Archive for September 2nd, 2010
Shane West is animated when he talks about his role as Michael, the agent in charge of recruitment who is tasked with bringing in the rogue lead character in the CW’s Nikita which premieres on September 9. “Michael is a tortured soul, multi-layered and conflicted but not a bad guy,” explains West, “and he cares for Nikita.” He says the show is not a remake so much as a retelling of the story, a look into the characters’ future.
A quick search of the internet reveals that many of Shane West’s fans are eagerly anticipating watching him on the new series. In fact, many of them would watch him do just about anything. Shane is grateful to them: “I’ve been very blessed during the 12 years that I’ve been acting that paparazzi and fans are very respectful. I guess it would be harder for someone who suddenly blew up in a film like Twilight or who is a true pop culture icon. But that’s not me.”
Shane West spent his early childhood in Baton Rouge, moving out to Los Angeles when he was 12 so his mother could attend law school and, he muses, to “to go to more of an offbeat city with lots of options.” It was during the next few years that Shane explored the activities that would eventually become his passions. “I had a vivid imagination,” he recalls. “I drew my own comic books and loved music. I was miserable at math and science.” Looking ahead to life after high school, he had three potential goals: having his own band; playing college basketball; or getting a cartooning job. Not on the list was the one that quickly materialized – acting.
While a college freshman , West was called to do a WB pilot with Shelley Long called Kelly Kelly and that was shot during his final exams. He remembers thinking, “This is it. I know what I want to do.” The pilot was picked up as a mid-season replacement but Shane was fired for not being funny enough. And he was put on probation at college. For most people the convergence of these events might have been paralyzing. But Shane West forged ahead. “I was slightly devastated,” he says. “My parents lovingly cut me off when I didn’t return to school and I didn’t work for a year but I was too blissfully ignorant to be scared.” He lived rent-free in the homes of his managers and got small jobs to see him through. He says he ate fast food three times a day and was down to his last $100 when his acting career finally got back on track.
Even now – after a string of successes in films from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen to A Walk to Remember and roles on ER and Once and Again, Shane says, “Insecurity is part of being an entertainer. I know in my head I can be okay for the rest of my life but I still worry.” He says it wasn’t until he’d been on Once and Again for three years before he bought his first new car and a condo. “I know this could all be taken away,” he says.
But Shane is also being proactive in his career. His strong interest in music led him to spend six years playing with the punk rock band Jonny Was and the past few years with the Germs. The latter came about after he appeared in What We Do is Secret – a biopic on the Germs’ lead singer Darby Crash who committed suicide in 1980. “That film validated me as an actor. I wish it had been more widely seen but I put my heart and soul into that. The band reunited and now I’m the lead singer in real life. It was an underground success, doors opened to me in the music world – it was a landmark moment, my passion project,” says Shane West. He’s also started his own production company and says some remarkable scripts are coming in.
Clearly Shane West believes in taking charge of his life, even when it comes to relatively mundane details. When he moved to Toronto from L.A. to begin shooting Nikita, he chose to drive himself the 2186 miles. He explains, “I did a road trip and packed the car with my own pillows and blankets, eight pairs of shoes, 30 t-shirts, a video game system and other things I couldn’t have taken in a suitcase.” For now, he’s calling Toronto home and seems happy. “I couldn’t be more passionate about this business,” he says enthusiastically.
Book Review– The Backlash: Right-Wing Radicals, High-Def Hucksters, and Paranoid Politicsin the Age of Obama by Will Bunch
It would be easy to write an Obama-backlash book using buzzwords with clich’ ridden accounts of the right-wing talk show blather-babblers.
Fortunately, Will Bunch does not resort to such pedestrian style bloggisms. As an experienced and award winning journalist, Bunch does his homework and reports on what he has learned in this straightforward accounting of the paranoid fringe tilting at delusions of conspiracy.
Stories about the “Oath Keepers,” “Birthers,” the Tea Party, Knob Creek militia, FEMA internment camps, the resurrection of the John Birch Society and Sarah Palin is all here in Bunch’s over-the-top horrific telling of right-wing populism.
The Backlash goes into the deep background and the bizarre rise of Glenn Beck, the current darling of the Fox News rabid reporters. What is more shocking than Beck’s popularity is the stark indifference of Beck’s handler’s to his lack of proficiency as a news caster or that he has a passing relationship with the truth.
Beck’s raw ambition got him into radio when was only 13 years old in Seattle, WA, where he had an on-air job at an FM station doing the overnight shift on weekends. From that first job he never left radio and moved from one station to the next immediately after high school.
Bunch tells Beck’s story in a series of personal and professional vignettes mixing his failed personal life with his ever-increasing success as a radio personality. His self-styled showmanship was modeled after a format called the “Morning Zoo.” It was a mid-1980′s drive-time fast-paced show with skits, parody songs and caricatures. Beck was riding high in the jocular, content-free teenybopper radio-land for while, but his lack of discipline got him into trouble more than once.
“An admitted sufferer from attention-deficit disorder, Beck clearly struggles with impulse control even after he finally stopped drinking and doing drugs in 1994 with the help of a then-friend, Senator Joe Lieberman,” Bunch wrote.
Beck’s troubles began long before his attempt at recovery as Bunch describes Beck’s downfall both in his personal and professional life.
Bunch weaves Beck throughout the entire book as a backdrop for the many right-wing organizations and events dotting the country.
In his report on the Tea Party Convention, he reveals that as the event planners tried to paint the Tea Party as saving the country for the poor, oppressed, unemployed, retired and small business owners. It failed miserably in trying to make the case it was the right wing baby boomers Woodstock while charging attendee’s $549 a ticket.
It was in fact the fundraising scheme of a small-time lawyer, Judson Phillips, just one of many who took advantage of the many Tea Party believers eager to buy a piece of the myth.
As Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin stump for the little guy, both are fanatically exploiting their celebrity by raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars for speaking engagements to the unemployed faithful, while offering no solace to those unable to pay their utility bills, but quick to blame Obama.
The convention itself became so controversial, Michele Bachmann and Marcia Blackburn, two two right-wing congresswomen, cancelled their appearances, as well as American Majority president, Ned Ryun. Bunch quotes Ryun as telling the media, “Listen, I’m all for a person making a buck, but this seems very crass, very opportunitistic.”
In a philosophic bent, Bunch refers to Neil Postman’s prophetic book, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, to illustrate the obvious of how television is doing our thinking for us, and “people medicate themselves into bliss,” according to Postman, by believing anything they see and hear on television, as evidenced by the fiction that is accepted as fact on Fox News.
The Backlash is disturbing in that it validates what we don’t want to believe, and that is while “fake news” began on the Comedy Channel’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart as a parody, Fox News has become reality as the most widely watched cable news show in the country.
If you are looking for an answer or some solace to the disconcerting uneasiness that the Glenn Beck’s of the world are multiplying, you won’t find it in the The Backlash. Bunch is just reporting here and offers no predictions of whether this marginal world of extremists will succeed in taking over the White House or Congress. He offers no philosophical musings beyond the Huxleyan references to what the deliberate manufacturing of falsehood is doing to our lives.
Yet, like Bunch’s excellent previous book, Tear Down This Myth: The Right-Wing Distortion of the Reagan Legacy, The Backlash is a must-read for those who want to understand what is happening on the political scene and a context behind the doctrine of fear and hate.
This review first appeared in the New York Journal of Books, www.nyjournalofbooks.com
Reviewer Geri Spieler, author of Taking Aim At The President: The Remarkable Story of the Woman Who Shot at Gerald Ford. Spieler is writing a new book debunking San Francisco Values.
Follow Geri Spieler on Twitter:
Back when I was a kid, first lady Ladybird Johnson announced the “See America First” Campaign. Travel America before going to Europe or the Middle East. There’s a lot to see in the US of A, and almost all of them are tourist traps: expensive hotels, cheesy souvenirs and lousy restaurants, you know the drill.
But a few of the things this cheesiness surrounds just have to be seen. It’s a mandatory part of a person’s well-rounded education, designated by the federal, state and local governments to be worthy of preservation. A few of these have also been designated as such by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, as World Heritage sites.
I’m not sure what exactly UNESCO, uses as criteria for designating them. For instance what exactly is there to see at the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands? I know that something important happened there, but since it was repeatedly nuked in the 1950s and ’60s, what exactly is there to see or preserve?
Nothing. I could go on for pages and pages about what deserves to go on the list and isn’t (the Kaaba in Mecca) and what doesn’t (San Marino? Puh-leeze!), but in the United States there are 20, and some of these are actually easy to get to from major metropolitan areas, these plus a few others like Niagara Falls and the Lincoln Memorial are the Essentials.
The World Heritage sites, in order of accessibility by local public transportation, are:
* Independence Hall (Philadelphia, PA)
* Statue of Liberty (NYC, NY)
* Redwood National and State Parks (Outside San Francisco, CA)
* Everglades National Park (Near Miami, FL)
* Monticello and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville
* Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site (Outside St. Louis, Mo.)
* La Fortaleza and San Juan National Historic Site in Puerto Rico
* Olympic National Park (Washington state)
* Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)
* Yosemite National Park #(California)
* Hawaii Volcanoes National Park #
* Mesa Verde National Park (Colorado)
* Mammoth Cave National Park (Kentucky)
* Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming)
* Great Smoky Mountains National Park(Tennessee)
* Chaco Culture (New Mexico)
* Carlsbad Caverns National Park (New Mexico/Texas border)
* Waterton Glacier International Peace Park
* Pueblo de Taos (New Mexico)
* Kluane / Wrangell-St Elias / Glacier Bay / Tatshenshini-Alsek # * 34
* Papahnaumokukea (Somewhere in the Pacific)
Clearly, not all of these places are tourist traps, Papahnaumokukea, for example, is waaaay out in the middle of the Pacific, and unless you charter a yacht for a week, you just can’t get there. As far as I know, there are no souvenir stands, no cheap hotels, no nothing. (However there’s a visitors’ center in Hilo, Big Island Hawaii, hundreds of miles away). This is probably good for the area, and remoteness is good for quite a few national parks and monuments as well. Natural beauty must be preserved.
However, we’re not going to talk about that. We’re going to talk about those other places. The ones that are easy to get to, and despite the fact that they’re plagued with souvenir stands and fast food places are necessary to visit in order to have a well-rounded education.
Not all these places we’re going to talk about are World Heritage Sites, or even government sponsored sites, oh no. Disney World in Orlando. FL is entirely private, and rightly so, but it’s damn near close to being America’s Mecca. You just have to go there once . It’s an essential tourist trap if there ever was one.
First up: The Statue of Liberty, in New York City.
Follow Eric Lurio on Twitter:
Mercury, the fastest planet in the Solar System, is retrograding until Sep 13. Of course the planet didn’t shift gear to reverse, but from earth it looks as if it is going backward. Imagine when you are standing at a traffic light and the car next to you moves forward, it feels to you as if you are going backward. When Mercury, the planet of communication, computers, business, trade and travel, retrogrades, these aspects of life are subject to disruption.
On the other hand, one can use these times for any activity beginning with the prefix “Re,” such as: rewrite, renegotiate, renew, remodel, revisit, return, reconnect and with interest rates at the lowest they have ever been, refinance.
Mercury, Hermes in the Greek mythology, was the god of thieves, liars and tricksters, as well as orators, traders and speech writers. Now you know why at least astrologically speaking you cannot always trust politicians, traders and writers (including me, that is if I qualify as one).
Since Mercury started his retrograde motion on August 20th, the news are filled with interesting “return” stories. Here are a few:
Ken Mehlman, former Republican National Committee chairman’s, decided to “come out” and return to the true nature of his identity. Melhman was instrumental in getting President Bush elected to his second term. He was a vocal part of Carl Rove’s scheme to mobilize conservative voters by bringing gay marriages into the spotlight and away from John Kerry. Mehlman is the highest ranking Republican to come out of the closet, thus far, and used mercury in retrograde end a lifelong lie and regain his wholeness. I am sure he will be able to live a happier more fulfilled life. And as a Republican, he now has the chance to help his party embrace, both legally and emotionally, same sex marriage.
Also in the news, we find the official return of the U.S. troupes from Iraq, while it is true that 50,000 will remain for at least another year, it still a great achievement for a planet in retrograde.
The Palestinians and Israelis sit face to face on September 2. Starting peace talk on Mercury retrograde? Hmm … you know what, who knows, maybe mercury is going to confuse the negotiators to such a degree that they might actually like each other. In that case, a trickster blessing in disguise, we might enjoy peace on earth in our lifetime. Amen.
In the next two weeks try to avoid big purchases and or signing papers. Pay extra attention to bank statements, lock your car (Mercury was the god of thieves after all), and take more time to arrive to important meetings. Since Mercury is retrograding in Virgo, the sign of pets, health, diet, work and routine, you might experience more disruption in those aspects of life.
If you have any interesting Mercury retrograde stories, please share them with us. Any wild synchronicity, coincidences, glitches or computer meltdown stories will be appreciated.
Follow Gahl Eden Sasson on Twitter:
I was vacationing in Prince Edward Island, Canada this summer when I came across this article in The Globe and Mail: “The World Would Love to Be Canadian.” The writer, Joe Friesen, cites this startling statistic: “Given the choice, 53 percent of adults in the world’s 24 leading economies said they would immigrate to Canada.”
I’m teetering on the edge of joining them.
This isn’t a whimsical decision on my part. It’s been brewing since 1974, when my father took our family on our one and only camping trip. He rented an RV and we headed north from Massachusetts to Prince Edward Island, which he described as “a peaceful emerald isle of enchantment, where the sands are red and the waters sparkle silver.” Dad had never read “Anne of Green Gables”, but he made PEI sound tantalizing, like the Land of Oz without the Wicked Witch and her horrible flying monkeys.
Sadly, my mother did not take to camping. “Just more chores for me!” she declared, and forced us to turn around in Maine after driving a grand total of four hours. My parents were divorced soon after that.
Fast forward to my own divorce. When my first husband and I split up, I had two young children; I was dead set on giving them a family vacation, man or no man. Affording a beach vacation in New England was impossible on my single-parent salary, so I convinced a friend and her kids to join us on a week-long trip to Prince Edward Island after spotting an ad for a cottage there that rented for just $400 a week.
We drove 12 hours north from Massachusetts with our kids making more noise in that van than most rock concerts. Between the various stops to pee and feed them all, it was midnight by the time we reached the island. (In those days, the only way to get to PEI was the ferry.) The cottage was on a rutted red dirt road (still plenty of those up there, for all of you “Anne of Green Gables” fans). I was shaking with fatigue by the time we arrived. It was pitch black all around us, but the sky was a bowl of stars and we could smell the sea.
We woke the next morning to the sound of fiddle music. I sat up and looked out my window at Rustico Bay, where great blue herons dotted the shore. Tall purple and pink lupins waved like some Disney cartoon animation; I half expected the flowers to sing. Across the bay was a tall white church, and that’s where the fiddle music was coming from: a festival that we attended that very afternoon. I was hooked on PEI from that moment on.
I’ve gone back to Prince Edward Island every summer for the past 14 years, and sometimes in the fall or even winter, when the snow blows across the potato fields and the roads disappear out from under you. There is never a time when I don’t love it.
Yes, there are certainly moments while driving up Route 95 through Maine (where the state motto should be “Maine, the Infinite State”) when I think, “This is so not worth it.” Even in New Brunswick, where I’ve come to love the Bay of Fundy’s rocky shoreline and the long stretches of farmland with their big brown loaves of hay and spotted cows, I sometimes think, “Why can’t I find a closer place to love?” Then I cross the Confederation Bridge from the mainland to Prince Edward Island and fall in love with the place all over again. The colors seem brighter and the air is clearer here than anywhere else on earth.
The Globe and Mail article reports that more than three-quarters of those surveyed in China said they’d prefer to live in Canada, followed by Mexico and India at nearly 70 percent. Most respondents perceived Canada as a place where rights and freedoms are respected on a deeper level than anywhere else.
Is this true? By now, I’ve explored most parts of Canada, including many of its cities, from Vancouver to Ottawa, from Montreal to St. John. There is urban blight, as there is in the U.S., and visible evidence of unemployment — the Canadian unemployment rate is just over 8 percent overall. Certainly Canada isn’t free of crime or substance abuse. The last time I was in St. John with my mother, one drunken, spacey fellow stepped onto the escalator behind Mom and rested his chin on her shoulder, passing out for a second until she barked at him to back off.
Yet, wherever I’ve been in Canada, there is an overall feeling of goodwill from most people — my husband calls most Canadians “pathologically friendly” because of their willingness to chat you up — and generosity abounds. Most recently, I was staying at a friend’s house on PEI when another friend brought her bike over for my husband to pump up the tire. Within minutes, we were joined by two other neighbors, both asking if we needed help. They stayed for an hour.
Three years ago, my brother and I went in on a small summer cottage on PEI. It’s a typical cottage, mostly porch, overlooking Malpeque Bay. I bought it online, sight unseen, and we’ve camped out in it happily every summer, renting out empty weeks to help sustain the costs of having an extra house. This summer, I spotted the perfect year-round house for sale in the more remote eastern part of the island, near our favorite beach. Now we’re trying to decide whether to buy that one as well. This sounds luxurious, even decadent, this idea of having second homes, but neither costs more than most new cars here.
If we bought the farmhouse, I imagine one day retiring there with my second husband, or living there half of every year after the last of our five kids is off to college. I dream of raising alpacas and selling the wool; my husband is arguing on behalf of goats and cheese-making. Both are pipe dreams at this point. Sensibly, we’d probably do better just doing what we do now: writing and software engineering. But it’s the simplicity of having a ramshackle farmhouse on Prince Edward Island that lures us — and the good neighbors I know we’d find there.
Should we, or shouldn’t we, go for this dream? Am I fooling myself about Canada because the news headlines here are so awful (think war, oil spills, harsh immigration legislation)? Is it a purely escapist impulse, the kind we all have when fantasizing about living in our favorite vacation spots, that makes me want to flee north of the border? Or is Canada really a better place to live?
In the last week, I have been asked three times to give away significant amounts of my time and expertise to people who are putting on programs or putting together materials for a good cause. In two out of the three cases, the people asking were actually fairly rude and demanding about what they wanted from me. And by the third request– which came this morning — I snapped.
Why is it that so many people think authors can give away so much of their time for free? Where do they suppose we get the books that they ask us to donate? How do they expect us to fund the time that it takes to prepare for their event, to get to their event, to perform at their event? It’s the craziest thing! I would never ask my dentist to work for free, or my lawyer, or my hairdresser, and yet people seem to think that it’s part of an author’s job to do programs and events for free. Maybe they mistake all authors for best-selling authors. Maybe they think that because Dan Brown and J.K. Rowling make so much money, all authors are raking in the dough.
I like it that people want me to show up. I think it’s wonderful that they think I have something to offer. I appreciate that they are trying to support worthy causes.
But for the foreseeable future? I’m saying no. I am, after all, trying to write a novel….
Follow Jennie Nash on Twitter:
I just lost two jobs, and the curious thing is I don’t feel bad. At first, I had to assume I was in shock or denial, but now I get why I feel not just okay, but pretty good about my new circumstances. After 30 years as a magazine editor and writer, I was laid off in mid-July. I am fully aware that I’m one of the more fortunate among the unemployed in America today. My thoughts these days are often with the painfully huge number of unemployed people who are truly struggling for survival in a way that I am not. It’s for this very reason, in part, that I insist on recognizing my unexpected blessings rather than whine about losing my job. I do face an uncertain future and that makes me anxious. I’m a single mother with two teenage daughters–one just delivered to college and the other hard on her heels–and a sizable mortgage to pay. I do lie awake some nights worrying. But mostly, I’m fine.
Speaking of my first-born off to college, that’s the second job that just ended for me. (Thanks to my younger daughter, I’m still in the business of mothering, only with a modified job description.) Many people, especially other parents, offered their condolences and commiseration as I flew with my girl across the country to settle her into her dorm in California. Some parents even asked me how I “allowed” her to apply to a school so far away, as if I would limit her choices because of my need for her to stay close. Still, I had to ask myself, is something wrong with me? Why aren’t I sad, upset, or a wreck in some way? I felt happy and excited for her and perhaps the swell of these emotions trumped all the rest, at least for the time being. I am proud of this self-possessed young woman and this does put a lump in my throat. I like the lump. Our goodbye hugs on campus the other day were tinged with neither sadness nor regret.
Which brings me to the benefits of my professional unemployment. How perfect the coincidence: I stopped going to work just over a month before freshman orientation. I had all this time to be home, helping my daughter prepare mentally, emotionally and materially for this Big Change in her life. While her kid sister was away, we shopped, went to doctor appointments, made lists, packed, watched Netflix films and talked more intimately than ever before (not during the films. She has trained me well.) I felt blessed to have had so much time with her, being there without hovering too close, but really being there. Had I still been commuting to my former job, I would not have been so available; we might have run around frantically on a Saturday or two to check things off the to-do list, but I would have missed the richness of the mother-daughter unbonding-bonding experience. As would she have.
There’s another benefit to my unemployment: I get a break! After 30 years of going to work, the last 19 in a sleep-deprived state due to juggling motherhood and career, I can catch up on sleep. (Never mind that I’m wakeful between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m.) I don’t have to dress for work, commute, feel guilty about getting home too late to make a proper dinner for my family. While I hope it doesn’t last too long, I treasure this pause. It allows me to take some distance and ponder my options in work and parenting, not to mention my lifestyle and self-care. Oh yeah, that. And no excuse now for not cleaning out closets or painting the kitchen. I used to feel stressed every day to be leaving things unfinished at home to go to the office, and then leave unfinished work on my desk to go home every evening and not quite finish things there again. This crazy-making cycle can’t be good for a soul. (I never intended to try for Super-Mom, but that’s another story I’ll save for an upcoming post entitled, “How I Failed the Women’s Movement.”)
Another benefit of unemployment redounds to my younger daughter in the form of, if you ask her, a threat of torture. She’s entering 10th grade in our public school. Ninth grade was no picnic. Juggling volleyball and homework was a bear of a challenge. Last year, it killed me not to be home to check in on the homework and make some dinner before her 6 p.m. practice. “Hey, honey, guess what?” I teased her recently. “I’ll be there for you after school now. We’re going to be very close this fall.” She raised her closed fist above her head and tilted her head to one side while tugging an invisible noose and making a ghastly face. But she smiled then, and I smiled back. If the right job comes my way before she has a chance to nail her midterms, so be it. And I’ll be grateful. But for now, I’m going to seize a precious opportunity.
San Francisco — Five years ago, not one but two calamitous floods struck major cities, each taking more than a thousand lives. One, of course, was Katrina, but only a month earlier, 37 inches struck the city of Mumbai, India, wiping out entire neighborhoods. Both of these catastrophes followed truly extreme weather events. Katrina wasn’t the biggest hurricane ever to hit the Gulf of Mexico, but it was up there, and 37 inches of rain was unprecedented in Mumbai.
This month a much greater flood catastrophe has engulfed Pakistan, engulfing a quarter of the country, flooding an area the size of England, killing about 2000 people, and swelling the Indus River to 40 times its normal size. Tens of millions of people have been displaced. It’s not clear how much of this disaster can be attributed to extreme weather.
Yes, the monsoon was heavy this year. In certain areas, like Peshawar, it was extraordinarily heavy, so the localized flooding that devastated Swat and other areas in the Northwest can be viewed as an extreme weather event. And heavy monsoons in the region feeding into the Indus from the Punjab in the east, including catchments across the border in India, meant that the Chenab, Sutlet, and Jhelum were already very high when late-month cloudbursts hit the Northwest part of the Indus basin in Pakistan.
But why were localized cloudbursts over areas like Swat and Peshawar able to generate not only localized tragedy but a national catastrophe? Why was there no equivalent damage across the border in India, where weather charts show the monsoon was even higher?
Some commentators are arguing that the catastrophic floods in Pakistan have as much to do with deforestation as they do with weather. Pakistan’s “timber mafia” have, in the past several years, achieved unprecedented freedom to log at will.
“But this month the mud and water deluge cascaded off the tree-bare mountains and hills with exceptional force and barrelled down towards the plains in mammoth fury. In a trade-off, the timber mafia had allowed the mountain poor to raid the logs stacked in the nullahs to make doors, window frames and furniture for their homes. But, propelled by the force of the run-off, the logs turned into instruments of destruction, smashing all in their wake. Rivers and dams turned black with timber. Relief workers said bridges, homes, and people were destroyed and swept away by the hurtling and swirling logs before the waters spread on to the plains below, engulfing an area of more than 60,000 square miles, more than twice the land area of Scotland.”
The logging in the mountains has simply been the final act in the gradual deforestation of Pakistan — the entire river corridor was once girded by, and protected by, dense forest cover which could absorb water, break the force of floods, and capture the silt that comes down from the geologically unstable Karakorum range as fertile soil.
Now all of the natural safeguards and systems that created Pakistan’s productive and densely populated plains have been removed. Rainfall even slightly above average can overtax the Indus system which, in effect, has been turned from a meandering stream into a drainpipe — a drainpipe too small for heavy rains.
We see similar patterns here in the US. The most damaging floods in American history were the Mississippi River floods of 1993. Again, there was very heavy precipitation, but the river had handled larger volumes of water before, with far less destruction, because natural systems — flood plains, wetlands, riverine forests — were still intact and able to absorb much of the impact of the heavy flow.
There is more than one lesson from the Indus floods. We should worry, tremendously, about the impact of a disrupted climate and more extreme rainfall events. Pakistan cannot handle them. But we should worry just as much about the need to restore the natural biological dampers to the system — the barriers which historically protected Pakistanis from heavy monsoons (and stored their water for drier years.) After all, when causes multiply, the results get larger very fast. 2+2 and 2 x 2 both equal 4. But make that 2 a 3 and the impact soards from 6 to 9. Make it 5, and 10 becomes 25. Preventing further climate chaos OR rebuilding the natural systems that protect us from weather — we can’t focus on just one. We must do both.
I wonder if this realization has finally sunk in for Bjorn Lomborg. Lomborg announced this week that he was abandoning the “climate change is no big deal” camp where he made his reservation, and was instead publishing a new book stating that global warming is one of the world’s “chief concerns” and calling for a global carbon tax and the expenditure of $100 billion.
When I debated Lomborg at Harvard back in 2002, Lomborg conceded the reality that more carbon pollution meant higher sea levels and more flooding in countries like Bangladesh. His response: “Build dikes.” Perhaps as he’s watched natural catastrophes like the one in Pakistan unfold, Lomborg has come to his senses and realized that the human capacity to manage extreme weather is simply much smaller than the climate cynics would like us to believe.
Follow Carl Pope on Twitter:
As the ultimate road-trip song implores, “Won’t you get hip to this timely tip?…Gallup, Gallup, Gallup, New Mexico.”
I’m not arguing. Santa Fe, New Mexico is fabulous, but Gallup, New Mexico is fantastically funky.
The Roadrunner State beckons adventurers with atmospheric small towns that radiate authenticity. Gallup is easy to get to and easy to love. A slice of Americana rarely seen nowadays, it has barely changed since Route 66′s mid-century heyday.
The three-to-four-hour drive from Santa Fe to Gallup whisks you across spectacularly scenic Route 66, now prosaically known as I-40.
Keep your camera in hand: this is the sagebrush-dotted, archetypal Wild West of American legend and dreams.
Where mile-long Santa Fe Railroad freight trains chug alongside 66 in the shadow of towering orange mesas,
where magic hour seems to stretch forever, erupting in blazing vermilion sunsets.
You’ll know when you’re in Gallup; its vintage neon signs twinkle like tinsel strung on Route 66.
Once a railroad hub, Gallup is now the commercial capital of the vast, 300,000-strong Navajo Nation homelands that surround it.
And what lawyers are to NYC, artisans are to Gallup. This is the mother lode of handcrafted Southwestern silver jewelry, hand-loomed Navajo rugs, and traditional Pueblo pottery.
These timeless treasures begin their global retail journeys in Gallup, and are sold here for a third to a quarter of what you’d pay in Santa Fe or Phoenix.
Today, many so-called Navajo pieces for sale elsewhere–particularly jewelry–are Asian-produced counterfeits. But you’ll find only authentic tribal goods in Gallup’s generations-old trading posts. These emporia operate as stores for visitors and as galleries, banks, tax offices, and general stores for Navajos.
Gallup’s highest-end trading post is Richardson’s, whose landmark sign flaunts a chief in a feathered headdress.
Inside Richardson’s, dozens of vitrines are laden with jewelry, pottery, pistols, silver spurs–everything Cowboys-and-Indians.
Some of Richardson’s pieces are newly crafted by pueblo artisans; some are vintage. But the store is best known for its graceful, hand-loomed Navajo rugs. My favorites are woven into Max Escher-like geometric designs called “eyedazzlers.”
I’ve scored my best jewelry deals at Ellis Tanner. This trading post overflows with Navajo and Zuni bijoux, many signed. Ask for Lorie, and beg to be escorted to the wholesale room. This is the reliquary of thousands of “dead pawn” pieces, unclaimed by their lenders. Here, you can find handmade Navajo turquoise-and-sterling rings, earrings, necklaces, and men’s and women’s cuff bracelets (like mine) for as little as $20.
Other trading posts I love: Johnny Murphy’s for jewelry, 1206 E. Highway 66; Zuni Traders for pottery, 114 W. Highway 66; Red Shell for the luck of the pawn, 118 W. Highway 66; and Perry Null for small rugs dubbed “Gallup throws” (here’s mine), 1710 S. 2nd St.
A Gallup visit is unfinished without at least a prowl through Hotel El Rancho.
This time capsule had its fabulous moment during the silver-screen era, when movie stars holed up at El Rancho while filming Westerns. The hotel’s mezzanine is bedecked floor-to-ceiling with signed black-and-white glossies of Hollywood heartthrobs from Jean Harlow to Ronald Reagan to Jane Fonda.
If these hotel beds could talk! Blissfully unrenovated digs go for a song; the quiet, corner William Bennett Room is $98.
Visitors dine decently in Gallup at Fratelli’s Pizza, where the pies are hand-thrown, and at Zen Steak and Sushi, where the maki-maker is from LA. On the drive to town from Santa Fe, you can make a lunch pitstop in the welcome center of the 900-year-old, mesa-top Acoma Pueblo a few miles south of I-40.
Here, the Y’aak’a Caf’s soulfully prepared meat stews and burrito-like “fry bread” are fresh, filling, and amply spiced. And a spin through the adjacent and shop yields stunning specimens of Acoma pottery, swirling with intricate patterns.
Other wonders dot the landscape between Santa Fe and Gallup…
…the vast Anasazi ruins of Chaco Canyon, the primordial rock formations of El Malpais and Bisti Badlands, the pinon-scented trails of Petrified Forest National Park and Red Rock State Park.
But these are adventures for another day. For now, you’ve marveled at New Mexico’s panorama, Gallup’s heritage, and an incomparable turquoise-and-silver Navajo bracelet that is now yours. You’ve gotten your kicks on Route 66.
All photos Karen Tina Harrison
Follow Karen Tina Harrison on Twitter:
Nearly half the world has no access to even simple financial services such as savings. In India, nearly 70% of the people are estimated to be excluded from formal financial services that most people like you and I who are reading this blog take for granted. There are a number of efforts in India to bring financial access to the poor. I spent a month in India talking to social entrepreneurs and senior government officials learning about these efforts and discussing with them, with Vijay Mahajan, social entrepreneur and founder of Basix India, and co-founder of Financial Access at Birth (FAB) campaign, ways to make financial access a reality for everyone.
It is clear that the traditional model of delivery of banking services, in a bank branch, is not appropriate for the poor for two important reasons. First, Because the size of the transaction services needed by the poor are small, the transactions costs as a proportion of the amount transacted are way too high in the traditional branch banking model. Second, the poor are uncomfortable transacting in a bank branch because it is inconvenient, takes a long time and the procedures are too long and confusing for them. So if financial services are to become a reality, they will have to be delivered in non-traditional places and the costs of transactions will have to be brought nearly close to zero.
In Hyderabad, I was invited by Shiva Kumar, the chief general manager of State Bank of India (SBI) — the largest public sector bank in India — to visit and see the operation of an SBI kiosk, called Customer Service Point (CSP), a mini savings bank account that can be opened with an initial deposit of just one rupee (approximately two U.S. cents). The no-frills kiosk is located in a busy, relatively poor urban setting in Hyderabad and is managed by a start-up called Geosansar.
There was a young man working at the kiosk with a netbook that was connected to the internet using a USB wireless data card. He demonstrated a live opening of a new one rupee account. A biometric fingerprint capture device, made in Taiwan that costs about U.S. $50, was connected to the USB port of the netbook. He swiped three fingers from each hand, one finger at a time (three times for a consistent reading), for a new customer.
He then took the customer’s picture using the webcam of his netbook, entered in the customer’s name, address etc. (all this information is transmitted to the SBI sever, nothing is stored on his laptop ) and voila! — was the account created? No, not so fast, I was told. He then took out a paper application form in which he filled the same information, printed and pasted customer’s picture on the form, made him sign the form (if the customer cannot sign, they take the customer’s thumb print) and he would mail the form to SBI’s main branch. After the main SBI branch receives the application, someone there verifies the information and then SBI mails to the customer his bank account information and an ID card that has his picture on it in seven to 10 days.
The last part of the procedure, filling out the paper application, mailing it in and waiting for the ID and account information — seemed superfluous and unnecessary to me. After all, hadn’t he just entered all this information and uploaded it on the SBI server? I was first told that the paper application was necessary because an SBI officer needed to “verify” the information. How? The same information appears on both the online and the paper application. If all that was being checked was if the young man at the kiosk had made typos in entering the information, one could ask him to type in that information twice! I was then told that creating a paper application was a regulatory requirement — a requirement that seemed meaningless, costly and one which would make the opening of the account less attractive.
The cost of maintaining a kiosk is Rs 20,000 (about U.S.$400) a month, besides an initial one-time cost of Rs 70,000 (about U.S.$1,400). SBI has outsourced this operation to a company called Geosansar who gets a fee of 0.5 per cent for each transaction.
In New Delhi, Vijay Mahajan and I met Abhishek Sinha, the founder of EKO, who has pioneered an innovative approach to bringing instant financial inclusion using only a mobile phone and delivery of financial services such as cash deposits and withdrawals, both for SBI and for ICICI Bank — a private sector bank in India — in retail stores, here again called, Customer Service Points (CSP).
To open an account, the customer needs to bring one photograph and a proof of address to the retail store, which then fills out a paper application form which is sent to the bank. The retail store owner who acts as a bank correspondent also has an account with the bank. There is a one time fee of Rs 100 (about U.S. $2) to open an account. After opening the account, there are two plans offered. In the Premium Transaction Plan, for an yearly maintenance fee of Rs 100, all transactions, deposits, withdrawals and transfers, are free. In the Basic Transaction Plan, there is no maintenance fee but each transaction, deposit, withdrawal or transfer, costs Rs 2 (about U.S. $0.04) regardless of the amount involved.
The customer receives a booklet containing a series of numbers, which together with a four digit pin that the customer chooses, form the basis of all transactions. Each type of transaction involves punching in numbers on a mobile phone and are sent as a text message to the bank. The confirmation of each transaction is immediately confirmed in the form of a return text message by the bank. No other device or technology is used in the entire procedure.
When the customer makes a cash deposit at the retail store, his or her account is credited and simultaneously the account of the retail store owner is debited by the same amount. The opposite is true of a cash withdrawal. A transfer involves no cash transaction and thus two accounts involved in the transfer are automatically credited and debited. The retail store owner, if he nets collecting cash at the end of the day, deposits this cash with EKO’s agents known as “Feet on Street” who visit the store once a day to collect this cash which is then taken to another intermediary known as the super CSP who would eventually deposit its net cash position at a bank branch or an ATM.
Vijay Mahajan and I felt that the transaction fee model could be tweaked a little. For instance, to encourage the poor to save frequently, the transaction fee for depositing a small amount could be made zero for an amount less than Rs 100, and 1% for an amount greater than Rs 100 with a cap of Rs 2 for each transaction. To discourage frequent and small withdrawals, a minimum fee could be charged. Since transfers and remittances involve no cash handling at the retail stores, these could be charged a fee that is a percentage of the amount transacted.
But more importantly, for a model like this to work and eventually lead to use of electronic cash rather than physical cash which is largely responsible for increasing the costs (see this paper by Ignacio Mas of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) , the availability of financial delivery services at retail stores will have to become ubiquitous. Currently, only a few thousand EKO outlets near Delhi and a corresponding number in Bihar (who are largely recipients of remittances by migrant workers in Delhi area) have these services available. In fact, we had to drive over an hour to find a couple of outlets in an area known as Guragaon!
This is where the role of the government comes in. If there were a push by the Indian government to integrate financial inclusion with a comprehensive scheme such as the Unique ID, headed by co-founder of Infosys and business tycoon Nandan Nilekani, or with Financial Access at Birth (FAB) initiative that we have launched, or with a combination of the two, financial inclusion may indeed become a reality for millions of India’s poor in the coming years. The interest on a $100 deposit that we suggest in FAB initiative would be enough to cover the transaction costs of $2 per year that seem to make EKO type accounts feasible (a CGAP study documents EKO to be one of the most transaction cost efficient operations in the world even with the estimates reported in the study which seem high to me). Our discussions with senior government officials suggested a great deal of optimism and possibilities. So, even though the SBI and EKO models currently seem clunky and not easy as using cash or credit and debit cards, the creativity of entrepreneurs leaves us hopeful and excited.
Follow Bhagwan Chowdhry on Twitter:
(Photo by Dave Wendt)
Anyone that knows me knows my love of Chevy Corvettes. I’ve had one as my daily driver for years and one day plan to add a ’63 Split Window (black on black of course) to my garage of toys.
My passion for ‘vettes began as a kid. My mother drove a 1975 Corvette, bright blue with blue leather interior. My mom didn’t just drive a ‘vette, she knew plenty about them as well. Anytime we were out driving around, she’d test me on what year the Corvette was we’d pass in a parking lot or pulled up beside us. I knew the answer every time as she had taught me all the tell tale signs for what changes had been made each year. I also loved the camaraderie we had with other ‘vette owners. You always gave the “peace” sign to each other as you passed on the road. It was like some secret club that only we knew about.
(Photo by Dave Wendt)
We also belonged to the San Jacinto Corvette Club in Houston, Texas. They met monthly, and had car shows and race events periodically. I loved walking a parking lot filled with vettes. With a variety of models and paint jobs, I was in heaven. And who can resist the roar of a big block engine on the track? My mother used to drag race her ‘vette while I sat in the bleachers cheering wildly!
Perhaps that’s all a little TMI, but it’s how I became so crazed about anything Corvette related; including literature. Recently I caught wind of a new publication titled “Legendary Corvettes”: ‘Vettes Made Famous on Track and Screen. Just what I need, another book to tempt me into acquiring another car. (Ok so it’s not that hard to tempt me)
For starters, the book offers a cover that doubles as eye candy to peak the readers interest, and then opens into a poster, perfect for framing and hanging in the garage for motivation! Inside, the book covers 18 of the most prized Corvettes of all time; from the early models (and yes, there is a chapter on the ’63!) to the 2009 Blue Devil. I have yet to drive one of those – have you?
(Photo by Dave Wendt)
The book starts at the beginning and details how the Corvette came to life, other sports cars being produced at the time, and the people involved in bringing the Corvette to the production line. You get an understanding of what Chevy was up against in the racing world, and what they were willing to do to create a “Super Sports Car”.
Did you know they made a right side steering wheel Corvette? Ok, well not a production car. Did you ever catch the Mark Hamill movie “Corvette Summer”? Do you remember the Indy Pace car?
I could go on and on about what you’ll see if you buy this book, but I don’t want to give away all the highlights (and there are plenty!)
The book is written by Randy Leffingwell and photographed by the very talented Dave Wendt. It offers 175 pages of full color drool factor. This would make a great gift for that Corvette enthusiast in your life, or would impress your guests while sitting on your coffee table.
(Photo by Dave Wendt)
Order your copy (and make sure to take a peek at some of their other Corvette titles) by visiting:
“Peace, Love & Corvettes”
Follow Reyne Haines on Twitter:
President Obama spent the first two years of his administration practicing political unilateral disarmament. He laid down his arms to reach out to Republicans, and they ripped his arms off and clubbed him over the head with them.
This idea of playing patty-cakes with the Republicans is enormously nave. When is this administration going to get it through their thick skulls that they will never work with you?!
Now, if attempts at bipartisanship had no downside, then of course I’d be in favor of it. As a theoretical matter, trying to reach out to the other side and reach consensus sounds lovely. But it does have a downside. You don’t get to make your own case as you’re playing nice with the other side. They’re hammering you day in and day out, and you keep your powder dry. You know what that ends up in – a massacre.
And that’s exactly where we are now as the Democrats are looking to get slaughtered in 2010. Gallup says the Republicans have a historically large 10-point lead in generic Congressional matchups. The president has gone from a 68% approval rating to the low 40′s. He’s lost nearly 25% of the country in his approval rating. That’s a disaster.
So, the president has fallen and he can’t get up. But more importantly, he can’t figure out why he fell. It’s because you let the Republicans push you down and you never even fought back. You only have two months left – take the f’in gloves off, Queensberry.
Here are how many people you will convince if you don’t argue your side of the argument – absolutely zero. Is the president aware that the Republicans are in the opposition party?
Now, it’s almost too late for this election. Partly because it’s hard to make that turn at this late juncture and because this is something you should have been doing all along so it’s already in people’s heads. But much more importantly, this isn’t about how you campaign; this is about how you govern. He needs to govern with an agenda of change – remember, that’s what he originally campaigned on? He needs to implement his agenda, whatever the hell it is.
Let me be specific. The CBO just came out with great numbers on the stimulus package. They said that it created up to 3.3 million jobs and added 1.7 to 4.5% to the GDP in the last quarter alone. How many Democrats have you heard talking about that? I haven’t heard any. Why?
Because they’re scared of their own shadow. Fox News beat them up on the stimulus package and a poll came out saying people are unsure whether it worked – and that was enough to send the Democrats scrambling. Hey, you know that you might win on that issue – if you actually fought!
I’m not convinced that a second stimulus is the way to go. It would depend on what they spent the money on. But if the president is convinced that we should try it, then he should convince us. If he doesn’t have the courage of his convictions, how the hell are we supposed to believe in them?
They should brag about what they got right, but it’s even more important to lead in the right direction from now on so we can have a reason to get excited about you. If I was the president, I’d nominate Elizabeth Warren, tell the big banks that there’s a new sheriff in town and if they don’t like it, they can eat dirt. Every poll in the country says the American people can’t stand Wall Street – and they’re right.
This isn’t about senseless populism. The big banks did rob us blind through the bailouts (AIG still owes us $178 billion that got funneled to the banks on Wall Street) and they continue to do so with nearly zero percent interest rates (and no lending to businesses in the meanwhile). Is the president going to do anything about it? Of course, not. Because that would make some people mad, and Obama hates that. This is the downside of No Drama Obama. A fight has drama, and a fight is what we need now. Punch them in the mouth. Leave a mark.
If the Democrats keep rolling over and being polite to Republicans because Obama wants to chase the myth of bipartisanship, his four years in office will be a colossal disaster. Here’s what happens when you lay down your arms in any competitive arena, you get your head taken off. Pick your arms up, and throw a goddamned punch.
Watch The Young Turks Here
Follow Cenk Uygur on Twitter:
There appear to be, roughly, three types of recessions.
There are post-war recessions. These are easy to understand. There’s an abrupt decline in military spending, demobilization reintroduces a large number of people into the work force, and businesses supplying the war machine need time to switch to consumer products.
We’ve had them after World War One, World War Two, Korea, and Vietnam.
They tend to end more or less by themselves as society adjusts to a peacetime economy.
There are recessions due to fiscal policy. Either cuts in government spending, as in 1937 and 1973, or a hike in interest rates to tighten the money supply, as was done in 1949, 1958, 1960, 1969, and 1980.
Historically, these have been relatively brief and shallow. They end when the deliberate policies that brought them on are reversed.
Finally, there is the sequence of boom and crash. The first of these was in 1929, and the collapse that followed was called the Great Depression. The others were 1990, 2000, and 2007, the one we’re in now, starting to be called the Great Recession.
Except for 2,000, these also included massive bank failures.
Economists, historians, and, as we move into the present, journalists and pundits, offer a mixed multitude of reasons for each of them.
But now that we’ve had four of them (including the crash of 2,000), we can see a pattern emerging.
Coming out of World War One we had a top marginal tax rate over 70%. From 1921-25 it was cut, in steps, down to 25%. There was a boom, particularly in the fiscal sector. The crash came in 1929.
When Ronald Reagan came into office in 1981, the top marginal rate was, once again, 70%. Reagan started cutting in 1982, down to 50%, then to 38.5% in 1987, and 28% in 1988. There was a boom in the fiscal sector. In the mid-eighties the collapse began, and over 1,600 banks failed. There was a huge bailout.
It was followed by the recession of 1990.
George H.W. Bush raised the rate to 31%. It cost him re-election. Then, under Bill Clinton, the top rate went up to 39.6%.
That was followed by the longest sustained period of economic growth in modern times. However, in 1997, the Republican congress pushed Clinton into cutting the capital gains tax from 28% down to 20%. It was called The Taxpayer’s Relief Act. It marks the moment when the dot.com boom turned into the dot.com bubble. It burst in 2,000, and, along with the 9/11 attacks, there was another recession.
George W. Bush launched another round of tax cuts. The top rate went down to 35%. Capital gains rates were cut to 5%.
This was followed by the Bush boom. There was huge growth in the fiscal sector, but “mysteriously,” it was a jobless recovery. The boom was hollow. It was a bubble. It led to the Crash of 2007, with massive bank failures, followed by our current recession.
How does this type of recession end?
In 1932, Herbert Hoover raised taxes. He did it to balance the budget. In 1933 the economy changed direction and began moving upward.
In 1991, George H.W. Bush, disturbed by the huge deficits that followed Reagan’s cuts, raised taxes. The economy subsequently turned around.
After the 2,000 recession there was no tax hike. There were tax cuts. Corporate profits rose, there was a boom in real estate and in the fiscal sector generally. But there was no recovery. The recession continued for normal people. There were no new private sector jobs. Median income went down. Manufacturing continued to decline.
The historical record suggests that this recession won’t end until there is a tax increase.
Economies are complex. There are always a multitude of factors that effect booms and busts, growth and recessions. It is also a commonplace that conjunction does not necessarily imply causality.
Nonetheless, if the same sequence takes place a multitude of times in different circumstances and the sequence takes place four out of five times — tax cut, fiscal sector boom, bubble, crash, bank failures and recession or depression — it makes a very good case for causality.
The one exception — the fifth significant tax cut — took place in 1964 and 1965. Tax cut enthusiasts always refer to them as the Kennedy tax cuts, but they took place under Lyndon Johnson. They also always cite them as a great stimulus to the economy.
They certainly didn’t improve anything. The economy stayed flat. The Dow Jones stayed flat. It’s possible that the difference between 90% and 70% was not enough to unleash a search for short term profits over long term growth and an ensuing frenzy of speculation.
Those cuts do mark the moment when economic improvements in the life of ordinary people began to slow down, then flatten out, and, in the very long term, begin to decline.
Our public policy dialogue has little basis in fact or rationality.
Much of it, even in universities, is bought and paid for. There is no interest group willing to pay foundations, endow universities, buy radio ads for commentators, who will advocate higher taxes. But there’s lots of money willing to invest in propaganda that calls for lower taxes and claim that they’re good for the economy.
So you won’t hear calls for higher taxes. You won’t find politicians who dare to propose higher taxes.
Hopefully the expiration of the Bush tax cuts will work as tax hikes. That will mark the beginning of a real recovery.
My primary qualification to write about these things is that I am not an economist. Most economists, as Paul Krugman recently observed, are theologians. They put theory first and then look for, or imagine, facts that will fit them.
There is a lot of debate at the moment about what will end the recession and what effect tax policy has. Untutored as I am, I was free to look up the history and put historical charts of recessions, GDP, the Dow Jones average, fiscal policy, and tax policy in parallel columns.
The historical facts are that high top marginal tax rates correlate with a very healthy economy. That high tax rates on the rich don’t impede growth. For whatever reasons, they promote growth. Low taxes on the rich are unhealthy. Tax cuts for the rich are dangerous.
I have been creating images of dance for more than 25 years. I’m known all over the world for the print titled “Leg Warmers” — a dancer’s legs bend in a soft plie, the feet crossed in fifth position, the well-worn maroon legwarmers’ gaping holes reveal the dancer’s orange tights underneath and the two colors contrast vibrantly, one slipper is held together with silver duct tape. This print has sold more than one million prints worldwide and still sells today.
Even though at class they are dressed as though they were going to a rave, their bodies ebb and flow as beautiful and graceful as swans flying swiftly through the air. I took my first art class at age 10 and tagged along with my cousin, Bruce Marks, to his dance classes when I was a young teen. Later, Bruce would became a principal dancer at New York City Ballet and the artistic director of Boston Ballet. This gave me the seed and an inside look at the world of dance. I remember being struck by the dedication and arduous labor the dancers undertook — all for the pursuit of a tenuous career. They never knew if they would make it not, they just did it for the love of dancing and the beauty of the art. I was fortunate, as my ballet images hit a nerve and were well received by not only the dance world, but by people in every walk of life who responded to the work and dedication that my images represented. They related to the fact that hard work and dedication is necessary in whatever vocation in order to succeed.
My philosophy and style as a photographer has not changed. I believe that a photograph should be simple, powerful and sensuous. As a photographer, you should lead the viewer into the image by emphasizing the most important elements thus creating a certain tension, spirit and emotion allowing the viewer to not only see but “feel” the image.
Utilizing my style of photography, I have now turned the corner and am putting my creative juices to the art of the MOTORCYCLE. The visual of motorcycles, with their flowing, steel sculptural forms, have the same beauty as the curves of a dancer but with the power of a jet engine. Some of the motorcycle images are intertwined with the sensuous form of the female figure, the combination of which creates an energy, tension and fusion that brings it alive. The first four prints deal with this; the sensuality, tension and power that only two complete opposites can generate. In some of my newer images I zoom in on the beauty of the details of the bike, for they show line and form, which in itself is a work of art. There is nothing more compelling then the hard shiny steel curves of a motorcycle, which is often more architectural then practical.
Moving forward, I’ve started on my new book titled Celebrities and their Motorcycles. Celebrities and their motorcycles have had a long and enduring affair. Many celebrities love the experience of whipping winds and exhilarating speeds, and with pesky paparazzi always on their tails, the stars find motorcycles convenient for a swift getaway. Since before the iconic movie Easy Rider, celebrities, mostly men but now women as well, have taken to the open road. There are many prints of motorcycles in the marketplace but they are static — no life, just a flat picture of a bike, certainly not what I would call art. Taking that a step further, I will capture the celebrities and their motorcycles as an art form rather than the typical paparazzi picture of just a celebrity with their bike. On a typical Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles, a bystander might run into Jay Leno or Arnold Schwarzenegger hanging loose with other motorcyclists at one of the several popular motorcycle “hangouts.” Some other actors who enjoy riding their motorcycles are Peter Fonda, Tom Cruise, Bruce Willis, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Mathew McConaughey, Ewan McGregor and many more.
Riding a motorcycle, you are one with the road in a way you cannot be in a car, you are exposed to the weather, the air and the smell of the road. Why the link between the famous and the fast? Certainly wherever there is money there are many ways to spend it but could there be more to the lure of a beautiful motorcycle? I have an interesting theory. There are three basic types of celebrity motorcycle riders: The ones who are riding to look cool and may have many bikes but not so many miles on the bikes, the “real biker” celebs who were into biking before they became famous and now have the money and time to indulge their passion, and the ones who started off riding as a fashion statement but then found themselves getting really into motorcycles. Motorcycles also offer an escape from the world of celebrity, the chance to feel free and slip away from the world. It’s no surprise that many of the celebrity motorcycle riders are also pilots. Each offers both the exhilaration of potential danger as well as the feeling of mastery, to be both in control and yet aware that you are not completely in control, that the environment you are in also controls you. I suspect that being famous can be similar in some ways, a odd juxtaposition of power and powerlessness.
We know the motorcycle market is growing in leaps and bounds as people not only love the beauty and power of their bikes but also what they represent — freedom. Motorcycles come from all backgrounds and vocations. They are male and female. They are lawyers, doctors, accountants, dentists, film industry executives, artists, construction workers, police officers, actors and more.
We live in a country that does not have the same relationship with art as the Europeans, who have been raised with a respect for art from birth. Our government has cut back on their funding, such as The National Endowment for the Arts, yet the arts are an essential and important part of our life, and thus we need to reach out to those in the public sector to help support them. Another erosion of the art world and the pictorial image is the introduction of the digital camera. It has hurt the integrity of the film industry, the commercial photographer, the photojournalist and the art photographer. The world wants instant gratification. We are losing history as the photojournalist no longer has archival negatives and simply deletes thousands of images from the memory bank. Photography is a tactile, sensory process. From the loading of the camera with film, to the processing, going over the contact sheet, to the printing, the images surround you, you can feel the paper. Digital is cold, hard and an inexpensive way to create an picture. Those who are young will not know what film is, let alone the process of bringing it to life. There are some who own a digital camera that think they can become an artist or think they can replicate an image. There is a huge difference between a snapshot and a work of art. I always believed that art should be made affordable, for without art, in every form in our life, what is left? What I try to capture is the essence of the image, the same way I have created my ballet images, the power, grace and beauty that makes it a work of art. I would rather have my work hanging in everyone’s house than selling in a New York gallery where one person with the financial means can afford it. Art is the ultimate mirror of our lives. Funny how art seems to take a back seat to so many other things in daily life, yet it is art that subsequent generations use to look into the past. Art tells all the stories.
To view my website please go to HarveyEdwards.com.
My friend Mia Birk bicycled to my house to deliver her new book: Joyride: Pedaling Toward a Healthier Planet.
Joyride is about her 20-year journey helping to lead Portland, Oregon’s transformation into the country’s most bike-friendly city and then spreading the gospel (and the tools) so that all communities can integrate bicycling into everyday living.
Why? So that the places we live, work and play can be healthy, affordable, safe and splendid. Safe and splendid. Those are Mia’s words.
Safe and splendid. That’s a wonderful vision because at a minimum, our communities deserve to be safe for people traveling in different ways. But why stop there? Let’s make them splendid, healthy, affordable places where people of all ages have freedom to move in a landscape that is not polluted and congested but alive with activity, commerce and beauty.
And fun. As a long time bicyclist, I know that one of the secrets of bicycling is that it makes commuting and running errands not just healthy and affordable, but enjoyable. Bicycling is my exercise, freedom from stress, a chance to wave to the neighbors, to breathe fresh air, and to rejoice in my body’s ability to move. You other cyclists know what I mean.
The funny thing about an inspired vision is that it may be regarded as outlandish in foresight, but absolutely sensible and obvious as it becomes real.
When Mia started working for the city of Portland for then-Commissioner Earl Blumenauer (now a US Congressman and bicycle evangelist on Capitol Hill), bicycling was seen as a fringe activity. Now it’s a point of civic pride.
In Portland, the mayor rides. Moms pedal their kids to school. Businesses welcome cyclists, and many have worked with the city to replace car parking in front of their stores with bike parking (that’s over 100 car spaces removed and 61 bike “corrals” with 1,098 on-street bike spaces put in — so far).
We also have literally turned bike parking into an art form. A program I started years ago has placed artistic bike racks in the shape of salmon, coffee cups, lotuses and other whimsical forms in public spaces, and the program has been repeated in various ways in other cities from New York to Nashville. Art racks are one more away of sharing the joy and delight of cycling with all who see them, cyclists and non-cyclists alike.
Mia was at the heart of much of Portland’s transformation. Her book is a personal journey — the battles fought, the victories, the frustrations, the personal transformation from overweight and sedentary to healthy and fit. It’s also a collective journey as she turned bicycling into a career at the city and then nationally, as CEO of a planning firm devoted to helping other communities integrate walking and bicycling into their fabric.
Her book is a breath of fresh air. And timely.
Because another truth is that our Great Recession as well as our environmental and health crises are reshaping our choices. Our old ways of living — from relying on fossil fuels to expecting the government to pay for massive infrastructure and the enormous cost of roads and sprawl — are not feasible.
Car-centric building is simply too expensive — for ourselves, our planet and our communities. We can’t afford our obesity epidemic or the climate-changing pollutants we send into the air and our lungs. And we can’t afford car-centric sprawl and its many miles of asphalt, where roads separate instead of connect us — where we live in one place, work in another and drive everywhere (including the gym to pedal a machine that goes nowhere).
Portland built its entire 300-mile network of bike ways for the cost of a single mile of urban freeway.
Bicycles are the great connectors. If a community is rich in people who feel comfortable bicycling, you know it’s a community rich in connections. Bicycling has the power to reshape ourselves and our communities from flabby to fabulous.
One of my favorite passages quotes the head of the Chamber of Commerce of a Houston suburb built around the oil refinery industry. That hefty man gets up in a public meeting about a new bicycle and pedestrian plan and declares “I’ve got my SUV idling outside. I just came for the free donuts.”
Then he says: “Seriously, y’all. I’m a business person, and this is what I’m hearing: Businesses say they can’t attract workers to come live here if we don’t provide parks, exercise and safe places for their kids to ride. Bottom line: Businesses need fit and healthy employees, not couch potatoes.”
Joyride is available at www.miabirk.com and soon on Amazon.
Diane Dulken works with national and local conservation organizations and businesses building a healthier, sustainable economy. She has served as vice-chair of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance in Portland and founded Art Rack Media, a program that brought artistic bicycle racks to Portland public places. www.dianedulken.com
Follow Diane Dulken on Twitter:
With September 5-11 marking National Suicide Prevention Week, I would like to use this blog to encourage everyone to learn the CPR to prevent suicide. Because people who feel suicidal are ambivalent–part of them wants to die but part of them wants to live–it is possible to reach out to them, and connect with, support and strengthen the part of them that wants to live. By learning how to detect risk and reach out effectively, we can all help to save a life.
This year you may have noticed more headlines involving suicide. Though commonly a subject swept under the rug, speculation about an increase in the national suicide rate makes bringing the topic out in the open more important than ever. Though statistics on 2010 suicide rates aren’t yet available, there has been a notable increase in calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline since the start of the recession. In addition, it’s recently been reported that there have been more military lives lost to suicide than to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The concern over the possibility of increased suicides may correlate not only with military service but also with the economic state of our country, considerations that bring the subject of suicide closer to home than we may have believed it to be.
According to statistics from the American Association of Suicidology (AAS), suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the United States, with more deaths by suicide than homicide occurring in the US every year. An average of one person completes suicides every 15.2 minutes, while one person makes a suicide attempt every 38 seconds. For every suicide, there is an average of six people who are intimately impacted. It has been estimated that 4.6 million Americans have survived the loss of someone close to them to suicide.
Keeping the subject of suicide in the dark can lead to lives lost that could have been saved, and to survivors ignored and left to deal with their complex emotions in isolation. So what actions can each of us take to help save a life? This month on PsychologyToday.com, I have outlined a list of directives for preventing suicide that include:
-Help identify people at risk early
-Recognize the warning signs
-Learn the Helper Tasks
-Don’t let it be a taboo topic
-Don’t glorify or glamorize suicide
-Support a comprehensive community response
-Restrict the means for suicide
-Reach out to survivors of loved ones lost to suicide
You can learn more about each of these preventative measures by watching “Understanding and Preventing Suicide” this September 9 at 11 a.m. PDT. I will be hosting this free one-hour webinar designed to help the public and professionals learn the warning signs of suicide as well as the helper tasks that can save a life. You can also read “Let’s Put a Stop to Suicide” on PsychologyToday.com.
For a comprehensive guide to preventing suicide visit PsychAlive’s Suicide Prevention Advice page
Remember, if you or someone you know is in crisis or in need of immediate help call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). This is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a free hotline available 24 hours a day to anyone in emotional distress or suicidal crisis or who is worried about someone they love.
Follow Lisa Firestone on Twitter:
Americans might soon have another reason to ask themselves: “What is the president thinking?”
With the flourish of a veto pen, President Obama is likely to disappoint and confuse both friends and some foes this fall; an interesting choice given his approval-rating challenges.
How will President Obama manage to infuriate some conservatives and many liberals all at once? By vetoing a defense spending bill — a bill that would please some national defense conservatives by supporting our troops and please liberals by foolishly ending the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
So why would he miss what some political observers call a win-win opportunity?
The provision the Obama administration opposes (so strongly that they will choose a veto) is actually one many Democrats and Republicans support. If enacted as-is, the bill would anger social conservatives (we are group he never counts on) and one interested party: a large defense contractor.
As passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, the defense bill funds development of two engines for the Joint Strike Fighter — a plane that will be the fighter jet of the future for both the U.S. and our allies around the world.
Development of two engines means pitting two manufacturers against one another. The competition will breed innovation and cost savings over the life of the fighter jet’s program. The two-engine approach also means having a backup if for some reason there is a problem with the engine that ultimately makes it into the fuselage of the plane. For reasons from efficiency to safety, the development of two engines is the chosen approach of the U.S. House of Representatives. It also has a cost-benefit stamp of approval from the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO).
The competition that is encouraged by the two-engine approach is, however, not an ideal scenario for manufacturer Pratt and Whitney, who otherwise would fully own the Joint Strike Fighter’s engine development and production for as long as the plane is in the sky. That’s big money billions over decades — so it’s not surprising Pratt and Whitney has pulled out all the stops in its lobbying campaign.
The U.S. Senate will act on the defense-spending bill after they return from recess. If they agree with their colleagues in the House and the experts at the GAO that the two-engine approach is the best way to spend taxpayers’ hard-earned money, then the President has promised to uncap his veto pen. This will be big news, and it will be a bad story for the president. While homosexual rights groups will be disappointed over the missed opportunity to repeal the conservative supported “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” most Americans will be stunned by the willingness of the president to put off funding for our troops.
Why has the Obama administration dug in its heels on this issue? Is it an example of successful lobbying? Could a single defense contractor really have that much influence over the Obama administration? I doubt it.
Or could the Joint Strike Fighter engine veto threat simply be a straw man that will enable the president to strangle needed support for our troops in the Middle East, thereby hobbling their effectiveness and laying the groundwork for an early withdrawal? Perhaps.
Has his support for so-called progressive social policy in the armed forces been simply lip service to an influential left-wing constituency? I don’t think so.
No one knows the answers to these questions. But they will surely be asked. Many will once again ask “What is he thinking?” And his poll numbers will continue to fall.
NEW DELHI — Tarun Tejpal — muckraker, editor and novelist — is speaking with professional zeal and a certain generational remorse about his remarkable ten-year-old magazine Tehelka.
In the slick commercial media of New Delhi, Tehelka is the strong-minded reformist alternative. It could remind you of The New Yorker and The Nation back home. Tehelka is fearless and critical if not exactly radical in its politics; it is passionate and informed but not forbiddingly high-brow on literature, movies and the arts. Tehelka’s greatest coup was a sting back in 2001 that made bribery look routine and easy in military arms procurement. It cost the Defense Minister his job but brought a vengeful bureaucracy down on the magazine, which has barely survived financially.
Tarun Tejpal’s father was a military officer who wore English suits and used a knife and fork. He was what Indians call with some embarrassment now, a “Brown Sahib,” wishing his way into the ruling class. Tarun Tejpal’s daughters, on the contrary, have chosen colleges and careers in the United States — in a modern Indian spirit that admires America despite everything, as in “Yankee go home, and take me with you.” Tarun Tejpal himself, as a young scholar and athlete, dropped out of the Rhodes Scholarship race that would have sent him to Oxford because he couldn’t miss a day of the historic action unfolding in India as he came of age in the Eighties. He finds himself now, age 47, appalled at the opportunities missed, the visions that lost traction, the generation and social class that abandoned “the idea of India” for an orgy of acquisition and consumption.
Follow Christopher Lydon on Twitter:
When the Today show challenged financial editor Jean Chatzky to wear only six items for 30 days, my heart sank. If I was asked to do the same, there’s no way I would survive. (Confession: I don’t think I’ve even worn a single item in my wardrobe six times!) As it turns out, this is a thing. Just like that couple who decided to get rid of all of their stuff but 100 items, now people — in an effort to save money, curb their carbon footprint, control their fashion addiction or simply prove a point — are challenging themselves to spend less and wear less. Conscious shoppers are joining communities like The Great American Apparel Diet and Six Items or Less, supporting each other, sharing their adventures and encouraging others to sacrifice stuff and (gulp) style.I don’t know if I can follow in their footsteps exactly. One month is a long time, not to mention, a lot of small loads of laundry. But, I’ve decided on a style challenge of my own: I’m going to wear only six (interchangeable) items during New York Fashion Week. It’s the time of year when I plan, plan, plan my outfits days (sometimes weeks) in advance. It’s when I wear my prized possessions, pull together my favorite outfits and glam it up like there’s no tomorrow. I’ve already RSVP’d to a handful of shows (and the list is still growing). Can I really do this? Ack! Starting September 9, I will be out and about in New York City in a combination of the following:• a little black dress• a navy blue boyfriend cardigan• a white A-line skirt• a striped button-down shirt• a pair of blue jeans• a plain white teeCheck iVillage in a week as I post my outfits daily. And, wish me luck! (I may need it.)Like This? Read These:- Would You Live the Simple Life?- What’s On My Fall Wishlist?- Fun with Vintage: I Traveled, I Shopped and I Put Together Some Cheap Outfits
Follow Ysolt Usigan on Twitter:
Before I start this post, let’s look at the actual situation. The economy is terrible, people are really hurting, they have been holding out and are starting to drop off the map. There are signs that with the stimulus fading things are starting to turn back down. But compared to what?
The overall jobs picture:
The manufacturing jobs picture:
Finally, the huge deficits. The context of this next chart is that Bush’s last budget year left us with a $1.4 trillion deficit! The projected budgets from this President will cut this in half in the next few years.
You can see for yourself from the pictures. (chart source) Under conservative policies everything was spiraling downwards. The stimulus clearly worked and stopped the death sprial, but was not enough. According to the Congressional Budget Office,
The stimulus worked but was not enough. Economists Agree: Stimulus Created Nearly 3 Million Jobs,
The stimulus worked but was not enough.
In the context of this picture of the economy, President Obama’s economic advisor Christine Romer is stepping down. In her departing speech she said that the economy needs more stimulus to get us to the point where private business is again driving the economy. Romer Calls for More Stimulus,
U.S. Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Christina Romer, in her final speech before stepping down, called on the country to stomach new stimulus measures to lift the lackluster economy, even in the face of growing fears about the nation’s deficit.
“Concern about the deficit cannot be an excuse for leaving unemployed workers to suffer,”
The clear conclusion from all available evidence: The stimulus worked, but it was not enough. In addition, in an effort “to attract Republican votes” that never came, 1/3 of the stimulus was wasted on tax cuts that leave nothing behind but debt. Much of the package was emergency relief for the unemployed, the states, and other emergency safety net programs but won’t contribute to job-creation and reviving business. Only a fraction went to infrastructure, which is the soil in which business thrives and the country maintains its worldwide competitiveness,
The American Society of Civil Engineers puts the bill’s infrastructure spending at $71.8 billion, or less than one-tenth of the package.
The stimulus worked but was not enough. Economists are calling for more stimulus and extending unemployment benefits.
What The Right Says
Meanwhile conservatives are placing their bets on benefiting from a worsening economy, and so are blocking things that might help. Conservatives correctly believe that the worse the economy is doing, the better the chances that they will pick up more House and Senate seats in the coming elections. So it is in their interests to make sure that is what happens. Capitalizing on the shock the nation felt when it heard about the size of the deficit the previous administration left behind, conservatives are trying to block attempts to add stimulus.
And with the original not-enough stimulus fading, the right is trying to drive a narrative that “government spending kills jobs.” This follows decades of “tax and spend” rhetoric that claims that “taxes take money out of the economy,” “government spending slows the economy” and similar nonsense. The original “starve the beast” plan to kill government and democracy by denying them the funds they need is on the verge of succeeding.
To drive this strategy they claim that it is the stimulus itself which has kept the economy from recovering. Newt Gingrich, in Fire the Job Killers,
The big government stimulus bill, the tax increases of the health bill, the plan to let the 2003 tax cuts expire, and the massive growth of government under the Obama Administration are all actions directly attributable to this administration which have killed jobs.
Gingrich even claims that helping the unemployed, not the recession, is the cause of the unemployment!
A few weeks ago in this newsletter, I cited a study by Robert Barro which estimated that without the extension of unemployment benefits to 99 weeks, the unemployment rate would be 6.8% instead of 9.5%.
Republican House leader John Boehner recently gave a speech on his economic plan in which he said that the economy is “stalled by ‘stimulus’ spending” and “each dollar the government collects is taken directly out of the private sector.” (An NDN study found that following the Boehner economic plan will add $4.188 trillion to the debt.)
Some other voices on the right:
Murdoch’s NY Post: Romer admits stimulus failed
Dr. Christina Romer is leaving the Obama administration, and in her final speech she admits that the stimulus did not work to revivie the economy as she had hoped and as President Obama promised.
Malkin’s Hot Ait: Romer: We had no clue … and still don’t
Instead of cutting taxes (especially capital gains taxes) and reducing regulation to entice new investment, Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats chose to chase a government takeover of health care, a massive tax on energy production that would penalize expansion and growth, and expanding the jurisdiction on Wall Street of the same agencies that had watched the collapse come and did nothing about it.
Except, of course, 1/3 of the stimulus was tax cuts. (Further proving that tax cuts leave nothing behind but more debt.)
These are just a few samples from the drumbeat.
America faces a choice. The stimulus worked but was not enough. So we can proceed with “reality-based” solutions that have helped, and demand more stimulus, or we can go back to conservative policies that killed the economy.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.
Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.
Follow Dave Johnson on Twitter:
Astronaut Chris Hadfield will become the first Canadian commander of the International Space Station in 2013, the Canadian Space Agency announced.
Mr Hadfield will blast off on his third trip into space on a Russian spacecraft with five others in December 2012.
The 51-year-old will take control of the station during the second half of a six-month trip.
As commander, Mr Hadfield will be responsible for the crew's safety and operations on the station.
The veteran astronaut will also work as a flight engineer onboard the station during the first four months of the trip, while carrying out scientific experiments, robotics tasks and technology demonstrations.
During a trip to the ISS in 2001 to deliver and install a robotic arm, Mr Hadfield became the first Canadian to perform a spacewalk.
This week’s meetings between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas went better than expected, with both leaders saying all the right things and setting a timetable of regular fortnightly meetings for their peace negotiations.
The leaders had come to Washington amid pessimism and doubts from both sides. Many in Abbas’s Fatah Party did not want him to agree to resume direct talks with Israel after a 20-month hiatus without winning an extension of a 10-month moratorium on building in Israeli settlements.
Netanyahu is under pressure from many in his own coalition to end the moratorium. Two Hamas attacks this week on Israeli civilians in the West Bank, in which four people were killed, two were injured and seven children were orphaned, inflamed settlers who redoubled their pressure to resume building, and sent a shiver of fear through the entire Israeli population which is still traumatized from years of suicide bombings and Iran-backed Hamas rocket attacks.
Yet the Washington meeting went smoothly and produced exactly the outcome President Obama and his team had planned. Netanyahu and Abbas agreed to meet again in Egypt on Sept 14 and 15 and at regular two-weekly intervals after that to pursue their peace talks.
Their public statements were conciliatory and each addressed some of the other’s sensitive points.
In remarks at a White House dinner on Wednesday evening, Netanyahu said: “President Abbas, you are my partner in peace. It is up to us to overcome the agonizing conflict between our peoples and to forge a new beginning.”
Netanyahu said he had been making the case for Israel his entire life. “But I did not come here to win an argument … (or) play a blame game where even the winners lose. I came here to achieve a peace that will bring benefits to all.”
Abbas addressed Israeli sensitivities in his opening remarks on Thursday: “We consider that security is of essence, is vital for both of us. And we cannot allow for anyone to do anything that would undermine your security and our security.”
U.S. peace envoy George Mitchell said Netanyahu and Abbas had agreed to seek a “framework” accord as part of their peace talks. The accord would lay out the compromises needed to complete a comprehensive peace treaty within a year, which all parties have set as a target to complete a comprehensive and final peace agreement.
As everybody repeatedly stressed, there is a long way to go and many tough issues to resolve. The first test will come very quickly. Netanyahu is unlikely to extend the settlement moratorium and some limited construction in Jewish West Bank settlements will happen. At that point, the talks will face a test. Will Abbas walk, or will a form of face-saving formula enable him to stay at the table?
If the talks can clear that obstacle, there is some reason for hope. The West Bank economy is booming and the Palestinian Authority is finally establishing the rule of law. Ordinary Palestinians are beginning to taste some of the benefits that could accrue from peace. For the first time, they have something to lose – and much to gain from a final agreement that will at long last grant them independence.
Follow Alan Elsner on Twitter:
Despite what countless others before me insisted to the contrary, when I was pregnant I postulated that any kid born to me would be the exception to all the classic pratfalls of childhood, like nose picking, an unhealthy obsession with belly button lint, and adolescence.
However, as if on cue on her second birthday last month, my daughter put the final nail in the coffin of my theory and buried it seven feet underground (the extra foot for emphasis) as she became a professional two-year-old.
At around six o’clock that evening I opened the refrigerator and scanned its contents, musing out loud, “What should I make you for dinner?” It was at that moment that she spied the leftover cake from her birthday party.
“Cake?” she squeaked.
“No, silly girl,” I chuckled. “We don’t eat cake for dinner.”
“Cake! Din din! Cake! Din din! CAAAAAAKE!” she howled.
She spent the next 10 minutes sprawled out on the kitchen floor weeping in front of the refrigerator, tears spurting down her cheeks and snot shooting from her nose with all the force of a BP oil well.
While I know from personal experience that a piece of cake can legitimately evoke a great deal of passion and emotion, hers certainly wasn’t the reaction I expected from a child who has historically opted for peas over French fries and bananas (yes, several of them) over chocolate pudding.
As it turns out, that was just the first in what is becoming a long line of food-related tantrums. A few days after that my dad and I took her out for an ice cream cone, and about 11 minutes, 9 licks and 23 shirt stains later, it accidentally dropped to the ground. Instead of getting her a new one, we kind of shrugged and told her it was all gone.
For what seemed like an eternity afterward, she wailed, “Eye crim cahn,” so we attempted to buy her silence with an ice cream bar from my parents’ freezer when we got back to their house. While devouring it, however, she continued crying, “Eye crim CAHN.” Apparently the Popsicle stick failed as an acceptable substitute for a wafer cone.
As her ability to communicate verbally expands exponentially, many of her outbursts seem to be linked to her inability to express herself even more clearly. Unfortunately for her, when we figure out what she’s trying to say, it doesn’t necessarily result in a satisfaction guarantee.
“Watch tee bee?” she often asks, now that she’s figured out how.
“No TV right now,” we usually tell her, particularly if she’s already coming off a Barney marathon.
“Watch tee bee! Watch tee bee! WATCH TEE BEE!” she’ll sob, shaking the remote at the direction of the television as if it’ll understand intuitively what’s she after and turn on and to Sprout, despite the crucial fact that none of the correct buttons are being pressed.
The people who live next door and those in neighboring towns are now keenly aware and equally distressed when there’s an active moratorium on television in our home. We’re looking into buying new eardrums in bulk to see if that’ll take the sting out of the inevitable “your daughter is responsible for my acute hearing loss” class-action lawsuit.
We were clicking through pictures of her favorite subject (herself) on my computer on an airplane last week when the pilot instructed all passengers to power down their electronic devices in preparation for landing. Feral cats and certifiable lunatics are capable of more grace and dignity than my daughter showed at that moment.
“Pictures baby! Pictures baby! PICTURES BABY!” she screeched as she wriggled out her seat belt, kicking, hissing and shrieking for a full 20 minutes.
The women in the row behind us were sympathetic, telling me in soothing tones, “This is worse for you than anyone else.”
The people sitting in the row ahead of us appeared to disagree, turning around frequently to shoot daggers from their eyes, shake their heads and cluck their tongues. It probably didn’t help that when I swung out of the way when my enraged daughter tried to pull my hair, she succeed instead in grabbing what there was of it on the head of the man in front of me.
That kind of wrath isn’t limited to airplanes and photos.
“Drop bunny!” she’s been bawling lately when she throws her plush toy on the floor of the car.
“Drop BUNNY wabbit! Drop bunny WABBIT!” she’ll then scream so as to clear up any confusion in case I might have mistakenly thought she was referring to an old-fashioned television antennae or a soft-core porn model instead of her stuffed white one with whiskers and droopy ears.
When I risk crashing into the median by turning around to retrieve it, she’ll grab it from me, cling to it, bite its nose and laugh through her tears like she’s reuniting with her long lost lover in a Nicholas Sparks novel. Until she throws it down again.
Every time I’ve thought she’s been transitioning out of a particularly unpleasant phase, those same parents who predicted it in the first place seem to take an evil joy in letting me know that as bad as that one was, it’s only about to get worse. Three is the new two; four is the new three. So much to look forward to.
But at least I take a secret delight in knowing that as challenging as my kid can be, theirs always seem worse. Just like I always knew it would be.
Follow Meredith C. Carroll on Twitter:
What a difference 10 years makes! Talking here about the 10 years since the long-running Our Sinatra tribute revue premiered and its current return as the two-week fall season-opener for the Oak Room at the Algonquin. This is the musical opus for which Eric Comstock linked together songs associated with Hoboken, New Jersey’s own world-renowned crooner.
When Comstock and revue-mates Hilary Kole and Christopher Gines first loped through the enterprise, it was with the kind of superficiality that thoroughly belied Comstock’s contention that what set Sinatra apart from the other 40′s crooners whom he either influenced or started out with was his ability to “inhabit a song.”
In 2000, the light-hearted, some might say light-weight, trio inhabited very few of the 60-plus tunes. They barely nodded at them from the other side of the room. They offered what was at most an inoffensively diverting entertainment — something their subject, were he alive to experience it, might have rewarded with pats on three heads.
But — to paraphrase an early Sinatra hit that crops up second in the Our Sinatra line-up — oh, look at them now! Ten years has done what anyone might hope that amount of passing time would do. It’s matured each of the three so that what once was a lick and a promise accorded the inclusions is now a case of songs treated with utterly convincing maturity, depth and, where appropriate, genuine humor.
When soloing, each commands full attention. They exhibit artistry nowhere present in their turn-of-the-century day. In duets or when harmonizing as a trio (with Boots Maleson on bass), they relate as seasoned, refreshed players. Directed by Kurt Stamm, they move fluidly from number to number, working the Oak Room as if they’ve been romping through the soign environ for months.
Of the three, the one who’s progressed the farthest — every time she picks up a microphone she seems to have made another performing quantum leap — is the brunette-stunning, always understatedly dressed Kole. Impressive acting ability now accounts for much of her ease with either a ballad or swing ditty. A decade back, this is something she didn’t — couldn’t — begin to display. Her torchy treatments of the important Sinatra signature songs “I’m a Fool to Want You” and the breezy “I’ve Got a Crush on You” (with a scatted coda) herald a vocalist who deserves to be rated high in anyone’s book.
Gines, ten years ago a beanpole of pseudo-swagger, brings an unexpected gravitas to his selections. Every once in a while, he even infuses his tones with a Sinatra timbre. Curiously enough, it’s not really Sinatra whom he most sounds like but the almost-completely-forgotten Dick Haymes. Though he isn’t as limber as he might be, he hushes the room with his attack on the more intense numbers. He even gets away with “Ol’ Man River,” which Sinatra delivered towards the end of MGM’s silly 1946 Jerome Kern biopic, Till the Clouds Roll By. To Gines’ credit, he does a better job than Sinatra, who did anything but inhabit the Show Boat stunner.
Remaining at the piano for all but the “Put Your Dreams Away” encore, Comstock is playing and arranging at the peak of his estimable form — even if he still resorts to speak-singing when anticipating pitch trouble. Able to turn his academic’s command of American Song Book history into amusing asides, he’s the party guest who sits down to the ivories and effortlessly keeps the atmosphere convivial. Of course, he does about a third of the singing, and while doing it, he tosses off a version of “Everything Happens to Me” that may be the best rendition of this lovable self-pitying threnody ever tossed off.
If a crabby spectator want sto find fault, it’s possible with the now-ought-to-run-as-long-as-Sinatra’s-name-endures piece. In this attempt to get around to every significant Sinatra song the man ever recorded (approx. 1500), medleys inevitably crop up. That means some of the great songs written by American masters are harshly truncated — possibly the most egregious blow is dealt to “The Song is You,” which, like “Ol’ Man River,” is a Kern-Oscar Hammerstein II knock-out.
Some of the ditties picked aren’t famously Sinatra-related; many singers have cut them over the years. Tony Bennett is probably more associated with “The Best is Yet to Come” than Sinatra. “The Second Time Around” was written for Bing Crosby, who introduced the song in his 1960 High Time starrer. Why not drop those and substitute the Fred Ebb-John Kander “New York, New York” — that, yes, also belongs to Liza Minnelli but was a Frankie-boy staple — and “the House I Live In,” which is mentioned but not intoned?
By the way, throughout the proceedings, Comstock, Kole and Gines take liberties with the lyrics, which is their tongue-in-cheek reference to Sinatra’s care-free habit of hip-notizing evergreens. It was sometimes an annoyance when the Chairman of the Board indulged, but the deployment here is great fun.