Friday, August 29, 2008
Tonight's Democratic presidential nomination acceptance speech in Denver by Barack Obama was remarkable. He showed why he is the nominee with a visionary and tough performance about what he will do to turn around this country. He is truly an inspiration.
Three years ago today Hurricane Katrina made landfall near the Louisiana-Mississippi border, and it soon became apparent what happens when the federal government is unprepared or indifferent in time of need.
With the advance of Tropical Storm Gustav across the Caribbean Sea this week - it presents an opportunity to consider how Democrat Barack Obama or Republican John McCain would have handled the Katrina disaster. I believe Barack would have been on the ground within hours and would have marshaled the government's resources to save lives. Barack even mentioned the government's tepid response to Katrina in his speech. He wouldn't have made excuses, but instead took the action that was needed. Lame fools wouldn't have been in charge of FEMA either.
I can still vividly remember the embarrassment and rage I felt as I watched the events unfold on my TV screen the horrible suffering in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.
These were fellow Americans, human beings neglected and forgotten, left to wilter away in the hot, humid sun. Many dying or being preyed upon.
And where was the government?...where was FEMA? Those are the questions that haunted a lot of us.
They were nowhere to be found...making excuses...passing the blame...passing the buck...
yeah..."Good job...Brownie"...you saved NO ONE....
New Orleans is still dying a slow death today...a great city and its people neglected...by fools that have turned our heritage and great culture into a cesspool of rage and disappointment...
we're in this thing together...when will we (and the politicians!!) ever get that point...
This city has given us so much...so much great music and great culture...
and yet we can just let it die? we can just turn our backs and ignore it??
I don't think Obama will let that happen....
In the meantime...here's my feelings about this tragedy...in a poem..
POLITICIANS MAKING EXCUSES
No one had our backs.
No safety net.
Now, we know we're
truly on our own.
Listening to politicians making excuses
as we fester and burn
our homes washed away.
Our lives in ruins.
Got no hope.
Our dreams reduced to devastation.
Scenes of a third world country
in the heart of America.
And still politicians making excuses.
Our hearts in ruins.
Living like animals in the Superdome.
No air conditioning in the suffocating heat.
A sweltering hellish nightmare.
And still politicians are making excuses
as our city lies in ruins.
Now, we know.
on our own.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
WORSE THAN APATHY -- Comments on the Obama Presidential Run and the start of the Democratic Convention
Tomorrow will mark the start of the Democratic National Convention where we soon witness political history as the first African-American candidate, Barack Obama, will secure the Democratic nomination. He has run a superb campaign so far and his recent addition of Senator Joe Biden was another wise move.
Despite the recent polls, Obama has a strong chance of securing the presidency as he's faced with John McCain alias McBush who embraces the failed policies of the current president.
Obama's message has been one of hope and change, but I think it is a lot deeper than that. His speech on race relations a couple months ago was one of the most remarkable speeches I've ever heard a presidential candidate give. It was honest, understanding and open about our country's sorry human rights track record without sounding bitter or entrenched in the past. Still, Obama's candidacy has been met with intense hostility and disrespect by the Clintons. The Republican slime machine has already starting slinging a lot more ugly slime and dirt on Obama and his aspirations.
I can't remember the last time I've been inspired by a political candidate like Obama.
But in the end, Obama's message of hope and looking for something beyond business of usual will win out I believe.
Still, it troubles me that someone trying to change our troubled country in a positive manner could met with so much hostility.
I hope his speech on Thursday night starts to change people's minds about Obama and just how important this election is after eight horrible and damaging years of the Bush Administration.
This poem reflects some of disappointment in the politics of hate and my hope that we can get past it. This year marked the 40th anniversary of Robert F. Kennedy's assassination in L.A. He was another candidate trying to change things for the better in a dark time.
Let's hope we learned our lessons from the past.
Watch the convention, think about our future...and vote...
WORSE THAN APATHY
History weighs us
down with despair.
Suspicious of hope.
Pretending not to care,
living by rote.
So many trials and
that lead nowhere.
Half baked solutions
real to share.
You call it politics.
Just another excuse
to do nothing at all.
Worse than apathy.
It is resignation
and an early death.
Is there anything worse
than dying inside
before you've actually died?
Friday, August 22, 2008
Been thinking a lot about our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan lately and wondering what will happen to them when they finally come home.
Will they be taken care of and appreciated or will they be forgotten and marginalized like the Vietnam veterans were?
The signs are already heartbreaking. Just this week they found mold in another veteran's hospital.
Recently, it was found nearly one in five, or about 300,000, soldiers who has served in Iraq or Afghanistan has post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression -- illnesses that could cost the U.S. as much as $6.2 billion over two years in care, lost productivity and lost lives through suicide, according to a RAND report. This is tragic.
The wounds of war are not always visible and stay with soldiers for the rest of their lives.
One day while driving to work a few years ago, I saw one of our brave veterans at the side of a freeway off ramp homeless and begging for food.
And I wondered what kind of society turns its back on its soldiers that fought for our so called freedom?
That question haunted me and sparked this poem...
A HOMETOWN REFUGEE
A refugee of this country.
at freeway exits
as he holds up a cardboard sign
which reads HOMELESS VET NEEDS HELP.
He has a million mile stare,
gazing beyond the passing cars,
the freeway and concrete
into a world only he knows.
It's a place
His is a soul obliterated
His tattered clothes
hang loosely from his bony frame.
for some sign of charity.
he springs into action,
offerings from the drivers
waiting at the stoplight.
His reconnaissance continues throughout the day.
There are no cameras documenting his plight
as with the refugees in far away lands.
Where's CNN and all the
other cable and TV channels?
Here's a refugee
in a country
he once defended.
A defender of our broken shame
even if he no longer has a home to defend.
Just what does the
mean to him now?
Sunday, August 17, 2008
I originally wrote this post last year to Dave Marsh and Lee Ballinger at Rock and Rap Confidential -- a great, honest and compelling online music publication:
I thought I would also post it on my blog. Seems appropriate.
Recently, I experienced a musical revelation at the end of an excellent recent movie, "Children of Men."
As the movie closes and the credits start to roll, a slide guitar signals the start of a raw song I thought I had never heard before. I recognize John Lennon's voice ringing out ... so timely it stuns me ... "we don't care what flag you're waving ... we don't even want to know your name ... we don't care where you are from or where you are going ... all we know is that you came ... you're making all of our decisions ... we just have one request of you ... free the people right now...."
It is all the rage and heartbreak I've been feeling over our Iraq
debacle and so many foolish mistakes this government has made in our name now and in the past. However, at the same time this is a call to stop the killing in Darfur, in the Congo and all over the world.
Later I discovered I had heard the song -- "Bring on the Lucie" -- before in a different version on the album “Mind Games.” Not sure why the song didn't hit me the same before.
But the version on the Children of Men soundtrack is a rehearsal take full of passion and rage that the Mind Games version mutes with slicker production and back up singers.
When he shouts out "so while you're jerking off each other … you better keep this thought in mind … your time has come … you better know it … maybe you can't just read the signs."
It is for me a howl at this administration and all the others that forget they work for us not the corporations and the special interests.
The clincher is the final lines of the song..."well...you were caught
with your hands in the kill … but you still got to swallow your
pill as you slip and slide down the hill on the blood of the people you killed … stop the killing now!”
How can this song be any more timely? Written more thirty years ago and we are still experiencing the same heartbreaking problems by the descendants of the same people who tried to crush John Lennon and deport him in the early 1970s, but ideas are hard to kill.
I played the end of this DVD over and over to listen to this
song … before I got the soundtrack.
Then it hit me -- the movie is about a society that discovers the value of life the hard way by completely losing the ability to reproduce.
While in this current world...people can't call genocide "genocide" even in Darfur where so many have lost their lives and life is cheap.
But it is Lennon's biting lyrics and this raw version's slide
guitar that haunted me for weeks as I probably drove my neighbors
crazy ... playing this song over and over as it fed my own writing … my own musings about our current situation of paranoia, hatred, death, war and fear.
In fact, I sometimes wonder if the fear has become us in wake of such 9/11 paranoia.
Yet Lennon's shout from the past once again shows me not only his
greatness, but how important it is not to cave into to despair and to
realize that through voicing our rage, our concerns, there is a first
step toward resolution or as I try to always remind myself … in
action ... there truly is resolution.
John Lennon never forgot that.
Stop the killing ... indeed.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Witnessed a strange thing this week.
Our foolish president speaking out…for peace?! and against Russia’s misguided invasion of Georgia.
Bush is right of course in this case, but he’s also a hypocrite.
How can this country lecture Russia to pull back in their invasion of a sovereign country after what we did in Iraq?
Iraq was also a sovereign country when we sent our troops in. How is that any different?
Just shows how America has lost its moral authority around the world....with our bungled foriegn policy.
So now another dangerous war breaks out in different country….but it seems all the same to me….
It is familiar path that we as a civilization have traveled far too many times in our history….the same virulent strain of violence, rage, hatred, nationalism, ignorance…
When will we ever learn? as Pete Seeger sang so many years ago...
We are still waiting for that answer...as the body counts rise and the heartbreak continues...all over the world…
I wrote this poem about war that keeps comes back like cancer…slowly killing off our hopes and dreams…
Let's hope this latest war ends quickly and the cease fire holds...but unfortunately... I have my doubts...
WAR IS A CANCER
War is a cancer
at our humanity.
We try to deny it
We try to eradicate it
We try to cure it.
Just when we think war is in remission
it keeps coming back
more virulent and deadly than before
our hearts and souls.
War is a recurring disease
our so called veneer of civilization.
War is a spreading affliction
of any lasting emotions
but greed, fear and hatred.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Another influential figure from my childhood -- songwriter and musician Isaac Hayes -- is gone. I especially loved his soundtrack for the movie Shaft in the early 1970s. My parents played the soundtrack on 8-track?! as we went on a family vacation driving from L.A. to Utah to San Francisco and Mt. Shasta. The funky guitar and bass, soulful horns and piano moved me more than I can write. It was really my first introduction to the power of soul music.
At the time, I had no idea who Isaac Hayes was. I just loved the music which just mesmerized me. I still can't believe my parents bought that soundtrack. They were hardly music enthusiasts. I can't remember much soul being played around my house growing up in Orange County, Calif. (Earth, Wind and Fire was the only other exception.)
Later I found out he co-wrote all those great hits with David Porter for Sam & Dave at Stax Records -- "Soul Man," "Hold On I'm Coming," "I Thank You," and "You Don't Know Like I Know" and many others.
His "Hot Buttered Soul" record in 1969 and Shaft soundtrack in 1972 changed soul music with its long experimental songs and Hayes' low voiced rapping style of singing.
In fact, a lot articles on his passing have stated that Hayes created the foundation for what later became disco and for the popularity of Barry White. I don't think is entirely true. Although he was an influence on White and the best of disco (Donna Summer, Bee Gees), Hayes' music had a funky, soulfulness that both truly lacked. His real influence was felt in the emergence of rap and hip hop. His influence is everywhere in rap from Ice Cube, Snoop Dog, Dr. Dre to Jay Z and Kanye West and too many others to mention.
Before his death, Hayes even joked about it. Hayes recalled telling a record executive who asked him what he had done lately to turn on the radio..and you'll hear his latest work....in a recent hip hop hit...
That will his latest legacy -- the influence he had on other musicians....and artists....
I will remember Isaac Hayes for his musical accomplishments not for his South Park character of Chef. Although I have to admit it was funny and clever.
RIP ... Isaac Hayes.
As he sang in the "Theme from Shaft", he was a "bad mother......" He will be missed.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Now, like many who watched last night's opening Olympics ceremonies in China, I was impressed. It was a very beautiful and breathtaking display. It should be a great Olympics, but that doesn't encourage me to ignore the Chinese government's many human rights violations through the years or how it denies its people politcal and free speech freedoms many of us take for granted in this country.
Also I was puzzled by the people in China and around the world who believe that the date -- 8/8/08 -- would bring good fortune to the festivities. Some I heard even got married on the date for the same reason. Sounds like superstition to me.
More often than not I am baffled by the motivation of so called sane and rational
people. they even reduce marriage and love down to some superstitious game...Where's reason and rational thought?
last summer couples rushed to Vegas and other places to get married on 7/07/07 for luck..
seemed strange to me...so foolish that I had to write about it...
what were these people thinking? or were they? I also wonder how many of these couples are still together ...not too many I would guess...
it is like Stevie Wonder sang in his great song, "Superstition," "when you believe in things you don't understand/then you suffer/Supersition ain't the way...
I updated a poem I wrote then about 7/7/07 to fit the new date of superstitious nonsense.
8/8/08 -- The Bonds of Superstition
The culturally controlled
rushed out to get married
convinced it would bring
It is never wise to be superstitious
about anything let alone
All the luck in the world
can't save a bad marriage.
I wonder how many of these
people will still be together
Only time will tell.
Luck has nothing to do with it.
Saturday, August 9, 2008
That John Edwards had an affair? or that he lied about it throughout his presidential campaign?
He has effectively ended his political career regardless.
Still, let's face it. This is another example of how difficult monogamy is to deal with. Temptation is always there whether we want to admit it or not.
One of the reasons I am single is that I hate monogamy so much.
For me, monogamy is an outmoded ritual ... that chokes off the spontaneity and passion that is so important for a relationship to survive over the long run.
Rather be single than a liar.
My feelings about monogamy and its failings will be explored more in my second novel that will come out in the next year or two.
In the meantime ... here's a poem I wrote about my misgivings about monogamy.
MONOGAMY IS A NOOSE
Monogamy is a noose
choking off the joys of love
and the discovery of wild passion
leaves us feeling so guilty for
We are so tortured
for desiring another
when faced with
Anyone who suggests a
way out of this predicament –
an open relationship
or more tolerance
is met with disdain
and even called a freak of nature.
But who is the real freak?
The one who ignores the limitations
of our dead rituals and lives in unhappiness
Or the one who tries to live honestly
and explores variety and life's
pleasures without lies
and with an open heart?
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Real life imitated art the past couple of days as I listened in amazement to the FBI paint the late Dr. Bruce Ivins as a lone crazy Anthrax killing scientist. Their proof seems pretty flimsy to me. All circumstantial. Seems that they are doing all they can to close this case as quickly as possible.
It all reminds me of the close of the great movie "The Parallax View" when an unnamed government commission announces that Warren Beatty's reporter character was the lone gunman in a political assassination although we -- the audience -- know he's a patsy -- like Dr. Ivins perhaps? or Lee Harvey Oswald? (that's a whole other story).
Just as with Alan Pakula's movie there is more than meets the eye here with this case as with so many others in the past (i.e. JFK, RFK, MLK...)
Don't buy the government's case. Ask questions. Remain skeptical. They count on our ignorant compliance every time.
Sunday, August 3, 2008
"Why should we hear about body bags, and deaths...I mean, it's not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?" – Barbara Bush
As John Lennon so accurately wrote: "War Is Not the Answer."
If you ever find yourself in Santa Barbara on a Sunday, make your way over to the pier area. There you will see an impressive and moving display put on a group of veterans against war that is comprised of rows and row of white crosses. Each one represents a brave American serviceman or servicewoman that has died in Iraq.
As you look across that beautiful beach at those endless rows of crosses, you begin to realize what has truly been lost. So many souls that will never be able to enjoy a summer day or look at such a beautiful beach. I was so moved by this display four summers ago while visiting Santa Barbara, a poem just poured out of me. It was more like a torrent.
Back then the we had lost 912 soldiers in Iraq. As of today, we have lost 4,131 soldiers and no one really knows how many Iraqis have died. They stopped their crosses at 3,000 at Santa Barbara's Arlington West, but still display is more than powerful in conveying the ultimate loss.
I have posted a video at the end of this post and included photos I shot of the display. I also posted an interesting photo I created using one of the postcards from the veterans group that puts on the display and a picture of a smiling George W. Bush. Seems appropriate.
Here's also a poem I wrote about the white crosses of Santa Barbara. Please visit there soon and give the veterans alive and dead the support and respect they deserve. You can also check out the Veterans for Peace Santa Barbara Chapter Web site for more information:
Peace is the answer....
THE SMALL WHITE CROSSES OF SANTA BARBARA
It's Sunday morning
of the rest of our lives.
Small white crosses
lined up in neat
rows in the sand.
More set up each week.
than mere words can convey.
A soul extinguished.
So much lost.
now for spirits
struck down far too soon.
Dreams vanishing daily in the sands
another world away
Small white crosses
on different sands.
Nearby volleyball players
enjoy another warm Sunday
in the middle of the summer.
So many walk past
the small white crosses
of those who will never
strike a volleyball again
or enjoy the pleasures
of a summer day.
Justifications fail me.
seems more than
we can ask.
More than we can bear.
Looking across this beach
that used to bring me so much joy.
Tears well up in my eyes,
but they won’t come
only the rage
coming in waves
to breathe in this summer day
to those of the small white crosses.
Their lives loom so much larger
than the markers.
They admonish us in the silence.
reaching out to us
across this serene stretch of Santa Barbara beach.
so deceptively calm.
the sad lessons of war
all the same.
The small white crosses
a sort of Sunday service.
Speaking to us
across the sands of time
reminding us of other losses
in other wars.
Leaving us lost in the silence
of our consciences.
Where are our tears
for the small white crosses?
912 and counting.
the small white crosses
in sorrow and pain.
When will it stop?
When will it ever stop?
in the sand
and all the Sundays to come.
The vigil will continue.
The prayers never cease.
This line of small white crosses
looms ever larger
in our imaginations.
Their voices speaking to us
in our nightmares
and our dreams.
Our anger and our sorrow doesn't seem large enough somehow.
The small white crosses
of Santa Barbara
haunt me daily
and in the wee hours of the morning
trouble me to my core.
Each one leading
to so many other
the families will bear forever.
This is my Vietnam
but what have I done to stop it?
What have I done?
Nothing at all
as the small white crosses
of Santa Barbara beach
multiply in number each Sabbath.
of our broken
our broken hearts,
our large and looming
the sand a world away
and here today.
No trace left
the white markers
to reawaken our
heartaches for an eternity.
Friday, August 1, 2008
Last weekend as I went to my favorite stretch of beach -- Horny Corner in Belmont Shore -- I was greeted with beach closure signs. The water was too contaminated to swim in. You can see a photo of one of the signs with this post. I also posted another photo of the high tides we’ve experienced at Horny Corner this week which makes the situation only worse.
I take great inspiration from the ocean and I visit the beach every weekend (really...almost every day) so this is deeply troubling. Used to love going into the water, but now that is even a chancy proposition. Frankly, the water is filthy and contaminated and hardly inviting to swim in, as it's full of garbage, human waste and viruses.
We are killing our oceans. Don't just listen to me. See for yourself the lasting damage we are doing to the ecosystems of the ocean with our dumping of chemicals and industrial waste. Once the ocean dies...life on this planet will ultimately follow.
The same fools that laugh at global warming ... support the idiots that pollute our oceans ....
A few years ago, while visiting Huntington Beach, the beach was shut down due to a high concentration of contamination and waste.
That was the impetus for this poem...
CONTAMINATED HEARTS AND POISONED WAVES
They polluted Surf City
and said the water was poison.
I believe it was more than a sewage spill.
It was the bile from
our contaminated hearts
which polluted the Pacific Ocean.
Poisoned waves crashing on a dirty beach.
We are the human virus
polluting the water,
polluting the beaches,
turning our oceans
into dirty cesspools
like our cities,
filled with waste
from our polluted bodies
I am drowning in
which has spilled over
from my contaminated heart.
We are the human virus
crashing on a polluted shore
contaminating all we touch.
Surf is down in the sewer.
We can ride poison waves
to our dirty demise.