a choice between a high-paying corporate job in the city and a back-breaking service job in a small town, I often believe I'd prefer the latter. Money doesn't motivate me, passion does. I desire the intangible.

I want to work with my hands again.

Escape from New York reminds me that I live here as much because I want to as that I have to. Or think I do, at least. Nowhere else compares to it. A double-edged sword.

I marvel that more people don't snap during rush hour, unfamiliar bodies unwillingly pressed against each other, some enjoying the opportunity to connect more than others. There are days I'd give it all up for a small house in the country with just enough land to not always be aware of the fence around it.

I am happy, but not content.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Don't let anyone spin it otherwise. Raw numbers aside, John Kerry - the presumptive nominee that by all 'indicators' should have won in a landslide - lost tonight's Wisconsin primary and the next 7 days will determine whether or not John Edwards can capitalize on that fact and snag the nomination outright. I think he will.

Is there anyone out there that can honestly say they like John Kerry? That they find him inspiring? Contrasting his post-primary speech tonight with Edwards' and Dean's, it's a telling sign that he can't get much more than a spirited golf clap from a room of presumably diehard supporters. And the crickets in the room after he gave awkward props to his wife with a painfully scripted self-deprecating joke was just embarrassing.

I've been doing a lot of reading and research over the past couple of weeks, trying to determine my Plan B as it's now clear that Kucinich is officially a footnote in this primary process. Ironically, Dean getting knocked back down to the insurgent role of challenging the overall direction of the party - and actually becoming a stronger and more appealing candidate because of it - left Kucinich hanging in the wind, clinging to an anti-war platform that, in varying degrees, has now been worked into all of the other candidates' platforms. Dean will get much of the credit for that but it was Kucinich's flanking him on the left that enabled him to push as hard as he did.

I'm now backing John Edwards, and not just because it's become a two-man race between him and the flaccid Kerry. It's a move I've been leaning towards for a few weeks now, clinched largely by Edwards' admirable approach to the process - relentlessly positive and sometimes annoyingly optimistic - and the fact that I find his positions on most of the issues agreeable, if not always 100% compatible with my own. There's a few things I don't love, particularly his opposition to gay marriage, but I somehow find it a little less offensive coming from a southern boy like him than the Skull-and-Bones Yale grad from liberal Massachussetts. As for the electability issue, I look at it this way: Kerry is running purely on momentum; Edwards on substance. People get to know him, they like him, they vote for him. Kerry's winning the Democratic faithful but Edwards is winning the Independents and on-the-fence Republicans and doing so without watering down his message. The Democrats will ultimately vote for whomever's on the ticket just to get rid of Bush. There's no question there. But that only gets us to a 48%-48% draw. Edwards has a better shot of inspiring both those sitting on the fence and those too disenchanted to bother voting, ensuring there's not another repeat of 2000.

Make no mistake: John Kerry is Gore: Reloaded. And not the newly passionate Al Gore, either. While John Edwards may not be the extreme fundamental change represented by Dennis Kucinich, he's a hell of a bigger step in that direction than Kerry the Chameleon.

Hello Guy,
Here is your Free Daily Horoscope Service for today, Feb 17.

You might need to connect with Mother Earth, Guy. Lately, you've been feeling less than grounded. You might have the sensation that your mind is drifting somewhere above your body. If your work is mostly of the mental variety, and if you spend a lot of time on your computer, you might experience some feelings of disconnection from your body. Correct this by going for a long walk in a park, or sit by the ocean or other body of water.
Amen to that as I've been feeling totally disconnected for the past few days. Between the impending one-year anniversary on the job I no longer love but don't quite hate, the weird night hosting at the Nuyorican, and the future homesteading question - I'm in a mild state of confusion.

Last week's return to the Nuyorican Poets Café was significant, for me, for several reasons, not the least of which was that it was my first time on that stage since that fateful night in December 1998 that led to an ugly 1999 and me being banned for a couple of years beyond that. While I did read at Felice Belle's farewell at the end of 2002, that felt very different as it was one quick poem and I'd been completely off the scene for a year at that point. Hosting Encomium was a much bigger deal - even bigger than I initially realized as my presence apparently had to be cleared through Carmen Pietri-Diaz, the Café's Executive Director. If true, and I have no reason to believe it isn't, I imagine it came about solely as a result of my co-hosting the Rev. Pedro Pietri benefit at the Bowery last month. It does present an interesting question, though: with Keith Roach long gone from the Café, and he and I having pretty much buried the hatchet, who's still holding a grudge?

Anyway, the show itself was a lot of fun, even with the tightly scheduled line-up and Fish telling me beforehand that I was one of the few people that hadn't stressed him yet. No pressure there! synonymUS, an interesting idea looking for proper execution, may have finally found its legs as Raymond Daniel Medina and company put together some excellent tributes, expertly melding music and poetry without the clumsily pretentious insider feedback element that handicapped their run at the Bowery last year. The performances were tight, well-rehearsed and well-deserving of feature status. I, on the other hand, took a blind leap into the great unrehearsed as drummer [and photographer extraordinaire!] Peter Dressel backed me up on Felipe Luciano's Puerto Rican Rhythms, a nerve-wracking performance that I'm sure everyone was being nice in not pointing out that I yelled my way through like a punk rocker at a gospel concert. It served as something of a rock-star intro for Bonafide, though, so it was all good.

Bonafide - young punk that he is! - is quickly becoming one of my favorite poets. Outside of the slam scene - where his tendency to rush and stumble over his words often diminishes the true power of his work - is where he shines brightest, allowing his well-crafted work to sit on the ear a split-second longer, and his engaging personality to comfortably fill the spaces between poems. It was a pleasure to see him two nights in a row, something you can't really say about most poets with their limited repertoires and forced banter.


Salomé and I talked about the housing question and got into the same chapter, if not quite on the same page. While I still have some issues with buying something in this area and have no interest in being a suburban commuter - subway or bust, mofos! - there are certain scenarios I can imagine that might work, all involving income-producing propetry. Whether or not they're realistic is a whole other question! The main conflict is that I've always seen myself as a city person, defined specifically by apartment living and subway transportation. As the years pass, though, a part of me yearns for a small town life that I'm not really sure exists anywhere anymore. And if it does, am I really cut out for it?

This whole issue of grounding and disconnection is a complicated one when you realize some of the things you think do the job for you actually don't. It's like discovering a self-created Matrix where the two worlds have become so entangled that you're not sure what's real and what's fake, and disconnecting the wrong wire could make the whole thing explode. Or, even worse, nothing would change.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

There are many reasons I hate the mainstream media in this country and this is an example of one of them that always gets me heated:

"First Dates" Valentine Hit
by Bridget Byrne, E! News Online

...Its arrival clipped last weekend's top movie Barbershop 2: Back in Business way back to second. Remaining in 2,711 sites the sassy mouthed comedy was shorn 36 percent earning only $15.6 million from a $5,754 per screen averaged. The sequel's two week total gross is now $44 million.
As box office receipts go, a 36% drop in the second weekend is a pretty strong showing for a sequel, especially to a so-called niche - aka black - movie going up against a "mainstream" blockbuster like the Sandler/Barrymore sentimental/gross-out date flick. Also, $44 million in only two weeks is huge considering the first Barbershop made just under $78 million during its 15-week run.

You can argue that it's semantics but it's that subtle turn of a phrase that is the difference between giving credit where due and de-emphasizing an accomplishment. What you can't argue is that the use of such semantics is ever coincidental. Let's see the choice of wording next week when First Dates drops the more typical 45-50%, despite the lack of a major comedy opening up against it. Or, even better, the glowing praise if it's lucky enough to only drop 36% like Barbershop 2.

Cool web site for movie lovers that are also numbers geeks:
Random rambling for no particular reason other than to kill the last 15 minutes between Shrek finishing and the kids getting in bed. Isaac's in a trance in front of the TV; India's wandering back and forth between rooms, not particularly impressed; Salomé's cranky from what feels like a longer day than possible, and I'd be in the same place if not for having the latest Presidential debate to give me something else to be cranky about.

John Kerry's the kind of candidate that makes voting inconvenient. He makes Howard Dean palatable. Dear Wisconsin: Please derail the bandwagon. I don't want to move to Canada.

It's been a Keira Knightley weekend as we watched Pirates of the Caribbean yesterday and Bend It Like Beckham today. Loved them both. Thankfully, had no further epiphanies on life other than confirming the desire that my kids be able to chase whatever dream they may have, no matter how little I may understand it. Dear Future Guy: Remember, you were 27 before you started getting your shit together.

A-Rod traded to the Yankees and a payroll now exceeding $200 million? How beautiful will it be when the Yankees don't even make the World Series this year? Dear Boston Red Sox: Cowboy up!

Friday, February 13, 2004

Took a personal day yesterday, both for a quiet day off without the kids and to get our taxes done. Solid federal refund but we owe state tax for the first time. Grrrr...

The whole tax system is designed to favor people who own property and investments (not to mention married heterosexuals) and screw those that can't afford either. This property thing has always been a sticky issue as I'm leery of it and Salomé really wants it.

Weird but relevant segue: we went to see Barbershop 2 later in the afternoon and it totally f'd up my perspective on life, particularly on this question of owning property.

I loved the movie. In some ways, much more than the first one. There's only been a handful of "black" movies that have struck me as having that certain something at their core that expressed a sincere love for the people it presented, warts and all, and this is one of them. The first Barbershop, Waiting to Exhale, Boyz N the Hood and Rosewood are some of the others that come to mind. There's an emotional honesty to each of them that transcends the archetypes they employ to tell their stories. Of course, that's all debatable but, in this instance, it's not the point.

Barbershop 2's main plot deals with issues of community and gentrification, and the back-room dealing and selling of souls that often accompany the triumph of the latter over the former. Played out against the current political climate and my own recently heightened awareness of the interconnectedness of all things obvious and subtle, it hit me hard in the gut. So much so that I teared up a few times in frustration.

I left the movie completely disillusioned with my own feelings about living in the city and what I really want from life. I felt like I'd been born in the wrong place, if not time; like suddenly realizing you're adopted and questioning everything you've ever thought or felt about your parents. I felt like a big prank had been pulled on me for the last 34 years and was suddenly, rudely, revealed for what it was. Like The Truman Show, or something.

When I think about what I love about the city and what type of life appeals to me most, there is a huge conflict between them. I love the hectic pace, the variety, the accessibility that life in the city offers. But I also love the idea of the small town - or neighborhood, even - where everybody knows each other; where stores are mom-and-pop not corporate cookie-cutter; where people raise their kids in the houses they grew up in, with backyards and barbeques and block parties celebrated by multiple generations - elders passing on stories to the young. While I think that still exists in some neighborhoods here in the city, it's not something you can just move into; it's something you grow up in. And that opportunity, limited as it was, passed for me back in 2001 when the house I grew up in burned down.

With the HR Block people throwing home ownership at us as the answer to our taxes - which are only going to get worse as we stand to make more money this year than last - and Salomé not-so-subtly browsing listings in New Jersey, Barbershop 2 raised questions I had thought answered by our move to Virginia and I am now faced with reconciling desire and familiarity, ideals with expectations. And right now, none of it makes any sense.

These are the times that make me nervous because they often birth rash decisions.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Just to get it out there so it's not an issue when I run for President somewhere down the road, I admit to being AWOL from the New Jersey National Guard quite frequently during my enlistment from 1993-1999. Of the 5-1/2 years I served, only two of them were counted as "good years," and that was probably more generous than I deserved. It wasn't always hangovers or laziness that kept me away, either. In particular, the drills I missed in 1997-98 were all poetry-related - I was hosting the Open Room and usually wouldn't get home before 4am, making the 7am roll call impossible to make, especially when our unit moved out to Teaneck. I should also point out that most of the time I did attend drills, I wasn't exactly a model soldier, perfecting the art of wandering the armory with papers in hand to look busy. In my defense, it was a big armory and all of that walking was better exercise than most of my fellow soldiers ever took part in.

I'd argue that this experience, or lack thereof, would in no way affect my ability to serve as Commander-in-Chief nor my judgement in deciding when and where to risk the lives of other people's children in wars of questionable purpose. If anything, having successfully completed my service and receiving an honorable discharge despite my lax attitude about actually showing up on a regular basis, I'd argue that it perfectly qualifies me for the job.

PS: That "suspected" DUI charge was reduced to 'careless driving' and I paid my $75 fine, so don't bother digging that one up, either!

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Of the "blogs of note" on the right, there's a group of them that I think of as my Acentos roundup, even if some of them aren't technically Acentos regulars or, in Nina's case, I haven't even officially met yet. It's more that Acentos is like my second home and these are the people I associate with it. Not coincidentally, all but two use Blogger and several of them - mine included - have Oscar Bermeo's fingerprints on them somewhere. Or should I call him, Oscar de la Palabra?

During any given week a regular voyeur might notice thematic similarities in several of our entries as a particular topic someone raises gets picked up by a few of the others. Most recent has been the question of pen/stage names, whether or not to use them and how to pick one. From childhood nicknames like Fish, to pen names honoring family like Parrilla, to the out-of-left-field like Jiggaboo and Nocturnal (guess who?) - people have various reasons for adopting a name other than the one on their birth certificate.

Growing up, I hated - H-A-T-E-D - the name Guy. (As in guillotine.) It was easily mistaken for the generic "guy," rhymed with random monosyllabic sounds, and was easily converted to an insult with the addition of the letter "k," mostly by my cousin, Joanne. And I wouldn't even acknowledge my middle name, LeCharles, as it made no sense to me. They were weird names and I wanted something that sounded more normal. For years I lobbied my mother for a change, though I could never settle on one name: Skip, Scott, Michael and, in my late-teenage years, Damon were all on my preferred list. There were several others but those are the ones I remember most. Of course, I should point out that I also wanted hair like Daryl Hall for a long time so it was understandable that my mother didn't pay much attention to these requests.

For years, I wouldn't even bother to correct people who mispronounced Guy as "guy" and as a result, there's a whole group of people I met from 1989-1996 that know me by that name. When I got into the poetry scene in 1997, it was thanks to Jamal St. John - who hosted my first Friday night slam while Keith Roach was in Connecticut at the National Poetry Slam - that "Guy" reemerged as he recognized the French pronounciation and correctly introduced me by it from stage. I'd also started using LeCharles again, reclaiming it after my grandfather died. (It was his middle name.)

There have been times when I've jokingly thought of adopting a stage name - loudpoet? angry pumpkin? billy badass? - especially as I started to become better known as a host than a poet, but in the end, it just took too much energy to think of something more interesting than clever and I decided that whatever notoriety I might achieve, I wanted it done in my given name. There was a point, though, shortly before I got married, that I gave strong consideration to changing my last name from Gonzalez to my mother's maiden name, Harper. It still crosses my mind now and then, but that's a whole other thesis!

For your reading pleasure, the Acentos roundup:

Oscar Bermeo
Tony Brown
Edward Garcia
Mara Jebsen
Nina Parrilla
Diane Roy
M.C. Siegel
F. Omar Tlan
Jessica Torres
Rich Villar
EDIT, 2:50pm: I added Tony Brown to the above list as, if he lived in NY, he'd most definitely be an Acentos regular. Also, including me, that makes 13 people on the list. ;-)

Monday, February 9, 2004

I'm just saying...

'Send Them a Message' Voting
from The Nation, by John Nichols, 02/09/2004

Name the Democratic presidential candidates who scored unexpectedly strong showings in Democratic presidential caucuses over the weekend?

A pair of candidates who are seldom accused of being serious competitors for the nomination, but whose candidacies offer primary and caucus goers opportunities to send real messages: Dennis Kucinich and Al Sharpton.
Just in case you think I'm talking out of my ass sometimes. ;-)
Pumpkin Seeds

1. Yesterday's Grammy show was the first one I can remember that I actually thoroughly enjoyed, despite some of the more obvious sympathy awards for Warren Zevon and Luther Vandross. Beyoncé is officially a diva, going toe-to-toe with Prince in the opening number and managing to outshine him on his own songs. (I am curious what the Jehovah's Witnesses in Minneapolis thought of his relatively tame performance, though.) Janet Jackson was smart to skip the show; she's apologized more than enough. Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake both made strong cases for successful transitions from teeny-bop pop fads to talented artists with outstanding performances. Andre 3000 is a nut. 50 Cent is an ass.

2. I am sick of Beatlemania.

3. Dennis Kucinich pulled 8% in the Washington caucus and early returns show him getting 14% in Maine over the weekend. His next strong showing will likely be in Wisconsin next Tuesday. Unfortunately, because of the way delegates are apportioned, he still hasn't picked any up. Nevertheless, a few more solid showings like this weekend and he'll at least be able to make a case for having a voice at the convention.

4. Bush's Meet the Press interview was a wash, not likely to change anyone's mind on either side of the divide. Chopped up into the inevitable sound bites that will eliminate the long deliberate pauses where you can see the gears churning as he got his answers straight, he'll even seem semi-credible to some people that are on the fence about him. Like him or hate him - I can't imagine anyone other than Laura actually loves the guy - he comes off as staunchly committed to his chosen course, regardless of what anyone else thinks. The Democrats need to take notes instead of repeating 2000 and undermisestimating him again.

5. Bush's best moment in the interview came when he parried Kerry and McAuliffe's attacks on his National Guard service - or apparent lack of - during Vietnam, suggesting they were dissing service in the Guard itself. You can believe THAT one is going to be on heavy rotation throughout the summer. Challenging his service is a ridiculous strategy anyway as Bush has survived it in the past, including in 2000 against Gore and McCain, arguably an even bigger pure war hero than Kerry. Bush's team absolutely dismantled the far superior McCain with outright lies and slander that put him on the defensive and derailed his "Straight Talk Express." Now McCain's out campaigning for him and sitting on the committee that will determine whether he purposely misled the country about Iraq. You want to talk endorsements, that's one of the biggest ones yet. Plus, Bush has even more money this time around and no primary challenger to drain his coffers. He is going to have Kerry for an early breakfast, serving him up buffet-style across the country and winning yet another strategic election via the electoral college, this time without the Supreme Court's help. The so-called pragmatism of rallying behind Kerry as the most electable is absolutely ludicrous, almost as much a guarantee of another four years of Bush & Co. as if Dean were the nominee.

6. Will anyone have the temerity to suggest that gays and lesbians shelve the marriage issue for a year so as not to damage the Democrats' chances of beating Bush? There's no question that it's going to be a major issue that the fence-sitting front-runners are going to have to take a firm stand on - for or against, no wishy-washy semantics or taking the state's rights copout - and risk pissing off one side or the other. Roughly two-thirds of the country is against gay marriage, particularly in the conservative south where the Democrats need to pick off at least a state or two, which explains why only Kucinich and Sharpton have had the spine to support it outright as a common sense, civil rights issue. If you think about it, the idea is not so different from those that challenged Nader supporters in 2000, claiming he spoiled Gore's chances for victory by siphoning votes in key states, particularly in Florida. As one of those anti-Nader people in 2000, this time I say bullshit. If the Democrats don't have the backbone to stand up for this issue, to call it what it is - a civil rights issue and a family values issue - forcing the Republicans on the defensive for once, they deserve to lose. Plain and simple. For anyone that thinks it's not worth taking a chance on another four years of Bush, I remind them of this: "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." --Benjamin Franklin.

Friday, February 6, 2004

Exercising is like dating. If you haven't done it in a while, it can be a little awkward when you first jump back in. It's also like relationships. You really have to commit to it in order for it to be a good experience. I've always been more Jack Nicholson than Kurt Russell in that regard.

After a six month fling with sluggishness, though, I've finally gone back. The last two weeks, in particular, have been ridiculous with the amount of crap I've been eating and drinking and it didn't help that my jeans were getting a bit snug again. I've hit the gym two days in a row, easing my way back in with some stretching, pushups and 20 minutes on the stationary bike each time. Sort of like group dating, to finish off the metaphor. I'm going to hook up with the treadmill sometime next week.

Remarkably, I already feel better, the end of the day not hitting me quite as hard and actually having some energy when I get home.

I switched gyms, from the swank NYHRC to the painfully hip Crunch, because it was a lot cheaper and I wasn't using all of the extras to justify the cost. Crunch actually isn't as bad as I've always thought it was, at least not the downtown location, and there's no one lurking in the locker rooms that you have to tip! They have all the basics and, when I'm back in shape - hopefully by mid-spring - they have a boxing program that I want to get into.

The downside of these corporate deals with gyms is that you bump into people from work. In the locker room. Old, pasty white guys that look distinguished in their suits but quite unpleasant when they're naked and wet from the shower. Credit them for working out but in some cases, it may be too little, too late.
This happens a lot, where I become a defender of someone I don't particularly care for but think is getting an unfair shake. Recently, I've found myself defending Al Sharpton, someone I don't always agree with but whose presence in the Democratic primaries I think is important. Like Kucinich, it's not so much because I think he can win - 24 is the closest America will get to a black President for a long time - but because I believe he forces issues on the table that would otherwise be ignored. And not just issues involving race; he's been an outspoken critic of the war, and has spoken intelligently on health care and trade. He may not know the difference between the IMF and the Federal Reserve but, like Jesse Jackson, Jr. endorsing Howard Dean - or even more cynically, Gephardt endorsing the free-trading Kerry - I'm sure he could find someone to co-sign for him if necessary.

This week, the Village Voice published an entertaining smear piece on Sharpton, Sleeping With the GOP: A Bush Covert Operative Takes Over Al Sharpton's Campaign, that I hadn't paid any attention to until this morning when my fellow political junkie Phil West linked to it in his journal.

I responded:

While the Reverend certainly has his faults, the Voice is about as objective a source on him as Fox News is on...well, just about anything. Beyond the very legitimate questions of how he's financing his campaign - and I mean that in the logistical sense, not the philosophical one they're aiming for - two of the most interesting things in the article are:

1. In his 2002 book, Al on America, Sharpton wrote that he felt the city's Democratic Party "had to be taught a lesson" in 2001—insisting that Mark Green, who defeated the Sharpton-backed Fernando Ferrer in a bitter runoff, had disrespected him and minorities. Adding that the party "still has to be taught one nationally," he warned: "A lot of 2004 will be about what happened in New York in 2001. It's about dignity." In 2001, Sharpton engaged in a behind-the-scenes dialogue with campaign aides to Republican Mike Bloomberg while publicly disparaging Green.

2. Credico said Stone explained his interest in working with Sharpton by saying that they had "a mutual obsession: We both hate the Democratic Party." Stone told Credico that he "would have some fun with Sharpton's campaign" and "bring Terry McAuliffe to his knees." Stone, Credico, and Sheinkopf walked to Stone's apartment after the lunch, and Stone was elated with the tenor of the meeting.
That Sharpton might have an anti-Party agenda as part of his campaign is neither surprising nor, in my opinion, a bad thing. The Democrats have taken the "black vote" for granted for years and deserve a good kick in the ass, even if some of the backers are from the Republican side. Mark Green's 2001 mayoral campaign was one of the most disgusting, divisive and "insidious" campaigns I've ever witnessed, playing on racial fears better than Giuliani ever did, in his bid to beat Ferrer in the runoff. Sharpton's undercutting him was justifiable retribution.

Overall, this article is an entertaining smear job with a lot of innuendo and not much meat, and is indicative of why the Voice isn't nearly as respected as it used to be. They've got an axe to grind.

Ironic, though, how the "marginal" candidates aren't worth covering unless it's something negative. I'm sure it wouldn't take much digging [Big Digging, perhaps?] to find similarly questionable stuff in Kerry's campaign. Or Edwards. Or Clark.
I should have also noted that the Voice, fishwrap that it is, endorsed Green in his failed campaign in 2001. To this day, I hope he rots in the political graveyard for how he ran against Ferrer. Recent polls show they'd both beat Bloomberg next time around but Ferrer enjoys the better margin - 46%-39%, vs. Green's statistical tie of 45%-42%. If it's not Ferrer, though, I'll stick with Bloomberg.

Thursday, February 5, 2004

A little humor to put the whole Janet Jackson thing in perspective:

There was plenty more offensive than Jackson during Super Bowl
BY TONY HICKS, Contra Costa Times

...It was almost as if the nipple had been stealing nuclear secrets and was ready to attack.

America loves being offended. There's no other conclusion to render, after all that careful, deep-thinking market research produced a multimillion-dollar Super Bowl commercial depicting a horse passing wind in a woman's face.

Yes, there was a lot to be offended by last Sunday. And few were innocent:

_Janet Jackson: She's playing us like brother Tito bringing the funk on his big red Gibson back in 1974. You don't think Jackson noticed all the attention Madonna and Britney Spears got for last year's big MTV kiss? Everybody knows the only way to trump feux-lesbianism among the rich and desperate is nudity. It's all that was left, short of outright porn. I can't wait to see how Mariah Carey reacts to all this.
And to those trying to turn this into a racial issue, suggesting the intense uproar is because Janet's black breast was exposed by Justin's white hand, this is what I wrote elsewhere in response to someone's contrasting it to the Britney-Madonna kiss:

A little clarification: the Britney-Madonna (and don't forget Christina!) kiss did cause quite a stir in the media and got its fair share of criticism. The big difference was that it happened on a cable program with a reputation for over-the-top performances and was seen by approx. 11 million people, as opposed to a broadcast network program seen by over 88 million people.

Also, a girl-girl kiss is a far from taboo these days, even on broadcast TV, whereas frontal nudity - no matter what color the skin - is still a major no-no.

I'm not justifying the uproar on either side - most of which I think is based more in opportunistic grandstanding than anything else - or even debating the racial issues surrounding it; I'm simply providing some perspective.

Really now. Let's just move on.
Here's one for the conspiracy theorists: Bin Laden was captured (or at least located) a while ago and the Bushies are just waiting for the Democratic nominee to become official before trotting him out before the cameras a la Hussein and kneecapping their "failed war on terror" angle.

They're already painting Kerry as another Dukakis-style Massachussetts liberal and are going to skewer him over his state's gay marriage decision which he's too much of a slimy politican to even fully support. Kerry vs. Bush makes the election much closer than it needs to be.

On gay marriage, I just don't get all the fuss. If we truly had a separation of church and state, it wouldn't even be an issue as marriage, from the state perspective, is really nothing more than a legal contract between two people. Who cares if it's Adam and Eve, Adam and Steve, or Eve and Dana? It just shows the level of influence "the church" has in this country. And the whole "sanctity of marriage" defense is a pile of horseshit as the US has one of the highest divorce rates in the world. Most people get married for stupid reasons and most of them have no qualms about getting a divorce when it doesn't work out. It really is a civil rights issue. These Democratic candidates that are waffling on it are simply copping out and better be ready to stake a stand because the Republicans are going to pull a Willie Horton on them.

Wednesday, February 4, 2004

And so it begins. Mr. Kerry, welcome to the frontrunner position. Hope you enjoy the ride.

AP Exclusive: Kerry Blocked Law, Drew Cash
By JOHN SOLOMON, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A Senate colleague was trying to close a loophole that allowed a major insurer to divert millions of federal dollars from the nation's most expensive construction project. John Kerry stepped in and blocked the legislation.

Over the next two years, the insurer, American International Group, paid Kerry's way on a trip to Vermont and donated at least $30,000 to a tax-exempt group Kerry used to set up his presidential campaign. Company executives donated $18,000 to his Senate and presidential campaigns.
cute but psycho

You are the cute but psycho happy bunny.
You're adorable, but a little out there. It's
alright, though. You might not have it all,
but there are worse.

which happy bunny are you?
brought to you by Quizilla
As a kid, I was a big fan of GI Joe. I vaguely remember in the 70s having a couple of the big 12" dolls and the jeep. I think at least one of them even had "real" facial hair. In the 80s, I really got into them when the 3-3/4" action figures came out - Snake Eyes, Grunt, Scarlet, Stalker and Cobra Commander, who you could only get via a mail-in promotion. We shoplifted a bunch of them from the old Caldor's in Pelham every time we went, hiding them in our socks with the cardboard backing that had their data cards resting in the small of our backs. We used to play elaborate games out in the yard that would last days at a time. My cousin Joanne would try to make them play house whenever I visited and once threw one out the window because I wouldn't play along.

In 1983 or 84, I got a Super 8 camera and projector for Christmas that I'd been begging for for months. The film cost $5 or so for a 2-1/2 minute reel and developing was another $5! I made a four-reel silent movie starring my GI Joe figures, the various accessories I had (VAMP, APC, Command Center Headquarters) and the enemy's base of operations made from a cardboard box and colored markers. It was a dramatic tale of Cobra Commander's attempt to take over the world and ended with a massive explosion and GI Joe saving the day. While I did set some things on fire for a special effect shot, the grand finale was nothing more than a close-up of an exposed light bulb! I was the next George Lucas!

I casually followed the cartoon show ("...and knowing is half the battle.") but wasn't ever a big fan of the comic books and so didn't pay them much attention when I noticed they were being published again as part of the 80s revival that's going on. A new issue, though - "COBRA: REBORN" - caught my eye while I was at Midtown Comics on Monday. I'd read something a while back about a GI Joe: Reloaded series that was coming out, completely updating the setting and giving it a more real-world feel, aka Cobra as terrorist organization. A realistic Cobra Commander on the cover and Paul Jenkins (Spectacular Spider-Man) doing the writing piqued my interest so I bought a copy. Go Joe! Jenkins' current arc on Spectacular has an interesting take on the Israel-Palestine situation and in Cobra: Reborn he shows a similar flair, tackling US politics and terrorism and managing to give plausible backgrounds to everyone from Cobra Commander to Zartan (the master of disguise apparently spent some time as a Saddam body double!). I was suprised by how much I enjoyed it and am looking forward to GI Joe: Reborn and the new ongoing series, GI Joe: Reloaded.


Tuesday, February 3, 2004

Notes on Mini-Super Tuesday:

1. Joe-mentum has officially run out of gas. Credit his supporters - as far off the mark as Kucinich's - for having the courage of their convictions and voting for him anyway instead of jumping on the misguided "electability" bandwagon. The fact that he'll have a voice at the convention and Kucinich may not really pisses me off.

2. Kerry's military resume ultimately doesn't count for shit. If it did, Clark would be the front-runner, hands down. If the other candidates only learn one thing from Dean's rise and fall, it should be that you can't run on one issue. The war is a big deal but it's remote, not happening in people's living rooms. People are dissatisfied with Bush for a bunch of reasons and the war is only one of them and giving them a choice between two silver spoon millionaires isn't the best recipe for guaranteeing the kind of turnout it will take to beat Bush. Kerry's flaws far outweigh his war story - a story, it should be noted, that many Americans share, the majority of whom I wouldn't want to be President either. The difference with Kerry is that he was a rich kid with something to come home to and didn't get left out in the cold like the majority of his fellow soldiers.

3. This "play nice" nonsense some party leaders are throwing around is total bullshit. They beat the hell out of Dean, and Kerry and Edwards deserve no less scrutiny. Consider it boot camp for the beating the Republicans are preparing to deliver as soon as a nominee is chosen. Suck it up, answer the questions and tell us what you stand for.

4. If Edwards pulls out Oklahoma - he's neck and neck with Clark as I write this - he's going to start attracting a lot more attention and probably drop the nice guy act and start delivering some real body shots to Kerry who I think is even less able to take the heat than Dean was. Edwards is running on a shoe string budget at this point but the momentum from tonight should bring him enough money to make a push into some of the upcoming states. If Clark or Dean can steal New Mexico, this thing stays wide open.

5. Howard Dean. Paging Howard Dean. I'd gloat if it weren't so terribly sad. There's a thin line between conviction and egomania and I think he crossed it somewhere right around when he got Gore's endorsement. Credit him for successfully changing the tone of the primaries, though, making even Kerry a vaguely interesting candidate. Ended up not working out for him but, if he's truly about the message of his campaign, he can take some pride in that and keep pushing the rest of the field until his money runs out. His supporters deserve that much.
Can't get this damn Jessica Simpson song out of my head:

With nothing but a T-shirt on
I never felt so beautiful
Baby as I do now
Now that I'm with you
With you, with you, with you
Now that I'm with you

February 25th will mark my one-year anniversary at this job and, like clockwork, I'm starting to get a little bored. It doesn't help that my boss is ah...still a bit challenged 6 months into the job. It's the general tedium of a desk job that kills me, and it doesn't matter whether it's the relatively hectic pace of a Poets & Writers or the random ups-and-downs of this place. Boooooooooooring.

I've always been much more blue-collar than white. The problem with that is the good blue-collar jobs - ie: with good pay and benefits - are all skilled labor-based and that's not my specialty. I don't have the "credentials," nor the time to get them, to write for a steady living and bohemia's no longer an option, if it ever was.

I'm unhappy with my job because it sucks; and my job sucks because I'm unhappy with it. Catch-22.

My favorite jobs have always been people-oriented: bartender, waiter - even the nightmare that was financial planning was good because it dealt with people. Different people everyday. Different circumstances everyday. (It's why running a weekly poetry series was so much fun for me, despite the many headaches.) On your feet and active and, to varying degrees, your pay reflected how hard you worked and how good you were at your job. I was a great bartender and waiter; not so much so with financial plannning. The selling aspect of it, at least. Unfortunately, none of those jobs are really suited for married fathers of two that need health insurance, slightly-better-than decent pay and nights off.

So the one-year funk is upon me once again and, as I tentatively consider my options, the only bright side is that I work for a pretty big company and there may be some opportunities for me in other departments. Because despite the fact that it's a Canadian company (which I was surprised to find out after being here for six months!), it's been a nice place to work so far and the pay and benefits are solid.

My review is in a couple of weeks and that will play a huge factor in how things play out.

Monday, February 2, 2004

Um, Janet was a bit more exposed than I realized as it wasn't a pastie but some sort of starburst with a hole for her nipple to poke through! Of course, seeing it in the moment - and in the inevitable excessive replays that will perfectly segue into her new album release on March 30 - as opposed to in print, I still say no big deal. Americans can be so stupid sometimes with their prudish ways.
Pumpkin Seeds

1. Gonna have you nekkid, by the end of this song! What do Janet Jackson's right breast and Adam Vinatieri's game-winning field goal have in common? My daughter India made me miss them both! Super Bowl XXXVIII turned out to be an even better game than I expected, despite the hated Patriots winning it. Tom Brady and Jake Delhomme both deserve the "going to Disneyland" commercial. Also loved that both teams came out as a group, eschewing individual introductions. Be nice to see that become the norm. The halftime show was actually pretty hot, especially Kid Rock who needs to be licensed as the Official Rocker of All Things Sports-Related. Bawitdaba is the most perfect sports anthem ever. As for JJ's "wardrobe malfunction," I'd dismiss it completely if not for the picture the Daily News ran today of her looking at Justin Timberlake with what seems to be utter disgust right after it happened. Regardless, I don't see what the big deal was as she had a huge silver pastie covering her nipple (which certainly suggests she was prepared for the exposure). The best thing that could come from it would be sparing us all from anymore replays of the Madonna-Britney kiss.

2. She bangs! She bangs! I noticed several visitors to this journal last week came via searches for the new American Idol, Billy Hung, who I mentioned in an aside in a post about TV. When I first saw him in the teasers, I felt bad for him. Seeing his audition in context, though, I've decided that he's my new hero. Classic geek, civil engineering major, probably has spent the majority of his life avoiding social situations - and he gets up the nerve to go to the American Idol auditions. Think about that for a minute. There's people that can actually sing that would pee their pants at the thought of facing not just Randy, Paula and Simon, but the production crews, the cameras, the people in the lobby dissecting every entrance and exit to the audition room...and the cameras. This kid, who can't sing or dance a lick, went in there and took a chance on being completely humiliated in front of the entire country. In his intro, Ryan Seacrest compares him to last season's disaster, Keith, of Like a Virgin infamy, but he gets it dead wrong. Keith was a goof, having some fun and hoping for a little attention. Billy Hung, I believe, was doing it to prove something to himself. There was no irony in his performance; no wink-wink, my agent's waiting outside; no starfucking groupie trying to get a hug from Paula. He performed his song, entertaining as much for its ridiculousness as his earnestness. When he was done, and Simon prepared to lace into him, he said, "I already gave my best. I have no regrets at all." (He also pointed out, hilariously, that he had "no professional training in singing.") When he left, backpack slung over his shoulder as if he were simply strolling on campus headed to his next class, his head was held high, back straight and there was a casual ease to his stride. Unlike the majority of the untalented rejects who left angry, in tears or both, my guess is Billy Hung was enjoying one of the happiest moments of his life.