Saturday, July 29, 2006

Hanns Ebensten, November 28, 1923 - July 24, 2006

Hanns Ebensten, the pioneer of gay and lesbian travel, has passed away in Key West. When I say he pioneered gay and lesbian travel, it is no mere hyperbole. He virtually single-handedly created the industry and was the GLBT's ambassador-at-large to individuals, governments and the travel & hospitality industries. The author of eight books, including The Seals on the Ice Pack, Trespassers on Easter Island and Volleyball With the Cuna Indians, Ebensten also frequently contributed articles and spoke widely on gay travel and his adventures. In January, 2006, Ebensten spoke at the Key West Literary Seminar in the town where he made his home for decades.
It was a privilege to have met Mr. Ebensten and been his host during a book tour a number of years ago. He was a gentleman and an unassuming activist for a man whose contribution to our lives could be easily be defined as having a broader and more lasting effect than many prominent political leaders in the GLBT community. I know that from the day I met him, I considered him among the foremost gay role models of our generation.
Mr. Ebensten was preceeded in death by his partner of 41 years, Brian Kenny, in 2001.
Gay publications the world over will no doubt have tributes to him in the days and weeks to come; I needn't repeat what many people will have say about his life. Click on the header above for a link to an article about him.

Saturday morning on the Bollywood Jukebox...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

"Only the dead have seen the end of war." ---Plato

Its more than a little disconcerting that the Skirball could host an exhibition on Darfur and Rwanda as the international community wrings its collective hands and shrugs its shoulders as Lebanon's (and the world's) bodycount of innocent bystanders mounts.

A.M. Rosenthal's Thirty-Eight Witnesses arrived for me at the library. It's a slim book, only some 88 pages. Instinctively, I looked over the dates stamped inside the book of those who had read it before me. The first 10 readers were all within the five years after Kitty Genovese's murder. The next 10 readers were spread out over 15 years.
It had been almost 20 years since anyone had read this book prior to me. It couldn't be a mere co-incidence that the atrocities in Darfur and Rwanda --to name but two-- had taken place in that time. The parallels between the phenomenon brought into public discussion after Kitty Genovese's murder and the coverage of the international community's response to the death of so many innocent people in Lebanon haunts me every day.

"Dear God, what have we come to?" asks an anonymous voice in quoted by Rosenthal.

While we are obsessed with our conspicuous consumption, what is going on right in front of us? What will it take to get us --and keep us-- reminded of the oldest story in the Bible: are we our brother's keeper? Since that parable predates the discovery of America or the Roman Empire, we can't blame this on Western civilization, gay marriage, Republicans, Democrats, myspace or craigslist...

Asking why humans tend to look away instead of getting involved, Rosenthal says,"in my mind something was bothering me -- a feeling that the story had turned into a hunt for a target, and the queasy belief that the target was in our own mirrors."

This is what three weeks of forest-fire-hotter-than-Miami heat and no Cuban coffee does to my thought process.

[I stop writing at this point to make a cafe Cubano and stick it in the freezer. I haven't seen an ice cube anywhere since last Friday.]

I have been reading Gautam Malkani's Londonstani. I'm still trying to forgive myself because I missed his one LA appearance by a couple of days. It's a brilliant, funny and disturbing read. It echoes what I see around me in LA, surrounded here as I am in the media capital of the world, with a hyper-emphasis on the 'bling' lifestyle and a dangerous preoccupation with elevating 'gangster' or 'street' ethics over the rest of all civilization.

Thank goodness I'm en route to San Francisco for a few days to see the family and breath in the fog as one would an asthma inhaler. Oh yeah, and cool off. Under normal circumstances, the rest of the world seems less civilized when in San Francisco; even moreso now. I do believe that is the only time I have ever put "San Francisco" and "normal" in the same sentence. And we like it that way...

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

If the producers of "Lost" say Rodrigo Santoro is not a hunk, I don't wanna know who they'd date...

So word is that Brazilian hottie Rodrigo Santoro will join the cast of LOST this Fall. But, they insist, he is not a hunk. If he believes that, or can even say it with a straight face (no pun intended --honest!) then J.J. Abrams can always moonlight as a White House speechwriter.


At the very least, I feel much calmer now. I might even be able to listen to a little bit of the news without yelling epithets and scaring the horses... just don't mention that idiot politician in Ohio who believes that gays can change. We just won't go there. Or Latvia. And don't even get me started on Condi Rice.

Warning: Uppity Minority Rant Ahead!

The most unpopular job at the LA Unified School District must be trying to explain why their serious f'd-up policy of how to categorize ethnicities is in any way relevant or appropriate to the student population of the LAUSD, the city of Los Angeles, and United f'ing States of America. If that spokeperson (remember Iraq's ambassador to Washington before the first Gulf War, only you know nobody's got a gun to this spokesperson's family's head back home) halfway believes the bull she was giving Larry Mantle today on Airtalk, then ship her sorry ass to Hawaii and see how long before they laugh you out of the state.

That crap wasn't even so last century. It was more like, so f'ing Europe carving up Africa, Asia and the Americas 18th century colonialism.

Get with the 21st century, LAUSD! I was a little skeptical about Mayor Villaraigosa's bid to take over the LAUSD, but now I'm all for it; and can that woman and her boss and her boss's boss.

Almost a thousand ethnicities, and the exponential combinations thereof make up LA. Duhh. And they don't recognize multi-ethic students? And the horrific response she gave regarding bi-racial students was REPUGNANT and INSULTING and DISHONEST.

Sala kutta.

I could have used some chocolate to cool down, but it had already melted.

I didn't get to hear Larry Mantle's response because I had to turn the radio to KUSC to calm down or I'd have thrown it out the damn window.

There. I cleaned up the language quite a bit from my first draft. Thank goodness I wasn't looking that spokesperson in the eye, face to face. She'd still be cleaning my vomit off of her shoes.

Do you have any idea after all the years of Reagan, Bush the Elder and Bush the Younger how high my tolerance level is for me to get that angry? Well, the heat helped.

I finally simmered down enough to put KPCC back on. So I thought.

If doing a slow lobster broil with a flipping fan is patriotic, somebody start playing a fife and a goddamn drum. The sprightly PSA for Southern California Edison with the sappy 60s airline announcement voice about conserving energy should have been recorded in my apartment.

How the blazes do people have the anti-gravitational pull to be able to even stage riots in this kind of weather? To think of all the razzing that UC Santa Cruz got when they made the banana slug their school mascot. Shy-ee-it, they were even ahead of Al Gore on that number.

Monday, July 24, 2006

'Nonviolence is the supreme law.' -- Hindu saying

It is blasphemy to say this in Miami among certain emigres, but there is a point at which democracy and communism are virtually the same, when practiced in their purest form, which, of course, exists only in hypothesis as far as humans are concerned. That is the purposeful disregard of rank and class that is purported to exist in those societies.

My observance of this tenet is tempered by what I perceive at street level as a need to show
deference to some of the customs from the countries of origin of the people around me I encounter.

In a post-civil rights, pro-feminist, child-of-the-sixties construct, this is, to put it mildly, the cause of a good deal of conflict and a source of social discomfort.

Virtually every body movement is a potential source of perceived insult; each interaction fraught with potential land mines. A veteran foreign service officer could have a very uncharacteristic breakdown trying to stay ahead of it all.

This morning, Los Angeles begins another yet another week of record breaking heat that has millions gasping for air like guppies that have jumped out of their fish bowl.

It has been noted how the relative youth of the population has been like tinder to the combustible political situations around the world. Right now, here in LA, as if the potential for natural disaster wasn't already omnipresent, the youth factor, coupled with the volatile mix of ethnicities, makes for a perfect storm.

Even if mother nature doesn't shirt the uneasy etat d'affairs from beneath more than it has from above, the air is thick with the unspoken worry that something could happen, at any given moment. It is as if even to acknowledge this possibility is to assure its coming to pass.

So, what does one do while walking on eggshells?

Strive to learn as much as possible about what is happening in the world. Learn how to say, "hello," "please," "excuse me," "thank you," "good morning," in as many languages as possible.

Ask questions. In so many cultures, merely showing an interest or making the attempt is sufficient enough to assuage people that you are one of the good guys. And if you've done at least this much, it's pretty much a given that you are.

l have seen Mayor Villaraigosa at the Pakistan Independence Day celebration, the Thai Town festival marking the Kings' birthday, and marching in the gay pride parade, among other places. I've often heard folks say that it is the first time they've seem the mayor of Los Angeles come. That guy gets around.

A Peace that comes from fear and not from the heart is the opposite of peace -- Rabbi Ben Gershon

Los Angeles, as crowded as it is, is not Manhattan. Still we have hundreds, many hundreds, of ethnic groups living shoulder to shoulder with each other. On top of a number of an unknown number of flatlands, any one of which could rupture at any given moment.

It was in Los Angeles that an Armenian assassinated the Turkish consul. And it was in Los Angeles that a mob of exiles from Iran attacked the palatial estate of the Shah's sister.

On the bus one day, I saw one elderly man shaking with rage start shouting at another, "Bastard! Russian bastard!" as their wives looked on helplessly.

"Please... we're in America now," pleaded the elderly Russian, to no avail.

After some urging from his wife, the man reluctantly let the Russian be -- but only after his wife had begged him so.

For the life of me, I couldn't tell you what country the man who accosted the Russian was from. From Finland to Iran, take your pick. For most of the other startled passengers, we individually and silently contemplated which atrocity from the treasure trove history afforded us had been behind the scene we had just witnessed?

He who forgiveth, and is reconciled unto his enemy, shall receive his reward from God; for he loveth not the unjust doers --the Quran

Hiroshima, August 6, 1945

Saturday,July 22, 10:30 p.m. Whatever book I was in search of was forgotten when I happened to notice Hiroshima Diary, by Dr. Michihiko Yachiya, MD. I read first his postscript of 1952, then went immediately to the morning of August 6, 1945 and read clear through August 11th.

I no sooner managed to put the book back on the table when I realized I'd laid it next to a book on Kristallnacht.

Outside, the air was still quite warm and the Grove was filled with people. As always, there was a Babel of tongues from every continent. Among a group of young people chatting, I noticed the males wearing yamakahs.

This is what a summer evening in Tel Aviv or Beirut would have been like, if not for the war, I thought.

Families, friends, couples on dates, busy employees.

Not a single star was in the sky, not unusual in that we were in the middle of the city. The smattering of a few small clouds low overhead seemed to suggest a high blanket of clouds helping to hold the heat in.

As was the case on Thursday, however, a pleasant breeze tempered the heat.

The first book that had actually caught my eye after I had entered the store was a new biography of Patricia Neal.

Out of curiosity, I went directly to the section that dealt with the filming and the aftermath of The Day the Earth Stood Still in 1951.


With all the madness in the world, apart from the festive summer crowd oblivious to any war... I don't remember when I finally caught my breath after what I'd read of Hiroshima.

There's always a great deal more civility when foreigners outnumber Americans here. We have our good days, but they seem to stand out as exceptions rather than the rule.

I can't shake one word in particular from Hiroshima Diary: gembaku, which means "the place of suffering."

It melds with the news photos I saw earlier from the Middle East.

For every car heading home, an equal number were full of young people for whom the night was still young.

Everyone spoke of the heat today, and of how it compares to wherever they were from.

Amazing. The digital clock on the bank at the corner of Third and Fairfax says it is still 85 degrees.

The shimmering lights atop the Hollywood Hills assure me that it is.

Directly across the street from me is a billboard for the Hilton Hotels reading, "why do people have to sneeze before we acknowledge them?

Why indeed.

"No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible." --Voltaire

For "Shark" that responded to my last post...

Saturday, July 22, 2006

On a warm summer evening...

Thursday, July 20th. At the Japanese-American National Museum. I came down to Little Tokyo for the Central Avenue Sounds Concert Series on the plaza at First and Central.

The sun is about to set soon. The musicians will be on the elevated section of the courtyard next to the new museum building. Behind me is the historic building, originally a Buddhist temple. A brisk breeze offers an alternative to the heat of the last few weeks.

As the musicians warm up, the seats are a quarter full. Only a couple of people are not Japanese-American at first -- with the exception of the bartenders ands the museum employees. Kip Fulbeck's "Part Asian - 100% Hapa" is the exhibition at the museum. More people come out of the museum as it gets closer to the start of the concert. But will it start on "Hawaiian" time or "mainland" time? (Hawaiian time, as it turns out, not that anyone minds)

The Haruo Ishihara Okinawan Folk Ensemble were a sort of Japanese bluegrass -
accompanied by bongo

Moana, the Hawaiian trio was quite animated and informal, engaging the audience and belying that they were "senior citizens."

Few performances have the dramatic intensity of taiko drums, and the Zenshuji Taiko, a local group, were real showmen.

A number of students were present, along with their families and only a few non-locals, if any. It was definitely a great evening to be out and enjoying the richness of the diversity of city life. One would think the streets would have been filled with tourists, but it's a Thursday evening. Tomorrow night, and especially as it gets closer to Nisei Week, the street will be jammed. Tonight I have it almost all to myself.

The neon lights of historic Little Tokyo's First Street and the recently restored Far East Cafe seemed to have soaked in the taiko and hissed and crackled a faint echo of the concert as I walk along the street.

The new Caltrans building was lit like a giant architectural model. City Hall seemed to have received the best scrubbing that I can ever remember - it was as clean as if it were newly built. Coming up Weller Court/Onizuka Street it was brilliantly lit, better than any Hollywood special effects.

I'll definitely have to come back at night to take some photos while summer lasts.

I managed to go 36 hours without watching the news or listening to the radio. This was the apex, when the world seemed devoid of troubles and strife. Of course, it didn't last.
At least I know it is possible to escape what's going on in the world for a while...

Friday, July 21, 2006

How to assist Lebanon's Gay and Lesbian community and people with HIV

In Lebanon there are already a number of displaced gays and lesbians and people with HIV. Where can they go? What country will take them in? How will they get access to medical treatment?

Much discussion has gone on about World Pride in Jerusalem long before the current crisis started. I wouldn't even begin to form an opinion on whether or not it ought to still take place. It has always been my firm belief that gays and lesbians will be at the front lines of humanitarian efforts ready to assist others less fortunate than they. As I understand it, the Israeli GLBT community has been present in the demonstrations against the war that have taken place in Israel. Given that, yes, we are everywhere, gays and lesbians will be on both sides of this issue, and among both the victims and the perpetrators of this tragedy.

Click on the header above to be connected to Helem, the gay and lesbian organization in the Middle East assisting refugees.

When the dust and smoke has settled, and the region can get back to the business of working for peace and a resolution to this tragedy, I believe that we will be among those who worked for a solution and alleviated the suffering.

I don't want to be glued to my television, watching any more bodies of children being pulled out of rubble.

Israel says that Iran, through Syria, is behind this crisis. Okay then, let's get the international community on Iran and Syria. Now. I read on line where the Russian Federation rushed weapons and materiel to Iran in advance of an international embargo -- they wanted to make sure they got paid, apparently. Russia must own up for it's part in this human tragedy.

Great Britain, too, apparently sold weaponry to both sides of the conflict in the past.

I read also where the American military aid to Israel curiously ended up in the hands of drug dealers in Colombia. So the trail of blood reaches all around the table of the G 8 summit.
It's easy to excuse yourself from culpability when you make deals with the cultured gentlemen in suits and silk shirts, and don't have to be seen dealing directly with the end results of your actions.

Let's see what it takes for the so-called civilized nations of the world to own up to their responsibility in this tragedy, and participate in the recovery. There are no winners here. There is, however, enough blame to go around.

In the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles of July 21, Rachel Ben-Dor quotes Avot d'Rabbi Nathan 23: "Who is the greatest of heroes? He who converts his enemy into his friend."

I'm no expert at international law, but isn't Lebanon a sovereign country with the right to defend itself, too?

Let me get this straight: first the IDF blows up the bridges and highways and divides Lebanon into two and makes escape for the civilians virtually impossible, then tells the locals via automated phone calls to get out or they'll be annihilated? Isn't that ethnic cleansing and genocide?

What kind of civilized people engage in this practice? Does anybody in Israel remember what the Nazis did to the Warsaw Ghetto?

This is sick. Sick. Sick.

I went 36 hours without watching the news, reading the news, logging on to the news, and I've already this morning got into a shouting match (at church no less) with somebody who insisted that the Lebanese were one and the same with Hezbollah.

Even if that were true, which the world knows is not the case, why would Israel attack the United Nations peacekeeping forces, and kill innocent civilians from Brazil, Canada, the Philippines, Sri Lanka in addition to the Lebanese civilians?

Is there no understanding of international law in Israel?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Let America Be America Again -- Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free,

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a surf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Strange Fruit

Southern trees bear strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

Lewis Allen

Lest we forget

It's hot out, so I'm taking my new Havaianas for a walk to break 'em in

It's official: UN calls Israel's actions in Lebanon a war crime

There is so much that I want to say that I've re-written so many times, so I'll just suggest you check out my post from July 15th and click on the 'Peace Cube' by Bill McCaughtry.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Terrorists drink milk!

Amid the two billion dollars of damage done in Lebanon, Israel has destroyed warehouses of medical supplies and at least part of Beirut's dairies.

When the American media goes into the sophistication of the rockets being fired by Hezbollah into Israel, I have to wonder how and from where Iran --if they are in deed the sole manufacturer of them-- get their materials.

I don't bet, as a rule. I wouldn't be a bit surprised, however, if in following the trail of where the bits and pieces come from that make such weapons possible, one ends up in Great Britain, France, Russia or even the United States.

But going after the source of the rockets appears to be too time consuming when you can bomb willy-nilly a country with no defenses to speak of right next door.

Come to think of it, those weapons Israel maufactures have a nasty habit of ending up in the world's hotspots, too -- including on the streets of American cities.

I'm not excusing any acts of terrorism here whatsoever, but as Malcolm X once famously said, perhaps this is a case of the chickens coming home to roost.

In the meantime, better snatch that glass of milk out of your child's hand. You wouldn't want them to grow up to be a terrorist, now, would you?

People who can legally marry

racists, neo-Nazis, abortionists, anti-abortionists, people who let their kids scream in restaurants, politicians who hire strippers that can't type to work in their office as 'secretaries,' people you wouldn't let your kid sister date, builders responsible for substandard construction in areas prone to natural disasters, litterbugs, government servants who help themselves liberally (can't they call it 'conservatively?') to the public trough, media figures who abuse their (and apparently, other people's) prescription drugs, telemarketers who call when you don't want to talk on the phone, drivers who talk on the phone behind the wheel (sorry MB & C!), smokers who blow smoke in your face, slumlords, producers of reality shows, mechanics and tow truck drivers who rip you off, fortune tellers, panhandlers, pollsters, men who holler insulting remarks at women from cars, pushy salesmen whose job it is to sell you stuff you don't want or need, torturers from foreign countries [who retire to live in comfort in south Florida], druglords, people who have no idea how to raise children, men who shoot tiny birds and bunny rabbits

The Day Lady Died --Frank O'Hara

The Day Lady Died

It is 12:20 in New York a Friday
three days after Bastille Day, yes
it is 1959 and I go get a shoeshine
because I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton
at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner
and I don't know the people who will feed me

I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun
and have a hamburger and a malted and buy
an ugly NEW WORLD WRITING to see what the poets
in Ghana are doing these days
I go on to the bank
and Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard)
doesn't even look up my balance for once in her life
and in the GOLDEN GRIFFIN I get a little Verlaine
for Patsy with drawings by Bonnard although I do
think of Hesiod, trans. Richmond Lattimore or
Brendan Behan's new play or Le Balcon or Les Negres
of Genet, but I don't, I stick with Verlaine
after practically going to sleep with quandariness

and for Mike I just stroll into the PARK LANE
Liquor Store and ask for a bottle of Strega and
then I go back where I came from to 6th Avenue
and the tobacconist in the Zigfeld Theatre and
casually ask for a carton of Gauloises and a carton
of Picayunes, and a NEW YORK POST with her face on it

and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of
leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT
while she whispered a song along the keyboard
to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing

The Day Lady Died

Monday, July 17, 2006

Be the change you wish to see in the world

I remember when my brother gave me tickets to see Lily Tomlin's "Search For Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe."

It was one of the most moving pieces of theatre I have ever seen. Among the many messages embedded in the play was the concept of how each individual can be part of the collective conscience to stop the madness escalating all around us out of control.

So, once again, I will ask those inflicting their inner pain onto others, to please, stop. If your stated objectives are truly what you are attempting to achieve, then stop. And work on the solution, as opposed to creating more problems and hardships and pain and anger that will have to be cleaned up.

Mr. President, if you really believe that the nation of Israel has the right to defend itself as you say, what about the nation of Lebanon? Who is going to put all these broken pieces back together?

When America decided that it was 'the last World Superpower," and the world's policeman, that responsibility meant that they --we-- do not have the right to pick and choose when and where we will intercede. What would happen if you called 911 and the operator told you, "sorry, that's not our problem."

Click on the header to be linked to a petition to stop destroying Lebanon.

The only thing necessary for evil to flourish is for good men and women to say and do nothing - Edmund Burke

I received a brochure from the San Jose Winchester House in the mail Saturday.

Sarah Winchester, heiress to the Winchester gun fortune, distraught by the death of her husband and only child and haunted by the spirits of the victims of the very products that had made her husband's family wealthy, bought an eight room farmhouse in San Jose in 1884 and obsessively turned it into a 160-room mansion over until her death in 1922, on the advice of a medium she consulted.

On March 14, 1964, Kitty Genovese was brutally murdered as she returned home at 3:20 in the morning. 38 neighbors heard or so the crime --but only one called the police, another yelled out the window, and the rest did nothing. The nation was shocked as the story came out that they "didn't want to become involved." For months, Americans measured their moral compasses and sadly realized that the reality fell far short of the truth.

Eight Canadians have now been killed by Israeli bombing in addition to the other Lebanese and foreign innocent victims in the past week. The American Embassy website was telling the 25,000 Americans in Lebanon to travel via the highway to Damascus --even as Israeli warplanes were killing yet more innocent civilians on the highway until it became impassable.

This morning at the church, I came to the conclusion that the first and foremost thing I could do was adhere to the "butterfly effect." That is, while it may not be all I can do, the most important thing that I could do as I helplessly follow the unfolding world events is to try to be a part of the solution instead of the problem, and try to practice lovingkindness a much as possible.

An imperfect solution, perhaps. And but a part of what I may in time discover that I can contribute to the problem. But I cannot sit idly by and watch as one friend put it, the dysfunctional actions of nations mimicing the dysfunctional actions of individuals, inflicting harm on others as reaction to their own pain, continues.

Am I still angry? Of course. I'm a human being. And no human being with emotions and feelings could possibly sit by and witness all this without concsequence.

Or our souls may be haunted, like Sarah Winchester, for the rest of our lives.

It's okay to not know what to do. But I can start by wanting to be a part of the solution, and looking for ways right in front of me that I can perhaps redeem humankind in the eyes of the universe. You may or may not believe in a God, but you can't tell me you don't think that there are consequences for looking away and not being involved.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

"There are some problems in life even Prada can't solve." -- from "My Lucky Star" by Joe Keenan

For the record: The link in my last post for this site was broken. Or the Israelis have bombed them. I think if you click on the header above, this will work now. If you type it in as I wrote it, it might go through. Of course, there's the small problem that Israel has reportedly just hit the telecommunications infrastructure in Beirut, so some sites (and phone service) may be offline in some areas.

And would somebody please tell our embassy in Beirut to stop sending people down highways that are being straffed by Israeli aircraft? You'd think the American government was out to deliberately kill Americans or something. Naw, they would never do that, now, would they?
The Getty. The "Global Delights" concert with Paul Livingstone, the Arohi Ensemble and Karsh Kale was everything from Middle Eastern jazz to electronic world music to innovative and classical South Asian music.
There are club kids here, last century's club kids with their kids, a broad swath of the South Asian community and Those in the Know. Quite a number of folk carry themselves like foreign service veterans or academics and scholars.
This was without a doubt the place to beat the heat.

"Justifiable anger is the dubious luxury of other people." *

I'm angry at the parties responsible for this dissonance in the world, but no as much as I was last week. There is empathy, too, for both sides in the conflict.

My family has multiple connections with both sides of the conflict, albeit some of them tenuous.

My anger has been tempered to a reasonable level. That is, I'm not irrationally angry, nor am I apathetic. Rather, I'm empathetic --or hope to be-- to see the affect that the actions of a few have had on so many, especially those powerless to alter the course of events all around them.

ABC News last night on Nightline gave a terribly inaccurate and biased report on the conflict in Lebanon. I haven't seen Nightline since Ted Koeppel left, and I'm not at all happy with what I saw. I don't know why ABC News even bothered. Some of the individual reporters may have well been giving the best information that they could personally obtain under the circumstances, but somebody back at the home office really dropped the ball. And that's being charitable. The impression was given that foreign tourists had the option of leaving the country, without noting that only one route was still open to them to escape the danger, and that that route, the highway to Damascus, was under repeated attack from Israeli fighter planes. As I understand it, the highway has actually been impassable for motor vehicles due to damage from the missiles, virtually closing it to all but wary foot traffic keeping one eye out for yet more incoming missiles.

I studied journalism in college in that post-Watergate era, when we were on fire with the notion of doing something noble for the greater good, not personal gain. I'm sure plenty of those people are still in the business; I'm also certain that anyone reading this can think of their own personal examples in recent years where members of the Fourth Estate have strayed from that ideal.

Since the crisis in Lebanon began last week, I have learned not to rely, sadly, on the American news media for my information. The Daily Star, Beirut's English language newspaper, and Lebanese bloggers ( have provided poignant, on the ground, reporting and information. Not all of it is professional or has a sense of detachment.

I had a text, actually, on how to maintain calm and perspective even in the middle of violence, which fortunately I've never had to use. I've been through civil unrest, natural disasters and found myself surrounded by hostile people that might have easily been encouraged to do me bodily harm. But nothing like actually reporting while under fire or expecting bombs to go off at any moment in a theatre of war. It's a hard job to do under the best of circumstances. And for the people trapped in Lebanon, separating rumor from fact is nigh impossible --even though it means life or death. From my vantage point, safely half a world away, I have the dubious luxury of recognizing that some information is created in a climate of hysteria or fear that seems plausible to the people repeating it, that ought to be not taken at face value.

So I'll keep reading and watching and listening. And hopefully, not yelling at the television quite as much. NPR this morning gave me reason for hope and a chance to breathe calmly and even enjoy hearing the news.

And I'll try to appreciate the paradise and calm that I live in (even if that reality is an illusion constructed to placate me).

* I might have gotten that quote slightly wrong, but I think you catch my drift.

Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty


This is a very powerful word around the world. Moreso --and with more nuance-- than most Americans realize or understand.

Forgive me if I've written about this before, but it bears repeating.

Years ago, at West Hollywood's Russian Cultural Festival, there were the usual performances by folk dancers and singers and musicians; books and souvenirs from a homeland faraway.

Among the first wave of refugees from the Soviet Union years ago, as with Miami Beach, there were an untold number of Holocaust survivors who silently bore witness to the worst in humanity. Many of them have since passed away.

The announce at the festival spoke only in Russian, but it wasn't difficult to imagine what he was saying.

Somewhere in his impassioned soliloquy he paused, and reverently pronounced, "America."

Several times more he would do this with the mix of a southern minister and when Tony first repeats the word, "Maria," in West Side Story.

Most immigrant from the former Soviet Union arrive today through JFK or LAX. In this announcer's voice, however, one could see the immigrants of the early 20th century rushing to the deck of their ship to catch their first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty, a father hoisting his son upon his shoulders for a better view.


I understood the resonance behind the Russian announcer's enunciation of America.

My brothers and sisters have all been born since we arrived in America. They and my friends and classmates all have hometowns to remember... little things like birth certificates, things I have no personal comprehension of, just a general understanding about. How many of you know what it's like not to have a birth certificate? I have a form from the State Department that says that I am not a figment of my imagination. I have Eero Saarinen's TWA Terminal as my Ellis Island.

A hometown. A birth certificate. A place where you know you belong.

I have created a sense of place (remember Jodie Foster and "Pensacola" from First Contact?), a construct of dreams and wishes and wants, of believing in Tinkerbell at Disneyland in the fourth grade, of the stories my mother told us about growing up on a street with filled with grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins all living next door to one another. My father's childhood of a farm with a dozen brothers and sisters.

I live today amid a community of many immigrants, refugees, wanderers and lost or displaced people who have each created their own concept of, as Tevye says in Fiddler on the Roof, "...of who you are, and what God expects you to be."

On many levels, this is far better than growing up in some town where everyone has always known everyone else, where the sense of place and certainty of its permanence in your life are a given.

The ethereal concept of having a place in the world and knowing what or where it is, is something so many people take for granted.

Daily, I get to re-create the real --and the concept of-- the place I belong.

This week on the news, we have seen that foundation ripped out from under an untold number of people. They are frightened and lost and lashing out.

The sets change, the cast evolves. Yet I have been given a sense of place to be still when all around me moves at a blur.

Aren't most of the conflicts of the world when people feel threatened with the loss of that most essential sense of their construct of the world and where they belong in it?

Friday, July 14, 2006

According to news sources in Lebanon, the governments of France, Germany, Greece, the Philippines, Spain and the US had advised their citizens in the country to leave.

One small problem: the only way out of the country at present is the road to Damascus. And the road to Damascus is being shelled by Israel.

Oh well.

Four Brazilian nationals have been added to the list of foreign casualties in Lebanon. There are more than 30,000 Pilipinos, 22,000 French nationals, 10,000 Americans (that's ten thousand, folks) and around 700 Spaniards in the country, according to various media sources. Phone service is intermittent at best.
Some of the media outlets are offline. Reporters Without Borders has accused Israel of deliberately targeting journalists in their raids, so accurate accounts of what is going on within various parts of the country can be expected to be unavailable, despite modern technology.

Rumors are rampant on Lebanese blogs, with locals and tourists alike all wondering where they can be safe.


Beirut is a city with about the same population as Phoenix or Philadelphia. It looks not unlike a combination of Miami and Los Angeles viewed from along the seafront.

As I write this, more than a quarter million Israelis and Lebanese are hunkered down in bomb shelters. There are more than 10,000 Americans trapped in Beirut along with countless other tourists. They have no escape. Usually, one Beirut journalist pointed out, the tourists have to look hard to see signs of the devastating civil war that tore the city apart--which they usually don't. Now they are eyewitnesses. The death toll keeps rising. World stock markets are plummeting.

Imagine if Great Britain had bombed Miami when that tourist was carjacked a few years ago.

They might as well hold a gun to the entire planet. I'm supposed to be practicing my detachment and meditation for peace. But I'm still too angry.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

At present there are approximately 10,000 Americans in Beirut as Israel bombs the city. Two aircraft, A310 Airbuses, were ready to leave for Paris and London as the airport was hit by Israeli missiles. An unknown number of foreign nationals are stranded in the city, as Israel has blockaded the airport and sea routes. This is the height of the summer tourist season in Beirut.

Among the dead as of this moment are at least two Kuwaitis and one Asian woman of unidentified nationality. At least ten of the more than 50 dead civilians are reportedly children.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

"If you could have dinner with anyone living or dead who would that person be?"

There is a local magazine that I won't name to spare the guilty, that has this annoying J-school 101 cookie cutter approach to their interviews.

Think of how famous people from different eras would react with one another... and who's to say that you would be in the mood to have dinner with all of them at once-unless it was to sit back and watch the interplay among people who wouldn't have been able to meet together in their life time (or if they did, you weren't there!).

Some answers to this question have been flip and others (dare I say) sound like they were either composed by publicists or they've been asked so many times that the interview subject has a ready pat answer.

And what kind of dinner would it be? Politesse or bon homie?

And a dinner, say, in London or Malibu or Paris or Silver Lake would each be different... no?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The best reading of the year, hands down

Eduardo Santiago's debut reading for Tomorrow They Will Kiss at Skylight books was in-eff-ing-credible. There were well known authors in every row of seats that turned out to hear him; the crowd filled the store and spilled into the street. Everyone enjoyed themselves thoroughly. Tomorrow night he'll be reading at Books and Books in Coral Gables, so if anyone is reading this in the 305, get down there.

Smells like team spirit

We've had 48 hours of the Italian tri-color all over town. And interestingly enough, not a peep out of the curmudgeons who had such a problem with people waving anything other than the American flag during all the immigration rallies this spring.

It occurred to me that they don't like it when the flags are from anywhere other than Western Europe. Most of those right-wing yahoos don't know Mexico is part of North America, or even consider the Canadian flag anything other than a brand logo.

At least the giant soccer ball has been taken down from atop the Abbey coffeehouse. Would have been nice if it had rolled a strike along Robertson Blvd. and taken out some of those drunken brats the runaway balloon at Macy's parade... Of course, now the Abbey will have to go back to their usual fare of special events, like release parties for porn films.

Am I the only one surprised that Kathy Griffin even knows what the Rand Corporation is?!?

I'm not even close to being to most hardcore Griffinphile in my family, but she's on my "A" list. I hope Larry King had plenty of his heart meds close by when she was on his show.

And what's up with Adam Carolla hanging up on Ann Coulter!?!?! I tried, I really did, to listen to his show (we were bombarded with ads for it, after all). Just when I'm ready to write him off, he does something cool like hang up on Ann Coulter. You go, boy.

West Hollywood after the World Cup Parties

Japan sends it's envoy to Pyongyang to talk about those missles

Saturday, July 08, 2006

"Fools! your Reward is neither Here nor There!"

One of the downsides of my recent addiction to LibraryThing is reading too many passages from my books as I open them up to look up the ISBNs and publishing data... as if re-reading favorite passages from my favorite books on a beautiful summer day was something to be ashamed of!

Yet another cool image from Towleroad;
Glad my sister got out of Florida while the
getting was good!

Friday, July 07, 2006

Things I'm thinking about on a beautiful summer day instead of what I ought to be doing.. (isn't that the point of HAVING a summer in the first place?

Photo from the Last Noel Blogspot

Actually, I just started drooling when I saw the photo of this bookshelf on Noel's blog. When I was a kid, I always dreamed of having a house with a library like J. P. Morgan or Henry Huntington. Not the kind of perverse fantasy that one shares with the other kids on the playground.

My friend Mara was a librarian in her prior life before coming to California.

There's a shop in San Francisco that advertises in the print version of Poetry Flash with the most mouth-watering selection of wood bookshelves in all sizes. One of these days, I tell myself... but it's slightly more extravagant than treating myself to, say, an ice cream cone.

Bumpersticker of the day (seen at the Malibu Civic Center on Cross Creek Road:


I know, I know; it's terribly un-PC. So I apologize to any and all cat lovers, feline co-dependents or slaves to their pets.

But it sure got a laugh out of me... especially seeing as how it was on the back of an old pick-up truck surrounded by luxury cars in the shopping-center-that-likes-to-pretend-that-it's-down-to-Earth-while-charging-outrageous-St. Tropez-prices-for-everything-including-a-bottle-of-ordinary-water.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

July 4, 8:11 a.m., on the Metro line 439, at Flower and Third, Southbound:

I just found out that the 439 has been divided into two different bus lines. The Hollywood bus took an hour to arrive, making it impossible to get to my first several destinations on time. The holiday schedule has an unwritten proviso: we'll show up when we feel like it, and you'll be damn grateful or we'll leave you standing at the curb. Oh, wait; that's the MTA's regular credo. They tried a promotion a few years ago: if the bus arrived fifteen or more minutes late, your ride was free. That program was rather abruptly cancelled.

Downtown Los Angeles is a real ghost town. Only a smattering of security guards, the homeless and a photographer shooting Disney Hall are to be seen.

No one I mention it to seems to remember a fabulous 1950s B movie set in New york, abandoned in the face of an alien attack save for a disparate band of stranded people in a cafe; a sort of Key Largo meets War of the Worlds meets Lifeboat.

It was a cool movie.
I never see it in any sci-fi festivals or invasion-from-outer-space film fests at the local art houses. Too bad everyone thinks I made it up.

Since the MTA didn't feel like going to Silver Lake this morning, and it was already heating up, I ruled out going to Pasadena in favor of going by the South Bay cities; I hadn't counted on the MTA dividing the bus route into two. The South Bay towns have long tried to ensure that it is as difficult as possible for the sorts of folks who go to Venice Beach to visit their towns. Time was when all the beach bus routes would be packed in the summertime with beachgoers. Of late they've been packed with Central American gardeners, housekeepers and nannies heading to the McMansions by the sea.

Fortuantely, we arrive at the transfer point to the other leg of the beach trip with time to spare. The bus driver from downtown to LAX was enjoying the lack of traffic due to the holiday to no end, and made good time.

11:00 a.m., Holly and Main, El Segundo: I make a stop to photograph one of my favorite neon "cafe" signs in all of L.A. at Wendy's Cafe. I popped into Cooke's market where I succumbed to an Orange Crush soda; I haven't seen one in years. I think I drank them exclusively for one summer when I was a kid; when the weather gets hot, nostaglia factor aside, nothing could have tasted better.

At the Jeneral Store, I fell prey to a pair of Havaianas with a cool green-and-yellow Brazilian design that were on sale too cheap to pass up. After only two blocks, however, it was clear my feet were going to need a lot more time to remember back to an era when I wore sandals. By the time I sat down to wait for the beach shuttle, it was debatable that these were the most comfortable flipflops around. The bottom of my feet enjoyed them, but the space next to my big two where the strap rubbed against my skin was wincing and whimpering.

This is a town heavy with retired military, airlines and aerospace personnel. If I couldn't make it to SLO for the Fourth, this was about as small town America as I could expect to find around LA. The Fourth of July bunting up and down the street, and folks reserving their places to watch the fireworks show at 9 o'clock in the morning merely re-confirmed it.

8:30 p.m.: I'm on board the water taxi to watch the fireworks from the water at Marina del Rey. We dock at Fisherman's Village and have a great view.

There are lots of 'unauthorized' fireworks all around, too. Everyone is in a holiday mood; it probably helps that it is, like, still 80 degrees out at 10 p.m.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Cristiano, you've been a very, very bad boy

Now go to my room. And bring your friend.

We'll have to teach you a lesson about being such a tease with The Wink.

I suppose that with France and Italy in the World Cup Finals, all eyes (okay, most eyes) will be on their eye candy.

If we'd only had puppies like this playing when I was in school. Sigh.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. There's North Korean missles landing in the Sea of Japan and a crisis in Gaza that can only heap more tragedy on top of the tragedy they've already experienced (you do know that the U.S. will have to pay for most of the power plant Israel blew up, right?)...

So I have two main options: gorge on chocolate... or dream about puppies. Nice pleasant dreams, where everyone goes home happy.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Oh, to make time stand still at this moment (Sunday morning, continued)

There are far too many cigarette butts around the brush by the picnic tables, given the dense growth around the bluffs.

The park proper and the nearby university grounds are well groomed, but that area left wild in its natural state does not bode well for fire season. There are signs taped everywhere to remind all that fireworks are illegal. You can't tell just by looking up the hill, but I don't need to be told where the firelines were after the last big blaze when several fires converged and nearly gave us our Nathaniel West ending for the metropolis.

Scarcely two months later was the Northridge Quake. We had houses without chimneys, and chimneys without houses. And the idiots have rebuilt over most of the area burned or shaken with little regard to nature (or the least modicum of taste). There's one house that looks like a beached riverboat on steroids by Malibu High School... is it so wrong of me to have a list of structures I hope will get taken out 'the next time'--and there will be a next time.

The traffic on Pacific Coast Highway scarcely sounds any louder or any different than the waves.

The County lifeguard boat easing along the coastline is the only craft in the water, until one power boat puttering like a bathtub toy cuts a small wake behind it heading in the direction of the Paradise Cove side of Point Dume.

The squirrels check for morsels left by picnickers, but only a few wrappers are to be found. Hopefully the squirrels haven't picked up the nicotine habit. One squirrel stands on his (?) hind haunches to listen to the chimes at Pepperdine call eight o'clock.

A rabbit comes over to the far side of the picnic bench where I set to keep me company, still as a cigar store Indian save for his constant sniffing.

A lizard --the first of many-- darts out from the brush, takes stock of the scene, and scurries back into hiding.

In Spring, this hillside was awash in wildflowers. Now only a few small buds adorn some of the bushes.

Another lizard climbs on a rock to gaze at me. At the chimes marking the quarter-hour, he starts back; another takes his place on the edge of the concrete, as if gazing out over the Pacific.

The waves are more emphatic now that a pair of rabbits and a squirrel sitting atop a picnic table are present to listen. The few humans in sight in the distance, accompanying their dogs on morning strolls, seem as aimless as the wildlife.

After the chimes sound 8:30, voices of a human couple strolling through the park add the first sound of mankind nearby.

Time for me to make my way to the Michael Landon Visitor's Center at the entrance to the park.

Later, a group of cyclists were circumnavigating the park. They join up with others in their jazzy bright blue and red outfits race down PCH. A father and son were hitting balls on the little league field. Only the faintest outline of the coast south of Malibu was yet visible through the haze; a breeze continued to keep the warmth tolerable.

The birds twittered and chattered as before. Some youngsters practiced with soccer ball by the field.

I just make the bus to the Malibu Civic Center. I almost wanted to hike it, but I was a little nervous about snakes. Okay, not a little nervous. This is their time of day to rule the turf.

Later, the heavy traffic forces the bus to take a detour that leaves the bus driver disoriented. The passengers have to disembark, then we have to walk a quarter mile to catch the Santa Monica bus into town. I get to chat with a retired couple from Jones Beach on vacation, amazed at the real estate prices of LA and its vastness.

I convince myself once again that I like LA, for better or worse. You shouldn't have to have a half-hearted excuse for why you live somewhere-- so much of humanity has no say in the matter. It's neat getting to constantly see the city through the giddy eyes of visitors, some of whom are taking their once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage to California. The Golden Dream may need a little polishing now and then, but like the top of the Beverly Hills City Hall, when it gleams, man, it gleams.

"The three things I love to do most in the world is sit on my ass, drink coffee and listen to jazz." --Richard Fulton

Sunday, Malibu Bluffs. 7:00 a.m., and it is evident already that today will be much warmer than the weather forecasted.

There is a haze just a few miles offshore, allowing the tranquil, rippling sea to fade from a grayish blue to a dirty white.

The occasional breaker lands on the shore below with enough vigor to make the soft soothing sounds of a gentle wave.

The surfers were all at Castellamare, where the shoreline abruptly turns left and begins running eat-west instead of north-south. No where else is appears are the waves sufficient to warrant their attention; yet so many heads were bobbing up and down on the swells like seagulls one wondered how anyone would get a chance to ride a wave.

The birds trill and squawk with a Sunday morning lassitude.

The seagulls, by far the largest, are far below along the shore; most of the others are no bigger than finches, venture inland, perched upon the flimsliest of branches in the brush. Small wonder --there are bugs a-plenty for them to feast on.


I finally got to read one of the articles in the twin three-foot stacks I've culled from newspapers and magazines over the last few months... this header is from a story in the LA Weekly by Matthew Duerstein on a documentary about Leimert Park.

For those of you who never got to meet him, Richard Fulton, known to everyone as "Fifth Street Dick," was an urban legend that could never have been dreamed up by any screenwriter. He made his dream into a reality: a coffee house with poetry readings,
jam sessions (sometimes with big names sliding in unannounced to listen or join in), and so much more.

Man oh man, do I miss perusing the selection of mags and newspapers from all over the diaspora, and sitting down for an espresso and a heaping wallop of peach cobbler at Fifth Street Dick's. As the Leimert Park arts district grew, locals got used to the jazz caravan bus from KLON pulling up in front. The ever increasing number of arts festivals that would take over the neighborhood got increasing notice from a broad cross section of people --academics, musicians, struggling artists, students, African-American intelligentsia in need of sanctuary, black entertainers and sports celebrities, jazz aficionados, and more... It was an incredible example of a community forming without the aid of urban planners or politicians --although they found their way down to the corner of Degnan and 43rd in due time.

It got to be where I even cursed myself for having brought possibly one-too-many people to experience the vibe around Leimert Park. It's been almost a decade since nearly Dick passed away, yet the World Stage still lives on, and his eponymous cafe has survived around the corner from its original location in the space occupied by the Lucy Florence coffee house.

Critical Miami has this cool (and scary) animation of a Category One through Five hurricane. For any one who like to get stoned in front of the computer, you might really get a kick out of it. It's only a matter of time before someone adds a soundtrack to it.

While reading Critical Miami I also came across another really cool site, LibraryThing. If the first thing you check out in someone's home are the book titles on their shelves (assuming in this day and age that they even have books) you'll get a kick out of it; I can hardly wait to do it myself. But it's a holiday, and I'm too lethargic, so not yet.

I saw that Eduardo Santiago's novel Tomorrow They Will Kiss, is on the shelves at bookstores. I came across a new (to me, at least) book by bell hooks, Outlaw Culture. And the oversized book that made me have to leave the store because I got all choked up I'll have eventually return to finish reading, about the Anne Frank house.