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"Become an internationalist and learn to respect all life. Make war on machines. And in particular the sterile machines of corporate death and the robots that guard them."
|WHAT'S ON MY FEEBLE MIND|
|Internet News Satire Video Commentary|
On GAY MARRIAGE and CIVIL RIGHTS.
August 12 2010: When the decision on California's anti-gay Prop. 8 came down, crowds were in the street waiting for the announcement. And when they heard that Judge Vaughn Walker had issued a cogent and well-reasoned reversal of the ban on gay marriage, gay couples spontaneously burst out into wedding vows.
Imagine that. That's how much they wanted the right to wed. That's how dearly they craved that thing some people think they're trying to kill. Gays want to be married if they find the one they love. They want a real, legitimate, lifelong commitment.
And you're against this because -- why, exactly?
The Bible? Oh yeah? Is that the new Constitution? When did that happen?
When I heard about the streets of San Francisco breaking out into spontaneous declarations of undying love, the first thing I thought of was the lunch counter at Woolworth's. Yes. This is a civil rights issue. You have no right to cram your religion down somebody else's abiding love. You have to understand, these people aren't sick. They're lovesick.
Have you ever been desperately in love? Allow them that right.
Or don't. It doesn't matter. It's not your call. The wheels of justice are turning, and the day of gay marriage is at hand -- whether you like it or not.
Hang In There, Robert Gibbs.
August 11 2010: Obama's press secretary is a little frustrated. And he said some stuff. He's not mad at the teabaggers or the racists or the terrorists or the banksters, oh no. He's mad at "the professional left."
I'm certainly no professional so I have no dog in this fight -- but Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, whom I totally respect, is saying stuff back to Robert Gibbs:
Ridiculous! Robert Gibbs, don't you go anywhere. Keith Ellison is showing a stunning lack of humor, while his adversary is obviously joking. Here's a little sample of the press secretary letting off a little steam:
Uh .. what? WHO says Obama is like George Bush? Nobody I know, that's for sure. Gibbs could not possibly have been serious.
Besides -- I would surely be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president. Hell, I was satisfied when Obama became president. But I'm just an amateur left. I guess that's what makes all the difference.
|Don't Touch Me There: our video about intrusive searches at the airport||the night the music died: memory of the night we lost John Lennon||
Click here to read our story about the Zucchini Jingle Contest.
|We're gonna have to face it, we're Addicted 2 Guns. Click here for the video.||Homage to Elizabeth Warren.|
|Welcome to the Hotel Arizona.|
A Time To Mourn.
December 9 2010: Yesterday we were mourning the past 30 years we've been without John Lennon. Today there is more to mourn.
Elizabeth Edwards finally passed away, after surviving tragedies and betrayals that would have devastated a lesser person -- and just about everybody is a lesser person -- and managed to maintain her dignity while enduring it all publicly.
Holy crap, I don't even know how she made it through 2004.
History would sure have been different if she had run for president instead of her husband.
I heard an old news clip from 1999 -- I think they still did news then -- and at the time, analysts predicted that if the next president followed Bill Clinton's budget plan, the national deficit would be wiped out by the year ... 2010. But as it turned out, the next president went a whole other way. And so, we mourn.
And certainly I am mourning the tax dollars that will be funneled out of my wallet so the upper 2% can buy bigger yachts and more luxurious furs. My first impulse when Obama announced his "deal" with Republicans was to wish Michelle -- or someone, anyone -- would knock a little sense into him. He seemed like such a smart and confident guy when he was campaigning, but when it comes to wheeling and dealing, Mr. Obama is out of his depth.
But then I started hearing a little more about the terms and context of this arrangement, and I started feeling a little better. How else were we going to get the obstructionists in the Senate to extend unemployment benefits and keep families out of the street at Christmastime? Bottom line: They said they'd say no to everything. Well, they did not say no to everything, now did they?
That actually amounts to something in the rough vicinity of a victory. It's about the best you can hope for in Washington these days. Political gamesmanship is a much, much higher priority for the lock-step Republicans than doing something good for America. You have to bribe them billions of dollars just to get a crumb for the poor.
We still don't know how much they'll extort from us to ratify the damn START treaty that has been keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists since Reagan signed it way back when. Their intransigence on START is making the whole world less safe. It's also, like, totally freakin' me OUT, man. Stay tuned for the video, which will be in this space very soon.
Dear America: Welcome to the Third World.
(originally written for the Daily Censored, March 3 2010)
According to Wikipedia, the term “third world” originally described countries that did not align themselves with either the capitalist USA or the communist USSR. As time has marched on and the Soviet Union has disappeared, the definition has changed.
This is a definition that seems to describe the modern definition of third-world countries:
Sound like anyone you know, America?
We have no guaranteed health insurance, and if you can manage to get covered the cost is skyrocketing. Our nation is struggling because of a lack of health care. (The health care world map can be found at this link.)
Our education system is hampered by the disastrous “no child left behind” policy of the previous administration. “No child left behind” taught kids how to pass tests but not how to think or learn. Our nation is struggling because of a lack of education.
The U.S. has incredible natural resources which we are despoiling for short-term gains. Meanwhile we are squandering the precious resource of our minds with a mass media that does not promote critical thinking or scientific fact. Our nation is struggling because of a lack of resources.
Money? Oh yeah, we have issues with that too.
America is also struggling because of various other factors. We are hampered by a corrupt government that long ago gave up on looking after our own people. Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky is a perfect example of how congress members fatten their own wallets while their citizens are starving in the streets. After he leaves his Senate seat, let’s just see how long it takes him to take that job lobbying for Northrup-Grumman. I’m betting it takes him one month to make the announcement.
We are conducting two wars that we know about, and countless wars we don’t know about. Our nation is struggling because we are hampered by war.
As the definition concludes, “These factors make it next to impossible for them to compete in any real way with the industrialized nations.” America cannot compete in any real way with industrialized nations – you know, like China. What is made in America any more — I mean, besides excuses and credulity?
America, we are a third world country.
I realized recently just how far behind the curve America really is. I like to try to make political and/or sociological points using goofy songs and cartoons and such, and I started to make a virtual Sarah Palin paper doll using fashions worn by women who are politically powerful. As I began research I was surprised to learn that women are running countries all over the world – from Iceland to Australia to the Philippines to the outgoing president of Chile. And yet we keep hearing “America isn’t ready for a woman president,” and there is data to support that belief.
America desperately needs a lifeline. We are not an emerging nation; we are a submerging nation.
Air America Bites the Dust.
Will anything take its place?
January 25 2010: We keep a household diary of sorts on a big wall calendar. There's an entry for March 31, 2004 that reads: "Air America debuts -- Janice's life improves."
The calendar doesn't lie; I started listening to Air America on that very first day. I tuned in to the local frequency -- which at one time had aired the likes of Rush Limbaugh and "Doctor" Laura -- and an announcer informed me that I was listening to the Randi Rhodes Show. "Randy Rhodes?" I thought, "who the hell is he?!" i quickly learned that Randi Rhodes was a highly opinionated, well-informed, female talk show host with a Brooklyn accent and an annoying habit of getting to the point. I heard Ralph Nader hang up on her that day.
The local Air America station immediately became my constant companion. Al Franken proved he knew more about most issues than the majority of his guests, and really cared about the well-being of American people. Rachel Maddow showed you could care deeply about what was going on in the world and still put out a very entertaining show. The brilliant, hilariously tormented Marc Maron's "Morning Sedition" was hands-down the very best radio program I ever heard in my life. I remember laughing hysterically on my way to work as Marc described and interpreted his latest dream about his dead cat Butch, who even still was organizing her fellow felines to take over the world.
KPOJ in Portland was the first Air America affiliate in the country. In a matter of months a once-obscure frequency became a ratings powerhouse. The progressive community flocked to KPOJ and still clings to it. That's why, despite the demise of the Air America network, progressive talk radio in Portland will continue to thrive (and my life remains improved).
This locally-driven approach could be seen as a microcosm of the way progressives will have to organize in the future, especially in the wake of the recent Supreme Court decision about corporate personhood. We'll never be able to outspend the multinationals, but we can gather together and decide among ourselves who's telling the truth and who has betrayed our trust.
It really helps when we have a progressive voice in the local media around which to rally. In Portland, that's not likely to be a problem. But in other communities around the country, the death of Air America may silence progressive ideas. Pity. It seemed like such a good idea at the time.
In Other News: There Was An Earthquake.
January 22 2010: I can't get the people of Haiti out of my mind.
Growing up in California, Mother Nature was always rattling and rolling. I grew fairly nonchalant about the occasional ground shaking. My motto was, "Get to a safe place and enjoy the ride."
Then came the Loma Prieta quake, also known as the World Series Quake, in October 1989. I was playing the keyboard when the window began to shake and was quickly steadying myself in the center of the house, away from doors, as we rode the seismic waves. In the past my dog had always thought that somehow I was the one causing the earthquake, and usually would look up at me, slowly wagging her tail and obviously wondering how the hell I had figured out how to do this. But during the Loma Prieta, she had no doubt this scary shaking could only have been caused by a force even greater than Mom Herself.
Nobody enjoyed that ride. When the interminable 15 seconds was over I said, "That's the biggest quake I ever want to be in."
It was so much smaller than what Haiti experienced. Downtown Santa Cruz was messed up, the Bay Bridge collapsed in places and some freeways pancaked on rush-hour drivers, but the loss of life was thankfully low.
And yet ...
I remember a week after the earthquake, I went to a meeting in Berkeley. It was in a big second-story room with a floor that reverberated whenever a door was opened. We all expected aftershocks so much that every time the door opened, conversation stopped and we all just sat there, looking expectantly into space, trying to figure out if that feeling was an aftershock. Sometimes, it was.
Creepy. Oh, it was creepy. I remember Chronicle columnist Herb Caen reporting that a case of wine had fallen off one of the collapsed freeways and miraculously landed on the sidewalk below unharmed. This was smack dab in the middle of the mean streets of Oakland, but nobody touched that case of wine for over a week. It was a unanimous, spontaneous tribute of respect to the people who had died on the freeway above.
It reminded me of Wavy Gravy's observation at Woodstock: "There's always a little bit of heaven in a disaster area."
But then there's Haiti: We still hear stories of heroism and selflessness but truly, no heaven there. It's Loma Prieta times infinite to the nth degree. It's been just over a week and their shock and devastation has only begun. Every aftershock reminds them that there is still something left to lose.
Please keep the people of Haiti close to your heart.
The Sheep Look Up.
September 8 2009: We started production of a little video commentary about the hysteria over President Obama's controversial message to schoolchildren today -- but got so preoccupied with home improvement projects that we didn't make the deadline. We hope to get it online in the next day or so, but putting the video together has opened up an old topic for me.
We came upon a clip of the lovely Laura Ingraham on Fox, talking about Obama's "indoctrination" speech and concluding that "the conservatives were right along: The Department of Education should have never been created."
Looking at the way the Republicans think about education (there is no global warming, evolution is an unproven theory, the schoolteachers' union is too strong, money for the arts is a waste, etc.), I've often thought, "They want us to be stupid." Now why -- WHY, I couldn't stop wondering, why would they want us to be stupid? It seems so contrary to progress and rationality.
This summer I have seen the answer: It's because if we're all really stupid, we can be easily frightened and manipulated. If we're stupid enough, the various shepherds merely snap their fingers and the sheep look up. They have no independent knowledge and are prey to any wacko with a theory that plays on their prejudices and fears.
The sheep hear that this black Socialist Muslim non-citizen president is trying to hypnotize their children into becoming his secret fascist army and it sounds perfectly rational -- after all, he has already tried to kill Grandma with his people-hating health care plan.
The media sheep hear the ignorant sheep getting all upset, and they tell us all about it in merciless detail, which whips up still more sheep, until the White House feels the need to negotiate with the haters -- like easily-cowed sheep. Or maybe sheepish cows, I don't know. All I know is the whole thing makes me sick.
This summer I begin to think: No. America is not ready for a black president. We are just too goddamn biased and ignorant. Not all of us, of course -- but rational people aren't the ones making all the noise. We're still just doing what we have to do to keep our lives going from one day to the next. Meanwhile, while we barely even notice, the shepherd snaps his fingers and again, the sheep look up.
The Sheep Look Up is a novel by John Brunner which I read many years ago and need to read again (along with its companion, Stand On Zanzibar). When I read it way back when, I remember thinking that environmental situations sprinkled in Brunner's story were just a little teeny bit worse than they were in real life, and it was just enough to seriously screw everybody. It's a great read. If you haven't read The Sheep Look Up, do yourself a favor and check it out.
Let's Work It All Out Over Some Drugs.
July 27 2009: I don't mind that Obama is going to get together with Professor Gates and Cambridge Police Sergeant James Crowley and settle their differences over a round or two of beer. I have no problem with the strategic use of perception-altering substances. There was a time when I believed the world situation would improve immensely if only Richard Nixon would smoke a doobie.
But I'll be damned if I can understand why it's OK to drink alcohol, a harmful substance that has destroyed countless families and lives, and yet marijuana -- a far more benign substance -- is still, for the most part, illegal.
I start wondering, why can't the three of them get together over a nice bong and chat it all out? How I would love to be a fly on that wall!
But of course, that would never happen.
Because of the cop.
More thoughts on Michael Jackson.
June 29: The weekend was just as I had feared, the TV filled with endless breathless memories of the extraordinary career of Michael Jackson, and I started thinking that my original post on his untimely death (which I have relegated to the "Feeble Mind" section of this web site) was way too harsh. I know he was a phenomenal talent who defined showmanship. I too was mesmerized by his performances (although I could live without the epidemic of crotch-grabbing he inspired). Honestly, I always wished the best for him.
I wished he would be arrested. No really, I wished the best for him and I meant it. I think a timely arrest would have saved his life.
Michael Jackson had some serious mental issues. Come on, surely there can be no debate about that. His face is a bald testament to his shattered frame of mind. Beyond physical pain, Michael Jackson clearly suffered. And the main source of his suffering was the fact that nobody ever said no to him. As a young boy he endured horrendous abuse at the hands of his father and saw things no young boy should ever see -- but when his talent triumphed and the family came to rely on Michael for their own livelihood, he got whatever he asked for and he never heard the word "no" again.
And that's a problem. There was no one to pull the brakes, no higher authority to tell him, "This time you've gone too far." There was only his boundless energy and ego drawing him into an ever more destructive lifestyle.
He never even fell in love. That would have been a humbling experience. He needed more humbling experiences.
The pain of his early years gave him a perfect rationalization to grant himself any request, and everybody bought the excuse and said, "Go ahead, Michael, build a private zoo. Bring another young boy into your bed. Take another little slice off your nose."
Had he at some point been forced to confront REALITY, had some patient and trusted therapist at an early date taken on the enormous task of exorcising his demons, Michael Jackson would be with us today.
Last night I wondered, "If his childhood was so tragic and terrible, why did he never want to leave it?"
Dr. Knobs shot back, "He wanted to get it right."
And we both agreed, he never did.
This Life = Crazy.
June 26 2009: Yesterday Michael Jackson was a myth, a legend, a god. Today Michael Jackson is a spare, sallow, mutilated bag of bones on a slab somewhere in Los Angeles -- and a row of medical examiners stretches around the block waiting to get a look at it.
This morning the only story in the news was Rowdy, Randy, Raunchy Mark Sanford, the Family Values Republican who had just admitted to having a torrid affair down Argentina Way, and there was a song from "Evita" I couldn't get out of my mind:
Oh, there's more astoundingly appropos lyrics in that song, you'll see. The video will be on this web site before long, believe me. But just as I was thinking about the songs from "Evita" (which I committed to memory over 30 years ago), the self-proclaimed "King of Pop" dropped dead. And as every media outlet seemed to switch to all-Michael all-the-time coverage, another song from the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice operetta began rolling around in my brain:
Wow, suddenly that was at LEAST as appropriate (especially if Michael Jackson had changed his name to Eva Peron)! !n answer to that last question I think we'll be OK, but we'll be subjected to a lot of teary superlatives on TV and radio for a while. Don't get me wrong -- Michael was an amazing talent with boundless ambition, but come on! The guy was a freak. That mug shot photo still haunts my nightmares ...
Jon Voight Has Gone Bananas.
June 12, 2009: I had a perfectly lovely interaction with Jon Voight in 1977.
I had been hired by some assistant to type letters for him, inviting prominent Los Angeles residents to a play -- this was before the days of computers so each letter had to be typed by hand and I was known as a speedy typist. I didn't get to meet him personally, but I typed more than 50 letters for him to some really interesting people.
I was promised the princely sum of $4 per hour for this task, but I never did get paid.
A year later, I heard that Jon Voight was coming to my college to direct and star in a production of "Hamlet." I was very impressed that he was doing this. One day I saw him sauntering down the corridor of my very own school. I took the opportunity to thank him for doing the play for our Theater Arts Department, then I mentioned that he owed me $16.
He asked what I was talking about and I described the project. He remembered it, and seemed genuinely embarassed that I hadn't been paid. He said he'd look into it and get back to me. About a week later the department secretary told me she had an envelope for me. I opened it up and tucked inside was exactly $16 in bills and coins, accompanied by a note from Jon Voight, thanking me for the job and apologizing for the mixup.
After that, I always thought he was a wonderful, amazing guy -- and obviously humble.
But somewhere along the line, this nice guy went all Republican on my ass. And given his latest pronouncement, I've concluded that Hamlet has gone completely round the bend. Exhibit "A" is presented herein for your approval and/or disdain.
I AM GREEN DAY'S MUSE ...
AND IT'S GETTING A LITTLE EMBARASSING.
I mean, these impudent little bastards are young enough to be my kids -- just barely, but yeah. But I'm probably one of their biggest fans so I find it very flattering that they keep writing songs about me.
Their latest ode is from their new CD, "21st Century Breakdown," which only came out May 15 so I haven't quite had time yet to decide if it will indeed supplant their "American Idiot" as my own personal Favorite Album Of All Time, but it's a serious threat. And just like in "American Idiot," Green Day croons a salute to me:
Thanks, fellas. I'm totally flattered -- but I'm getting used to it by now. After all, they came out with their love for me so blatantly in 'She's A Rebel" from "American Idiot":
Seeing as how my last name is "REBEL" spelled backwards, it was pretty obvious I had somehow inspired Green Day.
And it goes both ways. I've been a fan for a very long time. I remember seeing the flyers, fresh from Kinko's, stapled (probably by the boys themselves) to telephone poles in Berkeley, promoting Green Day's local performances in the early 90's. I've always enjoyed their musicianship, wonderful energy and playful lyrics, and have delighted in watching them mature. In the early days they sang goofy neurotic teenage songs about girls and angst. Today they serve up thoughtful, passionate social commentary with an infectious beat and devastating lyrics.
They just keep getting better, and they all say they'll "do this band till we die." So even as I'm joyfully singing their revolutionary lyrics at the top of my lungs, I honestly can't wait for their next release.
May 25 2009: I decided to paint Guernica. I've done lots of Picasso knock-offs on fabric over the past few years but this idea was so audacious I still can't believe I decided to give it a go. The original was Picasso's most controversial painting, an emotional anti-war diatribe he created during the Spanish Civil War. Which is why I love it. It's a haunting image, and I'm gratified I was able to get to know it better. My version is less than a quarter the size of Picasso's master work -- it's about four feet by two feet. It's hard to imagine the immensity of the original.
This is probably the tenth Picasso I've clumsily recreated. I didn't realize before I started doing these wall hangings that I was such a fan of Picasso's work. I thought I was more of a Dali devotee. But Picasso's images are stark and bizarre and childish and profound. It's really nice to be living with Picasso in this way.
I have a feeling living with Picasso in a more real and personal sense was maybe not quite as much fun.
The Importance of Words.
March 26 2009: I've always been in love with words. According to my parents, I started talking at five months -- and didn't start walking until I was over a year old. (And I never crawled.)
When I was young and angry, I used strong, harsh language most of the time -- not cursing necessarily, but I'd use "disaster" when the word "problem" might have worked just as well. People told me my language was too strident and I just thought, "Hey, that's me. Like it or lump it."
A lot of people lumped it.
There came a time, unfortunately fairly recently, when I started lumping it too. I was turned off by my own turn of phrase. It made me dislike myself, and I began to recognize that was why I was feeling depressed. And depression isn't as much fun as it sounds.
In an effort to become a happier person, I started to choose my words more carefully. I tried to be more quick with a kindness, and less judgmental about everyone -- including myself.
Interestingly, this period of self-reflection coincided with the presidency of George W. Bush. I began to formulate a theory that goes like this: Whenever you bad-mouth someone, you are looking in a mirror. So when Bush was pointing fingers and calling people "evil," I knew what to think of him.
He completely proved my point when he announced, "Our enemies ... never stop thinking of ways to harm our country, and neither do we." It was one of the few things he ever said that I believed.
So these days, I try to assume the best of people and speak well of them. I have softened some edges of my speech that were very rough for a long time. I don't always succeed at taking the high road, but I try. And the effort itself has made me feel better about living inside my skin.
Since I've been making a point of paying very close attention to how a person speaks, and how they talk about others, I have huge appreciation for a president who might say something like this to a reporter:
"I like to know what I'm talking about before I speak, all right?"
When I see the White House Press Corps gathering to spring on Obama like a pack of wild hyenas (oh man, harsh terminology is a hard habit to break!), part of me wants to see him ninja-kick them into next Tuesday. I want to see him get mad and tell them where they can stick their impudent questions.
But that's not Obama's style. He is way more evolved than I will ever be. At least I've come far enough to realize what a good person he really is. And I suspect that if he did get righteously angry, his ninja kick would be something to behold.
Waiting For The Next Shoe To Fall.
March 15 2009: Our dog Libby's birthday is February 14, and this year we got her a squeaky toy to celebrate. She loved the toy and went right to work chewing and squeaking and having a lovely time. And being total idiots, we left the room for about 10 minutes.
When we came back she was still at it, only the toy wasn't squeaking any more. Where once it'd had two cute little feet, there were now two gaping holes in the toy's torso and she was still trying to get out the squeaker.
We looked everywhere for those little feet but they were nowhere to be found. We picked up every little piece of the hard rubber and took it all away and hoped for the best.
Everything was completely normal, as far as we could tell, until the early hours of Friday, March 13. Libby started making I'm-about-to-barf noises and I got her off the bed just in time. We turned on the light and discovered a little orange foot sitting in a pool of dog barf. Libby was in the corner looking extremely distressed, and we of course were very nervous about that other orange foot. It had to be somewhere ...!
The vet x-rayed Libby's insides and said the other foot wasn't in there. He seemed a little doubtful about our weird story, but gave us some special, easy-to-digest dog food to make her feel better.
Yeah, that did not work at all. This special food disagreed with Libby's system in a big way. She belched all night and couldn't get comfortable. By midnight I vowed we were taking her back to the vet first thing Saturday morning.
The vet gave us some doggy Maalox and suggested an over-the-counter remedy for the belching. Libby just sat there giving us that hang-dog expression of a sick puppy. She seemed a little bit perkier, but only a little bit. I was hanging onto hope that she was on the mend.
Dr. Knobs took Libby for a short walk that evening and came home a little shaken up. He had news. That second orange foot, it seems, had come out the other end. Mystery solved.
But we can't stop thinking about those two plastic feet rolling around in Libby's stomach for a freakin' MONTH. We've seen the x-rays of her insides and we know how small that stomach is. So now that it's all over, she's fine. She's acting like nothing ever happened. And we are still totally freaked out. But at least we found both of the missing feet, and we will never ever again hand her a new toy and leave her alone with it.
copyright 2011 Janice Leber, Chopped Liver Productions