Friday, October 31, 2008

Get Ready to Rumble: No Electioneering Beyond This Point

Polling machines await at MS 51 in Park Slope.

What will the future hold?

Fouad Ajami in the Wall Street Journal, like much of the mainstream financial media, at least publicly, sees gloom and doom, in the Obama campaign's offers of Change. There will be no quick improvements. There may be more taxes. The country may be in for a realignment. But, while we await the Hope, and Fear, of Change, we need to acknowledge that, in view of 9/11. Iraq, Katrina, the severe economic downturn, health care issues, retirements, etc., things are not heading in the correct direction and new ideas are needed. That is the great secret of this election. We have nothing to fear but fear itself, but that is true everywhere -- People are willing to stick with the past, solutions that haven't worked, fear of elites, but also fear of the "GOP base", fear of religion, fear of losing my religion, fear of taxes, fear of financial derivatives of mass get the idea.

The bottom-line: How can anyone be worried about Senator Obama, since look what a free-market oriented, neo-conservative, jingoistic President has unleashed. Damn, I don't expect miracles overnight, no one should or can, but at least there isa possibility of balance, a corrective to the 8 years of excess we have just experienced. The hope of this country is based on the potential of peaceful revolution and change. Think of these 8 years of radical neo-conservative realignment. The Marxists no doubt are viewing this as an inevitable ending to advanced capitalism. America needs to remain a democracy. That is in our soul, at the root of our being. But what the last 8 years have proven is that a country of our size and economic complexity cannot exist without a strong government to balance powerful corporations. Our social institutions will and must remain strong and democratic but economically, perhaps, we have unwittinlgly unleashed an economic explosion that has propelled our economis system, along with the rest of the world, through the looking glass and into a Brave New World.

Friday, October 24, 2008

America: 2008

Not sure of the source of these eloquent and poignant photos of an American candidate and a quintessentially American family. No matter how you cut it, we are living in interesting, challenging, yet very hopeful times. Wow.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Theater in DUMBO: Floating Brothel at Galapagos

The Galapagos Art Space, an intriguing space at 16 Main Street at Water Street in DUMBO, has a great program of upcoming events.

Of particular interest is "The Floating Brothel" on Monday October 27th, 8pm

A 1600 square foot indoor lake. Five actors telling the story of a ship full of convict women; the underbelly of London; unknown continents; all told within the confines of a 3'x6' platform that serves as the stage and world for this performance.

Ticket info here:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sen. Chuck Schumer: Sees Huge Margin for Obama reports that Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) predicted Tuesday that Barack Obama will win more than 300 Electoral College votes when voters go to the polls in two weeks. (The Electoral College consists of 538 popularly elected representatives who formally select the President and Vice President of the United States.)

“I think this is one of those rare tectonic plate elections where the deep plates beneath our politics move. I think it's changing things not just for an election cycle but, perhaps, for a generation,” Schumer, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairman, said during an appearance at the National Press Club.

Schumer, appearing with GOP counterpart Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, said he expects an Obama win to come with coattails, but would not go as far as to forecast that the Democrats will have 60 seats when the Senate convenes next year.

The Electoral College consists of 538 popularly elected representatives who formally select the President and Vice President of the United States. In 2008, it will make this selection on December 15. The Electoral College is an example of an indirect election.

Rather than directly voting for the President and Vice President, United States citizens cast votes for electors. Electors are technically free to vote for anyone eligible to be President, but in practice pledge to vote for specific candidates[2] and voters cast ballots for favored presidential and vice presidential candidates by voting for correspondingly pledged electors. Most states allow voters to choose between statewide slates of electors pledged to vote for the presidential and vice presidential tickets of various parties; the ticket that receives the most votes statewide 'wins' all of the votes cast by electors from that state. U.S. presidential campaigns concentrate on winning the popular vote in a combination of states that choose a majority of the electors, rather than campaigning to win the most votes nationally.

Each state has a number of electors equal to the number of its Senators and Representatives in the United States Congress. Additionally, Washington, D.C. is given a number of electors equal to the number held by the smallest states.[4] U.S. territories are not represented in the Electoral College.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Watch Out What You Wish For: Senator Biden on "Augean Stables" and What Comes Next in This Brave New World

And, if the economy alone isn't bad enough, Senator Joe Biden is giving the dark low down on the likely crises faced by the next President. Whoever is lucky, or unlucky, enough to prevail in November faces an enormous load of issues, an "augean stable" of a mess to address, with the likelihood that the new President will have his mettle tested by international conflict. The fact that some view us as vulnerable at the moment suggests just how complicated things are:

Senator Joe Biden ABC :

Gird your loins," Biden told the crowd. "We're gonna win with your help, God willing, we're gonna win, but this is not gonna be an easy ride. This president, the next president, is gonna be left with the most significant task. It's like cleaning the Augean stables, man. This is more than just, this is more than – think about it, literally, think about it – this is more than just a capital crisis, this is more than just markets. This is a systemic problem we have with this economy."

Because I promise you, you all are gonna be sitting here a year from now going, 'Oh my God, why are they there in the polls? Why is the polling so down? Why is this thing so tough?' We're gonna have to make some incredibly tough decisions in the first two years. So I'm asking you now, I'm asking you now, be prepared to stick with us. Remember the faith you had at this point because you're going to have to reinforce us."

"There are gonna be a lot of you who want to go, 'Whoa, wait a minute, yo, whoa, whoa, I don't know about that decision'," Biden continued. "Because if you think the decision is sound when they're made, which I believe you will when they're made, they're not likely to be as popular as they are sound. Because if they're popular, they're probably not sound."

Biden emphasized that the mountainous Afghanistan-Pakistan border is of particular concern, with Osama bin Laden "alive and well" and Pakistan "bristling with nuclear weapons."

One would hope that the next decade will pull Americans together into a post-partisan political partnership but Biden's comments suggest that the camps expect the US political scene to remain much as it has been in the past.

After the Fall: American Economics - Post-Boom, Post-Bust

I came across this article (from 1999) this weekend, by Dean Baker, written during the hey day of the first major bubble around the turn of the century (that has such a nice ring to it). It appeared in In These Times magazine, a publication that would best be described as progressive and might even have a little of the "S" word. I had printed the article out when it was first published, stuck it in a folder, and found it again in a box of clippings and stuff I was cleaning out at home. I know business cycles are structural, but Mr. Baker seems to have written the play book for the near future. The Wall Street Journal and much of the business press are not in the business of reality journalism. Oh, they report the economic news accurately, but in retrospect their whole worldview now appears to involve being cheerleaders from the sidelines as the spirit of the free market runs rampant across the land. We now seem to be about to reap a little of what we have sowed.

A few excerpts:
Stock prices will plunge - it's just a question of when. Prices are determined by the psychology of investors. Their enthusiasm for stocks, no matter how irrational, may keep prices at inflated levels for six months, two years, even a decade. Economics and logic can't predict exactly when reality will catch up with this enthusiasm: They only assure that at some point it will.

Although the day of reckoning may be many years in the future, it is still worth thinking about what the post-crash world will look like. Most immediately, a large number of people will suddenly be far poorer. A 50 percent decline in the stock market will destroy more than $7 trillion worth of paper wealth. Some of the losers will be the Internet billionaires and other high flyers who richly deserve their fate. But most of the losers will be middle-income workers who were relying on the stock market to provide their retirement income.

A crash will also throw the economy into a tailspin. Currently the economy is being propelled by a stock-market-driven consumption boom. As people see the value of their stock portfolios rise, they go out and spend money. They are spending so much that the savings rate has actually turned negative in the last year, with people almost outspending their entire income. A stock crash will throw this pattern into reverse. As people watch the value of their stock portfolios shrivel, they will cut back their spending to try to rebuild their savings. This will lead to a large falloff in demand and almost certainly to a recession. A recession would likely raise the unemployment rate by at least 2 to 3 percent. Following historic patterns, this would mean an increase in the unemployment rate among African-Americans of 4 to 6 percent.

This new economic environment will require an entirely different political agenda. Millions of people will be desperate and angry. It will be important to be prepared to move forward with policies that address people's immediate needs and also set the path for an economic recovery on a more solid foundation. In the post-crash world, progressive ideas now seen as untenable suddenly will appear both reasonable and necessary."

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Post-Debate Unease: Turdblossom on Barry O vs. All Forms of Whiggery

Senator McCain threw everything including the kitchen sink at Senator Obama last night and some of it may even have stuck but it didn't seem to matter..McCain may be misreading the temperament of the electorate. Is it possible people want a leader, not an angry Whig. While Sen. McCain was effective on the attack, it seems that among independents and people on the fence, those attack issues are just a distraction right now. No one cares about them right now (even the war is a distraction from the economy -- how bizarre is that?)

"Barry O" is taking his time, exercising care and all due diligence during the debate, since apparent frontrunners like to avoid being cast as "incumbents" so it is a slippery slope right now. And despite the apparent poll leads, and the desire for the American public to indeed make a swing away from the neo-con GOP ideologues to a more liberal-interventionist Democratic model with the Deep Pockets and Magic Money Machines that seem so essential at this moment, care must be taken not to overreach or over-assume by a campaign.

Meanwhile, Karl "Turdblossom" Rove states in the Wall Street Journal (will that paper soon need a new title ?) that perhaps Senator Obama hasn't yet closed the sale with the American electorate:

There's hope, there's vision. And while Senator Obama seems to be running the only true, sane game in town, we can only pray that "We Don't Get Fooled Again"...

Go down, Moses...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pre-Debate Chatter: Senator Obama's Campaign Issues Debate "Talking Points"

According to the, Senator Barack Obama's Presidential campaign has issued talking points to the media in adance of the debate. The email below was issued by Sean Smith, the Press Secretary to Senator Obama:

-------- Original Message --------
Date: Wed, 15 Oct 2008 09:37:27 -0500
From: Sean Smith [****]
To: Sean Smith [****]

* This is John McCain's last chance to turn this race around and somehow convince the American people that his erratic response to this economic crisis doesn't disqualify him from being President.

* Just this weekend the weekend, John McCain vowed to "whip Obama's you-know-what" at the debate, and he's indicated that he'll be bringing up Bill Ayers to try to distract voters.

* So we know that Senator McCain will come ready to attack Barack Obama and bring his dishonorable campaign tactics to the debate stage.

Obama continues to lead on the economic crisis with a rescue plan for Main Street.

* Over the course of the campaign, Barack Obama has laid out a set of policies that will grow our middle class and strengthen our economy.

* But he knows we face an immediate economic emergency that requires urgent action - on top of the plans he's already laid out - to help workers and families and communities struggling right now.

* That's why Barack Obama is introducing a comprehensive four-part Rescue Plan for the Middle Class - to immediately to stabilize our financial system, provide relief to families and communities, and help struggling homeowners.

* This is a plan that can and should be implemented immediately.

* Obama has shown steady leadership during this crisis and offered concrete solutions to move the country forward - and his Rescue Plan for the Middle Class builds on the plans to strengthen the economy and rebuild the middle class that he's laid out over the course of this campaign.

* Already in this campaign, he's unveiled plans to give 95 percent of workers and their families a tax cut, eliminate income taxes for seniors making under $50,000, bring down the cost of health care for families and businesses; and create millions of new jobs by investing in the renewable energy sources.

* John McCain has been erratic and unsteady since this crisis began - staggering from position to position and trying to change the subject away from the economy by launching false character attacks.


Sunday, October 12, 2008


Down by the Red Hook Waterfront,we made one of our brief run throughs of the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Show, Free Fall which has two more weekends and is well worth a visit. Be sure to catch Anna Annus Hagen's and Tom Hagen's virtual studio set up, Dawn Petrlik's installation that explores the GOP VP candidate in the wild, my better half's, Judith Tantleff-Napoli's, mixed media sculptures and lots of other inspiring and provocative work by BWAC's host of artists. We also caught a super ragtime and blues performance by Frank Hoier. And, last but not least, after a quick visit to the always bustling Fairway, we were loading up the car and caught the magnificent sunset above. Free Fall at BWAC continues through October 26th. Catch this impressive show before it's too late. And remember to take a look at the BWAC auction and lots of great work for sale by exhibiting artists. Remember too, support living artists !

Details on upcoming performances are here:

Friday, October 10, 2008

"THE END OF AMERICAN CAPITALISM ?" : Closing of World Markets? - A Brand New Day

Has advanced capitalism in fact swung so far in a free-market direction that it now must be restrained, into a more central/nationally controlled model as we see in China and other nations ? That's how things are looking...

Italy's Bloomberg, Silvio Berlusconi, reports that thought is given to closing world financial markets in order to retrench and regroup:

Washington Post: "With the U.S. government's current push toward intervention and the soul-searching over the role of deregulation in the crisis, the stage appears to be at least temporarily set for a more restrained model of free enterprise, particularly in financial markets.

"If you look around the world, China is doing pretty good right now, and the U.S. isn't," said C. Fred Bergsten, director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics. "You may see a push back from globalization in the financial markets."

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Spiritual Technology: Getting Unstuck on Yom Kippur

Well, the pleasant reflections of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, that usher in the Days of Awe are over and it is time to get down to business, so to speak, with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Despite the social, political and economic ramifications, past, present and future, that are swirling around the current economic realignment, it always comes down to The Personal. The assessment of the Who, the Why and the What of One's Life, where I've been and where I am going. Beyond the legal and ethical, the morality and spirituality of existence on this gorgeous blue orb hanging in the firmament, that may be just a spark in existence, if not fashioned, then perhaps emanating from the "Source." If all politics is ultimately personal, and despite the complex questioning inherent in Bill Maher's Religulous, then surely, at the end of the day, Spiritual (if not "religious") matters.

Somehow, whether anyone or any higher power is concerned with our behavior or actions is not ultimately the issue. As living, breathing, thinking beings, we have knowledge and internal lives, and somewhere depth and knowledge. To live in some kind of harmony first and foremost with ourselves, this offers a time for reflection, for consideration, and perhaps, although there are never any guaranteees, for growth.

I heard from our oldest daughter who is in Study Abroadland and who I miss alot and who sounded somewhat detached from this new season. I sent her the article below which I found and seemed to offer a little Spiritual Technology and prodding on getting a handle on the day of Yom Kippur, which begins at sundown tonite. See you on the other side.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Bounty in Brooklyn Heights: King Harvest Shall Surely Come

An amazing day in Brooklyn Heights. The graceful rays of the autumn sun, the air temperature just perfect, brought out the lunchtime crowds to the Tuesday Greenmarket on Cadman Plaza near Brooklyn Borough Hall and the Supreme Court Building. Tomatoes, fruits, flowers, dozens of types of fresh fall apples (with many to sample), baked goods, and of course, pumpkins and gourds as a reminder that autumn is here. The crowds are quiet, almost contemplative, of nature's bounty and the pleasure of a Fall afternoon. I don't always get out of the office at lunchtime, although I know I should. But a fantastic day like this, almost lets you forget for a moment, almost, about politics, economics, and the like, and just revel in the simple pleasure of being another working stiff on a lunch break, on a lovely day, surrounded by natural colors, in Brooklyn Heights, New York.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Into the Abyss: Global Economy = Terra Incognito

This is edgy stuff. The Financial crisis moved into the Wall Street crisis and now, It is morphing into a global economic crisis. What does it mean? Where will it all go? We are in uncertain times. All bets--and assumptions-- appear to be off.

Mad Dog on the Markets: Get out now unless you can handle a lonnnnng wait:

NY Magazne on Wall Street, Fall of 2009:

Dow drops under 10,000. WSJ: "Deepening fear that the global economy is ailing beyond the capacity of policy makers to cure it sent stocks sharply lower on Monday."

"The Dow Jones Industrial Average falls below 10000 as financial turmoil in Europe heightens. WSJ's David Gaffen parses the reasons behind the drop and how soon we can see the effects of the recently passed bailout bill. "(Oct. 6)

The Euro is a coordinated currency among member nations without a central bank. Only the US can pump out cash as we are doing now, although its ultimate impact is unknown. The American dollar and Treasury strengthens as it is called on to provide reserves to other countries:

But always a ray of sunshine; Capitalism to the Rescue: venture capital & emerging green technologies. The Next Frontier?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Brooklyn Party Cake, Telltale Signs, and Tales of Absolute Zero

Brooklyn Beat turned 54 yesterday . Yep, 54 years ago in Samaritan Hospital on President Street between 6th and seventh avenues, which is now, in the best of Park Slope's pre-Bailout/Economic Crisis Days, an apartment complex . Last evening, I arrived home from the office and our younger daughters, 13, were hard at work making a birthday cake from scratch. Since we are already in October, and Rosh Hashanah had just passed, one of my daughters is already anticipating holiday year-end mode, sneaking "Rat Pack" holiday CD onto the player, where I am still in "In the Fiddler's House"-Izthak Perlman/Klezmatics/"Flatbush Waltz" mode in the remaining days leading up to Yom Kippur. Anyway, we settled on an autumn-themed birthday cake, which Ilana designed and put the finishing touches on, along with Gaby. It was an amazing job, a layer of chocolate cake topping a layer of vanilla with lovely icing in a riot of color that somehow combined the amazon rainforest with Flatbush forests in autumn.

What made this more amazing was that they fashioned it using our antique stove, which came with the house when we got here 8 years ago but somehow, despite constant 'plaints, never got around to replacing. It is a monstrosity that looks like a Buick Roadmaster, all grillworke and chrome and dials. It has a ton of charm and four burners (that function more like rocket afterburners) and an oven that has basically two operating temperatures, Absolute Zero and 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Nevertheless, we have always managed to do an amazing amount of cooking and baking with it. It has large side and bottom broilers. It also used to have an internal thermometer probe that you could stick in a roast and use to monitor cooking temperatures...Well, despite all of this classic, aged, quasi-functional cooking technology, the homemade party cake was yummy, delicioso, and, as always, a work of art.

One of the great things about getting older (if not the only thing) is that the gifts get better. The kids are attuned to my interests and managed to get me "Indignation" the new Philip Roth book, the Blade Runner super special edition from my son, and other extra special goodies from my Mrs.... I also got a Euro birthday card from our Study Abroad child. The cards are always odd and off-kilter and I love it. Last but not least, I got the new Tell Tale Signs, Bootleg Vol 8, which they picked up at the always neat Music Matters in the's another fascinating CD, many outtakes and amazing classic Dylan left-off tunes, along with excellent, really excellent liner notes by Larry "Ratso [Rizzo]" Sloman who authored the classic gonzo rock journalism tome, "On the Road with Bob Dylan" on the Rolling Thunder tour. The notes, like the album, deal with the late Dylan oeuvre, and are poignant, funny, thoughtful and moving, with a lot of inside info on various Dylan projects from the 80s til now. So far, another juicy Dylan package that I can't wait to delve into further. More later.

Friday, October 3, 2008

American Syzygy

photo by Brooklyn Beat/TN 2008

syz·y·gy a pair of related things that are either similar or opposite

If the Democratic Party could muster the ruthless campaign operational style of the GOP, as conceived by Lee Atwater and honed by Karl Rove, would they still be the Democratic Party? Last night's media event shows the complexity of the Obama campaign's desire to play by different, non-combative rules. Funny, you would think that the Democrats were the incumbents. Even though a relative political novice, Governor Palin was a very effective media presence, talking right to the audience. She made for very strong TV. She hit a lot of the right notes, right down to the adorable children. What can one say? While I imagine in a lot of clubs and bars on the coasts or on college campuses, schooled in semiotics and deconstruction, you can easily read the message and sharp media preparations that she clearly received. But I dare say that to a lot of folks, including many working stiffs in NYC, she seemed quirky, a little daffy, but real. As Chris Rock said in his recent special, and I paraphrase, 'Bush messed things up so much for white men as political candidates that people are saying, give me a woman, a black man, a giraffe, anything but another white guy.' Senator Biden, no matter what, is limited by being the white, male political establishment candidate in this debate. That seemed to be the dynamic at play last night. But the election is for President, not Vice President. Let's see how all that will play out at the next round of Presidential debates when Senator Obama, hopefully, gives it the full court press and shows the American public that he, too, is a maverick with remarkable leadership capacity, a unique family story,and vision for new directions.

Clearly, after 8 years of the Republican Party in the White House, we need new executive leadership. Regardless of who voted for what, President Bush, a Republican, waged war in Iraq, was Commander-in-Chief on 9/11, had a major role in the post-Katrina debacle, and must accept responsibility for the economic mess. That's how it goes, if you are the President, you take the good with the bad. As a two-party system, the Republicans have shown us what they can do; we need new leadership and the Democrats deserve that chance. And make no mistake about it, despite all of the extremely clever debate tactics and rhetoric in which Ms. Palin was quickly schooled ("There you go again, talking about the past"), Senator McCain and Governor Palin are Republicans and it will, to a greater or lesser extent, be more of the same.

So, as the election campaign continues to generate stomach churning twists and turns, for the moment, I am still hopeful, but beginning to wonder if I need to set my expectations a bit lower.

Now Hillary versus Palin, now that would have been a debate. And McCain versus....? Well, don't get me started. But when it comes down to the wire, one gets the sense that people will respond more strongly to Senator Barack Obama's calm, intelligence and inner strength as the leader, at home and globally, that the United States needs at this moment. He will garner respect and offer hope, sensitivity and a vision for a new foundation and perspective that America sorely needs.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Able Danger: Conspiracy Noir

I enjoyed watching and can highly recommend "Able Danger" a film by Paul Krik aka David Herman, that is an entertaining concoction of film noir, 9/11 conspiracy politics, and dark knowledge, with a Flatbush flavor. Ably acted by Adam Neer and Elina Lowensohn and creatively imaged by director of photography Charles Libin, Able Danger is pop conspiracy with a sexy rock n roll twist, if wanna you believe that hipsters may hold the key to the secrets of the universe, and who knows, perhaps they do. The focus on VoxPop and the featuring of VoxPop owner/gonzo journalist Sander Hicks' book "The Big Wedding" as a key document in the film gives it a wry twist. And the Able Danger tracking system which follows hero Tom Flynn on his mysterious errands as he tries to unlock the key to government conspiracies is a fascinating conceit that makes this film fun to watch. But it is hard to figure out whether the director's intent is to blow the lid off of the secrets of 9/11 and spread the information more or less sub rosa in the guise of an alternately serious and comic indy film, or if he is just using 9/11 as a handy narrative coil around which to fashion an arty and entertaining flick.This was playing around 9/11/08 at the Pioneer theater in the East Village. The marketing with 9/11 is a bit irksome, since I met and grew up with some of NY's bravest who were 9/11 casualties. This also explains the late appearance of this review. Whether the director thinks that it is necessary to feed us our conspiracy theory with a spoonful of sugar is likewise hard to figure. It is a twisted, dark, ultimately predictable little indy, but with enough pop sensibility, quirky flair, scenery chewing and local color to make it a very interesting 87 minutes with definite cult-film potential.

Yet rather than uncovering or revealing secrets about 9/11, while Able Danger does what it can, ultimately the film's message appears to suggest that enough time has elapsed since that grim day that it can be the subject of ultimately entertaining films, even to the gorgeous sunlight-suffused dream sequence shots of the film's hero on the roof of a WTC-ish tower that ultimately can portend no good.

Able Danger is a film worth seeing that deserves a wider audience. Perhaps truth, mingled with fiction, can reveal something worth knowing about the operations of power and the state, past and future. At the same time, as it ineters the popular culture, it can blend more easily with urban myth, rumors and dreams. Ultimately, Able Danger may unwittingly suggest that the secrets of 9/11 have been locked up good and tight, if not by conspiracy, then by the passage of time. And they may remain secrets, truths, that may never be uncovered.

Reflections: Who by Falling Stocks

Happy New Year, Y'all. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and the prelude to the Days of Awe, where, if you are so accustomed or co-religioned, you can take a little time to reflect on things like mortality, fate, the meaning of the mundane and the always lurking potential impact of the profound.

Brooklyn Beat and family have been moving through some gentle, G-d willing productive, changes. Our oldest daughter is away studying abroad until next summer. The next tiers of our kids are working on the alignments required in New York City in 2008 to apply to college and high school. Our son is 17 and, suddenly, though not finished high school, is beginning to develop his resume and identity as a filmmaker all of which he has discovered on hiw own, based on his own skills and contacts. Our younger girls are suddenly no longer quite children and finding who they are as growing individuals, as well as in the arts. As part of this, there is change and reflection at home and in our own lives, hopefully geared toward growth, simplification and preparing for next phases. We watched a number of films recently about life in America, in Russia, in African nations and in the middle east. We are aware how, even in its downturns, life in the USA is unique. Yet even here, as abroad, so many people live lives of struggle. There is a maelstrom, socio-politically, economically, and culturally that has begun to spin faster and faster across the world.

As a family, like many other Americans, we are not living large or counting our dividends or capital gains. We work, we raise kids. We live simply. We work hard, every day, at work and at home. We are concerned about our children's futures. Now, the confluence of the New Year, 5769, as in 2009 in the secular year ahead, with the economic crisis afoot, the coming elections give much to ponder, as we consider our own spiritual and material lives, and fate. As the Rosh Hashanah service ponders, "Who by fire, who by water, who by stones, who by wild beasts.." Who shall be exalted. Who shall be humbled.... But we are taking this time to look around and to reflect. The market crisis and its impact still lay ahead. Politics. Violence. Fate. As Zimmerman commented on the blues and traditional music, "The traditional music people look on on death as a fact, a literal fact." So we are finding time to slow down and contemplate our spiritual selves.

For now, we are counting our simple blessings and tender mercies.

Current Reading

  • Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War- Tony Horwitz
  • A Sultan in Palermo - Tariq Ali
  • Hitch-22: A Memoir - Christopher Hitchens
  • Negropedia- Patrice Evans
  • Dead Funny: Humor in Nazi Germany - Rudolph Herzog
  • Exile on Main Street - Robert Greenfield
  • Among the Truthers - A Journey Among America's Growing Conspiracist Underworld - Jonathan Kay
  • Paradise Lost - John Milton
  • What Is Your Dangerous Idea? Thinking the Unthinkable - John Brockman
  • Notes from the Edge Times - Daniel Pinchbeck
  • Fringe-ology: How I Can't Explain Away the Unexplainable- Steve Volk
  • Un Juif pour l'exemple (translated as A Jew Must Die )- Jacques Cheesex
  • The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins
  • Pale King - David Foster Wallce
  • David Bowie: Starman bio - Paul Trynka
  • Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat - Andrez Bergen
  • The Future of Nostalgia -Svetlana Boym
  • Living in the End Times - Slavoj ZIzek
  • FIrst as Tragedy Next as Farce - Slavoj Zizek
  • How to Survive a Robot Uprising - Daniel Wilson
  • Where is My Jet Pack? -Daniel Wilson
  • Day of the Oprichniks - Vladimir Sorokin
  • Ice Trilogy - Vladimir Sorokin
  • First Civilizations
  • Oscar Wilde -Andre Maurois
  • The Beats - Harvey Pekar, et al
  • SDS - Harvey Pekar, et al
  • The Unfinished Animal - Theodore Roszak
  • Friends of Eddy Coyle
  • Brooklands -Emily Barton
  • Abraham Lincoln - Vampire Hunter - Seth Grahme-Smith - Entertaining and historical
  • Dictionary of the Khazars - Pavic
  • Sloth-Gilbert Hernandez
  • War and Peace- Leo Tolstoy
  • Charles Addams: An Evilution
  • Life in Ancient Greece
  • Time - Eva Hoffmann
  • Violence - S. Zizek
  • Luba - a graphic novel by Gilbert Hernandez
  • Life in Ancient Egypt
  • Great Apes - Will Self - riveting and disturbing
  • Lost Honor of Katherina Blum - Heinrich Boll - could not put it down
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed (author deserving of new wide readership)
  • Living in Ancient Mesopotomia
  • Landscape in Concrete - Jakov Lind - surreal
  • 'There Once Lived A Woman Who Tried To Kill Her Neighbor's Baby'-Ludmilla Petrushevskaya - creepy stories - translation feels literarily "thin"
  • Mythologies - William Butler Yeats (re-read again & again)
  • How German Is It ? - Walter Abish
  • The Book of Genesis - illustrated by R. Crumb - visionary
  • "Flags" - an illustrated encyclopedia - wish I could remember all of these. Flag culture
  • Sirens of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Ubik - Philip K. Dick
  • Nobody's Fool - Richard Russo
  • Hitler's Empire - Mark Mazower
  • Nazi Culture - various authors
  • Master Plan: Himmler 's Scholars and the Holocaust - Heather Pringle
  • Eichmann in Jerusalem - Hannah Arendt
  • Living in Ancient Rome
  • Traveling with Herodotus -R. Kapuszynsky
  • Oblivion - David Foster Wallace - Some of his greatest work
  • Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace - still wrestling with this great book
  • Netherland - Joseph O'Neill - staggeringly great read
  • Renegade - The Obama Campaign - Richard Wolffe
  • Mount Analogue - Rene Daumal
  • John Brown
  • Anathem - Neal Stephenson - love Stephenson but tough slogging first few chapters
  • 7 Deadly Sins
  • ALEX COX - Alex Cox
  • FIASCO by Thomas Ricks
  • I, Fellini - Charlotte Chandler & Federico Fellini
  • Best of 20th century alternative history fiction
  • Judah P. Benjamin - Eli Evans - Confederacy's Secretary of State & source of the W.C. Field's exclamation
  • Moscow 2042 - Vladimir Voinovich - Pre-1989 curiosity & entertaining sci fi read; love his portrayal of Solzhenitsyn-like character
  • Gomorrah - Roberto Saviano - Mafia without the It-Am sugar coating. Brutal & disturbing
  • The Sack of Rome - Celebrity+Media+Money=Silvio Berlusconi - Alexander Stille
  • Reporting - David Remnick - terrific journalism
  • Fassbinder
  • Indignation - Philip Roth
  • Rome
  • Let's Go Italy! 2008
  • Italian Phrases for Dummies
  • How to Pack
  • Violence - Slavoj Zizek
  • Dali: Painting & Film
  • The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight - Jimmy Breslin
  • The Good Rat - Jimmy Breslin
  • Spook Country - William Gibson
  • A Blue Hand - The Beats in India - Deborah Baker
  • The Metaphysical Club - Louis Menard
  • Coast of Utopia - Tom Stoppard
  • Physics of the Impossible - Dr. Michio Kaku
  • Managing the Unexpected - Weick & Sutcliffe
  • Wait Til The Midnight Hour - Writings on Black Power
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed
  • Burning Down the Masters' House - Jayson Blair
  • Howl - Allen Ginsberg
  • Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Palace Thief - Ethan Canin
  • John Adams - David McCullough
  • The Wooden Sea - Jonathan Carroll
  • American Gangster - Mark Jacobson
  • Return of the King - J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Gawker Guide to Becoming King of All Media
  • Jews and Power - Ruth Wisse
  • Youth Without Youth - Mircea Eliade
  • A Team of Rivals - Doris Goodwin
  • Ghost Hunters -William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death - Deborah Blum
  • Dream -Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy - Stephen Duncombe
  • Love & Theft - Eric Lott
  • Exit Ghost - Philip Roth
  • Studio A - The Bob Dylan Reader

Current Listening

  • Alexi Murdoch Wait
  • Wilco Summer Teeth
  • Wilco The Album
  • Carmina Burana - Ray Manzarek (& Michael Riesmann)
  • Polyrock - Polyrock
  • 96 Tears - Garland Jeffries
  • Ghost of a Chance Garland Jeffries
  • Yellow Magic Orchestra
  • Mustang Sally Buddy Guy
  • John Lee Hooker
  • Black and White Years
  • Together Through Life - B. Dylan
  • 100 Days 100 Nites - Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings
  • DYLAN: 3 disc Greatest...
  • Glassworks - Philip Glass
  • Wild Palms - Soundtrack -Ryuichi Sakamoto
  • Dinah Washington - Best of..
  • Commander Cody& His Lost Planet Airmen Live at Armadillo