Monday, February 26, 2007

Oscar Told You So

Well, well, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences did me/us one worse. Scorsese for Director AND the not so dearly "Departed" for Best Picture.

The T-shirt I happened to see on a grimy Chinatown street got the zeitgeist right: "Fuck You You Fuckin' Fuck." Glorifying "The Departed" would be about the same as daring to wear that on your chest, 'cause that's the message in a film full of sleaze bags, meant to be playful with a slew of deaths, yet it fell flat-footed, pedestrian in its plodding march to the credits. A movie meant to shock yet woefully predictable until the final five minutes of the final reel. Jesus, fuck, it makes Tony Soprano seem interesting, though even in therapy, Tony's not all that interesting either. Shows you can fool most of the people too much of the time. We seem to like the cowboy gunslinger F Word World. We seem to respect the ongoing glorification of sleaze. Martin, if you want to hit us like this again, I say retire.

As it seems to me they're going soft and sloppy, maybe it's time the Academy came up with the guts and the wherewithal to announce what the criteria are -- and to renew the distinctions between picture, director, producer, editor and so on. Things have gone fuzzy for the Academy and much more so for the viewing audience. By the end, the world's most popular ceremony just got lame.

So be it. There are many other good movies to see from recent times, made with actors who sport talent more than the star power du jour or du generation. I've had enough of Jack Nicholson. In fact, you know, by the end of "The Shining" and "Terms of Endearment," the need for Jack was way over. And his undeserved Oscar for "As Good As It Gets" over Robert Duvall's deeply driven performance in "The Preacher" taught me that the travesties of the Academy Awards could cut deep. Duvall got snubbed, ne nearly snuffed, for the devilishly amiable old clown.

As the New York Times' said of the evening, the Big D'parted got it's prizes as "fair tribute to Martin Scorsese, recognition of the movie’s brute force at the box office, and an acknowledgment that stars not only make movies, they make the movie."

Moral of the story: insider trading. It was an inside job.

Too bad the Academy has been fooled more than once or twice by the stars making the movie instead of the other way around. Too bad. Our loss, as far finer movies get lost in the shadows and the Academy fades to black. Or the color of money.

And what's up with Coppola, Lucas and Spielberg all being on stage to present the award? They're not supposed to know what's in that envelope. Did they? They lined up like studio mafiosi. As I say, this time around, apropos a bunch of gangster insiders, the fix was in, I tell you, the fix was in.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Oscar Dread

Now that I've seen "The Departed," I'm dreading the Academy Awards. The pre-Oscar buzz has it that Martin Scorsese is going to get Best Director, and that's a crock.

Clearly, the Academy members want to take themselves seriously, and they want us to take movies seriously -- especially "serious" movies, like "The Departed," which take themselves to be more seriously artful than they actually are.

It seems the Academy nominated "Dreamgirls" to get the Rainbow Vote and "Little Miss Sunshine" merely because it will go down in history as the most beloved movie of 2006 (I predict by far the most beloved, maybe only beloved movie, if indeed, you don't count "Cars" as a movie). And for my money, "Babel" is the serious movie of the year that is worldly in both claustrophobic and sweeping ways, with ingenious cinematography and editing, and which is emotionally intriguing and compelling to watch. But do or die, this year the dice were cast.

This is all about the Academy going wimpy on payback time. So the irony: to go easy on payback with Scorsese, the guy who's based most of his career on the toughest forms of payback known to the seedy underbelly of Neanderthal Tribalism, Brutal American Style. Except for the fact that he'll get the glory, Marty would have the wimps offed in a sleazy setting, say, under a cement mixer behind some mysteriously vacant factory lacking night security cameras.

True, Scorsese has made three or four very important and/or masterful movies, most notably Mean Streets (1973), Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980) and Goodfellas (1990). We could say "The Last Temptation of Christ" is notable as well. Those movies went down to stiff competition. And lately, the guy gave us the sprawling 2004 almost-winner-also-ran, "The Aviator." The Academy seemed to feel bad about the loss, as if to say, 'the next time this guy gives us a serious contender, we're going to have to give him the win.' Jesus, fuck.

So the plot is twisted and manic. Is this screenplay really that good? By the end, we're once again rolling our eyes at the F word. The word symbolizes the limited brains of the cretin snuff boys and to some extent of Scorsese's career, which has thrived on the F word to a tiresome extent. The morning after I saw "The Departed," I happened to be walking down the sidewalk in Manhattan and saw a T-shirt for sale. In big stark white letters on a black shirt: "Fuck You You Fuckin' Fuck." Scorseseze. Besides the charm of watching meat heads wearing Italian clothes lean on pushovers and moles, what's the moral of the story? Leave no trace, and put a bullet in the brain.

Now I've seen "The Departed," "The Departed" is no friend of mine, and the "The Departed" is no "Crash," no "Aviator," no "Raging Bull." It's startling without being surprising. It breaks no ground except for it's own grave. It makes Titanic look like a deserving winner.

Though, it should be said, speaking of the Academy's stumbles of late, that nothing could make "big" movies as sappy, trite and steroidally overblown as "Titanic" or "Lord of the Fucking Ring Anything" seem deserving winners. So lately, even if not that grovel-fest called the Grammies, the Academy really has been losing it's way. Or maybe it's just the movies -- a real lack of masterpieces.

Like last year: Crash deserved Best Picture, but Ang Lee for Director? I don't think so. For "Brokeback Mountain"? A movie that was conventional and stiff in every way. There again, I think Li was getting his award after the fact, for his previous directorial achievements, truly innovative efforts like "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."

Neither Scorsese nor Jack Nicholson are cinema gods, in the big scheme. Maybe they were 20 years ago, but both are showing deep ruts. It's time to hit "refresh" and recognize current bests. The best I can hope for at this point is for Scorsese to win for Director but for a far superior film such as "Babel" to win Best Picture.

This lag time is hurting the credibility of the Academy. But this one will be especially painful. Alfred Hitchcock never got an Oscar for Best Director either. So it goes. Things happen. Give Scorsese a lifetime achievement award, which he richly deserves, and leave it at that.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Turn Off the Court TV

Here's a lesson we learned this week: Get the darned cameras out of the court room -- every court room. It is a shame that a camera can turn a judge into a celebrity wannabe, pawing over corpses and crying witnesses to get some TV time him or her self, usually himself.

There is no reason besides the downfall of American civilization for any of us to see court proceedings within even a few months of their taking place, much less moments later on a relentless merry-go-round news cycle. And LIVE? What do you think?

Perhaps for legal and educational purposes, it is good to record legal proceedings, but to air them within, say, a year is of no use and may well be a detriment to justice, to sitting jurors, to potential jurors, and to the audience, otherwise known as the electorate or the American people. By doing so, we further blur the lines between decency and drama, between virtue and voyeurism.

Anna Nicole's post-mortem proceedings have given new meaning to "boob tube." That this has been the biggest story of Valentine's week is yet another dark and dismal irony. By watching, we satirize ourselves.

And I think the coverage is dumbing down the judge, a slouching and gallivanting grandstander, and the nitwit millions duped into thinking that (1), this might be important news and worse, (2) that we have a right to invade the sanctity and privacy of court proceedings, ostensibly meant to protect the innocent at least as much as they are meant to out the guilty. Seeing contemporary coverage tends to turn the audience against the defendant(s), whoever they are -- and to feel they've seen enough and understand enough to offer up an opinion, starkly prejudiced and premature.

And even, horrors, to voice a verdict themselves.

Perhaps not justice denied, but justice reduced to a freak show. What a circus. And you know what they said about the Romans' "bread and circuses...."

Friday, February 16, 2007

Miss Molly, By Golly

As with all of us, we only live on in recognition and memory. So here are a few more snippets from Ms. Bad Ass Dem Diva, Molly Ivins.

On the Reagan Administration: "Half of it was under average. The other half was under indictment."

On Pat Buchanan's culture war speech at the 1992 Republican Convention: "It read better in the original German."

On her core beliefs: "I believe in the Bill of Rights the way some folks believe in the Bible."

On Bill Clinton's sex scandal: "With all due respect to the President's private parts, we do have bigger problems in this country."

On life after 9/11, here and abroad: "It's hard to convince people you are bombing that you're doing it for their own good."

On George W. Bush: "It turns out that a C average is not good enough to be President."

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Walt Whitman, Lover Man

Every since high school, I've had this big Walt Whitman component in me. Not the gay part, just the flowing language, the expounded grief, the ecstacy laid bare, a sensuous sort of honor to be alive thing, the elegaic, body and soul sort of patriotism part.

In high school, I came up with a pen name for myself: Lawrence Ouray Whitman.

As if Lawrence Walker weren't good enough. The Ouray was for a famous Ute Indian chief and one of the most spectacular little alpine towns in Colorado, famous for its surrounding steep canyons and waterfalls and old mining roads that had become awesome Jeep trails. The Whitman was for Whitman.

I'm Type W in a Type A nation.

In my junior year at Thomas Jefferson High School in Dallas, my mentor, Mrs. Ebby, Kay Ebby, was so enamored with my poetry and my passion for American lit that she gave me, carte blanche, a whole page in the school paper, The Reveille, to do with whatever I wanted. I titled the page, after a Whitman poem: "I Sing the Body Electric."

Now we all sample a few lines of Whitman in high school, but did you bring all of your senses to Whitman? Did you feel and taste his words? For most, it's just a brief burst of old-fashioned words. If you were lucky, at least you thought they were vaguely horny. But let a few more decades pass to middle age. Not many of us Americans go through life feeling their Whitmanesque nature. Whitman was about as bohemian as it gets, and bohemians have always been a rare fringe element in this culture. And Texas, where I read Whitman, Texas isn't known for its poets, much less poets of long-winded rhapsodies to others' bodies, male, female, planetary, universal. Cowboy country is not known for boys who are a strange mix, both brash and bashful, boistrous yet repressed, timid in the gate yet inside rearing to go out onto the open road, boys and then young men and then men who love words and ideals and roller coaster emotions.

Whitmanesque men make better lovers, I'll tell you that. Not better husbands or fathers, mind you, but better lovers in words and deeds and adventures, lovers with plots and symbols and rituals and longing and lingering and taking the time to pay attention and do it right.

As a man or as a woman, you've got to be living more in the now to appreciate that, much less put it on a pedestal, enthralled by this sort of evocative sensuousness. It's literary loving, or loving that is literary, truly as if the two were nearly one in the same.

All of this relates, somehow, to my last few posts. What ARE we getting done with all of this busy-ness? Are we really putting love first, up front AND LAST where it belongs, where Whitman put it, where, on a good day or a good night, I put it.

Love does not conquer all. In fact, it doesn't conquer much at all. It's too fine, too delicate an art to have much to do with conquering. But it is something that so many long for, as we are so reminded the week of Valentine's, of love and loss and what might have been. And what is. You make it what it is.

It occurred to me today that we sure do need more Whitman in our nature, in our national character, more true, red-blooded passion for the Union, for the greater good, for the ideals of our origins as a nation. And yet, in career, in demeanor, modesty, quietude along with the beatitude. And Americans' attitude? Toward love? After the craziness and some swooning, just another job, close the deal. Neanderthals with credit cards and dinner reservations. Americans can make $100 dozen red roses come off like dyed red carnations. Better get back in the swing of things down deep where the blood flows, from the heart.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Monday Mourning

God, last week I was all fired up for more satire, hard as that is to cook up all by yourself, and today, Jesus, it's been a grind from the beginning. Distinctly irritable and sad all day, each little thing seems annoying and irrepressible and cloying. After three or four gray days suitable to February, pre-Valentine's, the sun came out and it got downright warm. Well, for the first time tjhis year, I woke up to the scathing sound of lawn mowers left and right and, on the other side of the block, a chain saw and roofers. So it's spring whether I want it to be or not. Mark the date: February 12th. These Texans have said enough of this winterish shit. It's time to fire up the power tools, time to chop and build, tear off the old and get out the pneumatic staple guns and weed eaters. Next: fertilizer, backhoes, trenchers, new sprinkler systems, and March is more than two weeks away.

Like I said Friday, or sort of said or meant to say, if only people weren't so hell bent on doing stuff, on getting stuff done, there'd be more peace in the world, not only around the world but in the bad neighborhoods and in every neighborhood.

Today was the kind of day where it seemed the glorious weather woke up the sirens. Sirens, all day, more of them than usual, I swear, a noise that grates on the nerves when one is already grating on one's own nerves.

So satire, uh huh, right, can do. But give me a day to gripe here, peacefully but persistently just GRIPE and maybe get some of this sand out of my vaseline.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Boobs Prefer Blondes

But then so do gentlemen.

And not so gentle men.

And grunts and nerds and joe blows and girls gone wild.

Even Arthur Miller preferred a blonde, mismatched misfits that they were.

I just hope there is little danger that we don't get our boobs confused. Sometimes, yes, even the beautiful (or is it just buxom?) die young. But what are we missing?

Anna Nicole Smith has died, and perhaps there are a few similarities to the demise of Marilyn Monroe. But it hurts to think of the differences. And yet still, woe is the amount of air time Anna Nicole will get over the next few days. Sad as her misbegotten career and end were, we may acknowledge but shouldn't glorify those who are so marginally talented and thus so clearly famous mostly for being famous.

Maybe, as opposed to Paris and Britney, both Smith and Monroe were old-fashioned in that they preferred to mix it up with men rather than other women. They weren't girl toys, a la the new batch of party bitches with rhinestone, cell phone bling. No, Anna, for all of her white trash ways, was a throw back to the Marilyn she so emulated and wished to be. And wasn't. Still, both Smith and Monroe turned out to be more Boy Toy than any man could handle.

But the differences. Marilyn, sensuous as opposed to sexual, naive as opposed to calculated raunch, smooth as opposed to rude. I can't help but see the mixed up sleeze in the sentiments firing up as I write. But Marilyn, she was quaint by current standards. I miss the old stars.

As opposed to most Playboy Playmates, Anna Nicole did get a long ride out of it. She took off her clothes in Houston and captured attention and an over-the-top income for two decades, not bad for a few hours' nudity. She kept at it, in the Pamela Anderson school of fame, mostly because of her lack of standards and an inability to find more mature outlets for a more mature audience.

Just goes to show where our culture has gone since Marilyn drove off into the twilight at the end of Miller's movie of "The Misfits." We knew Clark Cable was on his way out. Little did we know, so was she.

Smith was 39. Monroe was 36.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Help Me! I'm Not Bored!

Holy moly, I think I'm overwhelmed by NOT being bored!

Is this a twisted existential crisis, or WHAT?

I am thinking that most people get things done because they DO get bored and have to swim against that current, get out of the house, have children, build things, chase money, make a mark, take care of thing, however routine, however rote, however prone to boredom!

It's the catch 22 of boredom. Bored people do boring things. Or WORSE, they make interesting things boring! They're reluctant to feel deeply or express themselves openly and outwardly, so they sort of kill off the joys of life, making them even more conventional and predictable than they are. The Bored are also The Scared. The Bored watch the Weather Channel. The Bored are afraid of the THRILL of life, the DANGER, the RISK. And so they anesthetize themselves and even their social lives with a toning down of feelings, expressions, urges, impulses, flights of fancy.

And habits: living on auto pilot. Habits keep the mundane masses, living their lives of quiet desperation. Their habits ameliorate their desperation, even their despair. So I'm lost there and found, too. I know where I am. And what conclusion did I come to? That the world would be better off if most of what "gets done" didn't get done. And so I've gone through a good many years "wasting time," without any habits to speak of. I just don't have them. Or so few it's scary. I do have compulsions, even a few addictions, but they're not dependable. They're not regular. My life is like my mind, wily, even wise, but if structured at all, only minimally so.

The NON-bored find friggin' flights of fancy in watching the grass grow! That's me. How MANY hours have I spent staring at the plants in the yard? No wonder I survive not being in a thrilling landscape like Yosemite or Yellowstone all the time. Now my yard is not thrilling in any way I can convey, and I am NOT a nature nerd. I don't give a heck for the naming of things or for all those damned details naturalists think are thrilling. No, I just don't need even that stimulus. I do think I stand around at times to counteract the overly stimulating crush of American culture and a good bit of the rest of the world, as well. The world is SO stimulating. I've got stimuli GALORE. I don't have to go make stimuli or chase entertainment to "pass the time." Pass the time? Fine. I can do that standing still. Alone.

Maybe if I were more bored, I'd get more done. Or at least more done that you'd recognize as getting stuff done. That's because your measures are based on the conventionally bored, the predictably motivated. Of course, do nothings, you never hear from them, and you're hearing from me, but still!

Days go by, I don't see another person I know. And I do get depressed and sad and so deeply disheartened it HURTS. But never bored.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


Robert J. Samuelson, economic analyst for Newsweek and MSNBC posted this today at

You could be excused for thinking that we'll soon do something serious about global warming. Last Friday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—an international group of scientists—concluded that, to a 90 percent probability, human activity is warming the Earth. Earlier, Democratic congressional leaders made global warming legislation a top priority; and 10 big U.S. companies (including General Electric and DuPont) endorsed federal regulation. Strong action seems at hand.

Don't be fooled. The dirty secret about global warming is this: We have no solution. About 80 percent of the world's energy comes from fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas), the main sources of man-made greenhouse gases. Energy use sustains economic growth, which—in all modern societies—buttresses political and social stability. Until we can replace fossil fuels or find practical ways to capture their emissions, governments will not sanction the deep energy cuts that would truly affect global warming.

Considering this reality, you should treat the pious exhortations to "do something" with skepticism, disbelief or contempt. These pronouncements are (take your pick) naive, self-interested, misinformed, stupid or dishonest. Politicians mainly want to be seen as reducing global warming. Companies want to polish their images and exploit markets created by new environmental regulations. As for editorialists and pundits, there's no explanation except superficiality or herd behavior.

I think the esteemed Mr. Samuelson is right. We're cooked. This challenge is above and beyond the experience and the lily-livered will of the world's six billion. This evening, Robert Reich said on the PRI radio show "Marketplace" that a carbon tax is out of the question because the Democrats have neither the "intestinal fortitude nor the votes" to make any headway, much less secure a progressive vote on such a beast. I think the Democrats know that making immediate and significant progress would make the battlecry "We're for a slew of new taxes" look like kindergarten. I don't think the Democrats have any interest in doing what it would really take to save us from the furnace. And what is that? Nothing less than: clamping down on capitalism, population and affluence/consumption across the board and around the globe. So far, merely and sadly, the simmering planet has been reduced to a hot potato everybody'd like to pass off to another industry, another country or future generation.

Welcome, children, to your world.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

GW: Great Summary of the Situation

Andy Revkin is a science reporter for the New York Times. Today, the website of the Times posted a short video featuring Revkin's summation of Friday's report from Paris on that Great Big GW In the Sky, Global You-Know-What. Revkin does a really nice job of putting things in perspective. He starts off by reminding us that the first really big conference on the subject took place in Toronto in 1988.

1988 will be remembered as the beginning of the "we told you so, and what did you do about it" years. Here is a transcription I made of Revkin's remarks:

I've been writing about climate change, the human influence on the climate system, since about 1988 or so. That was the year we had record heat waves around the world. The Amazon was ablaze. And there was a big meeting in Toronto, Canada, about the atmosphere, the human influence on the atmosphere. And that's when this intergovernmental panel on climate change got started, the IPCC, which just came out with its fourth report since 1990 on what's happening with people and the climate.

The report states that it is "very likely" that humans caused most of the global warming measured since 1950. The report predicts sea level will rise 7 to 23 inches by 2100. The report also states that over the next 1000 years, today's coastlines will disappear.

Humans now are the dominant drivers of warming. What we know profoundly well is that we are in for probably 12 feet of sea level rise over the next 1000 years, in other words a new coastline every century or so. If you're in Bangladesh or even downtown Manhattan, that's a big deal.

To some extent, the findings in this new report find us kind of like the wily Coyote in those old Roadrunner cartoons, where he realizes suddenly he's over a cliff, and you see his feet run in fast motion, and he's trying to scramble back.

Essentially, what the report is saying is that we face, already, because of this buildup of these gases that trap heat, and because of the trajectories of growing populations and growing energy use, that we are pretty much committed to seeing rising temperatures and rising seas for centuries to come. The other inconvenient reality is that any policy changes -- in other words a best case policy where everyone starts driving a Prius tomorrow, and a worst case scenario where we just keep on going -- neither of those would alter our climate perceptibly for several decades. So politically, that is very unfortunate, because that leaves us in this place where the political cycles are 2 years, 4 years, 6 years, and the realities of this are that the consequences of choices made now wouldn't be apparent for a long time to come.

That puts it back in all of our laps as a legacy issue, almost more than a policy issue. How do we want to limit our actions, how change our priorities to avert a long term path to a truly different planet?

Revkin's not correct to say that 'if we all drove Priuses tomorrow' would be a best case scenario. Honestly, best case, we wouldn't be buying new cars. Most of us wouldn't even be using any significant amounts of fossil fuels at home or on the road. We'd have to have our groceries shipped in on efficient rail lines. We're talking radical changed beyond any that will gain favor in the next few decades. We'd have to clamp down on -- if not shut down -- affluent and consumptive lifestyles around the world. It turns out our freewheeling days weren't free at all.

On the other hand, Revkin's comment calling this a "legacy issue" is profound. It's done. Our legacy is before us. Now we can see that we've already left a legacy for centuries, most of it done since 1950, when the American economy began its 60-70 year spree, deadset on multinational corporate greed and this sprawling juggernaut of development and imperialism. Any policies the U.S. government can muster at this point will be mere window dressing.

Not that we shouldn't try, even if dressing the windows is all we do. At least a sliver of our legacy will be that some in the future can look back and see that some of us in Toronto in 1988 and in Kyoto in 1997 and around the world in 2007 tried something to swim upstream against the incessant tides of human nature.

Monday, February 05, 2007

The World According to Frank Rich

Earlier this evening, I got the chance to see the New York Times Op-Ed writer and memoirist Frank Rich speak at Trinity University in San Antonio. Rich is truly now one of the giants of the Op-ed pages. In 1996, after years of theater reviews and increasingly political coverage of the culture at large, Rich was the first writer for the Times to receive a double-length column in the weekend Op-ed pages. He's that good a writer.

In person, Frank Rich comes across as a person you'd genuinely like to know as a close friend. As opposed to some other big gun pundits, Rich is comfortable with people, one on one, very personable, a real charmer, at once seeing the big picture in culture and politics yet, one on one, offering generously a twinkle of camaraderie, a smile of solace, even a shoulder of compassion. A friend who invited me to attend the event at Trinity is a Frank Rich groupie. She absolutely adores his columns and was quite moved before, during and after meeting him.

Rich's new book is his first book on politics, but he takes a big swing -- or is it stab? -- at the selling (out) of American politics and media. It's called The Greatest Story Ever SOLD: The Decline and Fall of Truth Between 9/11 and Katrina and appeared on bestseller lists last fall. In his talk, Rich started us off by going back to the pseudo-historical docu-drama "Roots," suggesting that that 1976 mini-series was the beginning of this culture's warping of history and truth, fact and fiction. As an American Studies student in the late 1970s, I recall "Roots" being mentioned in the same context, along with Truman Capote's coining of the term "non-fiction novel" a decade before and references to a most noteworthy take on this subject, Daniel Boorstin's 1961 book, The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America. I wonder if Rich realizes how much his perspective aligns with Boorstin's bellwether book. Still, Rich has got it right, I think, and though in no way cutting edge, much less radical, he's a particularly palatable and personable town crier.

I think Rich's persona as well as his political coverage and cultural synthesis hinge on his early years as a theater critic. As a boy, to escape bitter domestic dramas, he was drawn to drama on the larger stage. And in time, he came to be drawn to the distinctions between actual events and the stories spun from those events. (For more on this, see Rich's acclaimed memoir, Ghost Lights.)

Plus, this guy's a real people person. So, as his themes send a chill up the spine, he himself comes across as warm-hearted. You're just getting a book signed, and you get this feeling he wants to clasp your hand longer and maybe give you a hug.

Now, at the height of his career, Rich appreciates and indeed plays up not only the dramatic but the cinematic in politics. He is sensitive to the timing, the production and the aesthetics of overt policies and covert politics, and even, luckily for us, purposeful propaganda. Thus, he's cutting deftly and somewhat deeper than many of his more short-sighted and surface-oriented peers into the TV Cheese we're being sold.

Rich says he's now become very cynical, but as he says this he leans in a bit with a 'what can you do' look and a grin, his twinkling sentiment on our side.

The bottom line: Frank Rich suggests we be wary and highly skeptical of any politicians who, as he says, "put their own political power above all else."

Friday, February 02, 2007

Paris is Burning

Or: The Latest GW Update.

Now, let's see... GW... is that GW for George W.? Nah, been there, done that. How about Global Warming? Hmmm, could be. But better for gossip, political, global AND a la the Academy Awards is... GORE WATCH.

Today is the day that Paris is burning with the new 2007 report on global warming, presented by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. And this Parisian burning? Oh yes, it's coming to a neighborhood near you, namely yours.

Today, Paris is burning, along with the rest of the planet. The big news is not new science in the report, last issued in 2001, but the vastly increased size of the audience paying attention to global climate change. There were, of course, wake up calls decades ago. Al Gore himself first heard of global warming in the 1960s. But Katrina seems to serve now as the last straw wake up call for the OIL Ostriches in the 'things are just jim dandy with our heads stuck in the Arab sand' Capital of the World, the good ol' U.S. of A.

At last, as of 2007, this hot topic has become the 9/11 of headlines: this thing could bite us in the ass. And sooner rather than later.

Maybe those multi-million dollar condo sales in Miami don't make so much sense after all.

From today forward, Al Gore and the United Nations are going to get to say "I told you so" all they want. Gloating is not the style of either, but they've been doing their duty for years, and Al Gore just got his Nobel Peace Prize nomination to prove it. So he's hot (or is that cool?) from Washington to Paris to Stockholm and all the way back around the globe to Hollywood. Who else has got a shelf with an Oscar and a Nobel sitting side by side?

Meanwhile, in this context, the news is full of disconnects: If the stock market goes up, that's bad for the climate. If housing starts go up, that's bad for the climate. If new jobs are created, that's bad for the climate. Remember: "sustained growth" is the most vile and evil oxymoron in human history.

This too will pass. Better wisely and peacefully rather than blindly and catastrophically. Time to cool it, you driving fiends, you big screen Superbowler, you Capitalist Pigs, gamblers all, playing a high stakes game we'll all lose. You blind bastards, this is not your winning streak. It's our losing streak.

Stop passing the buck. Stop fucking your planet!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Molly, Molly, Molly

The once rollicking Molly Ivins died yesterday at her home in Austin. She was 62.

A few years ago, at the 2005 Democracy Fest in Austin, I got to speak briefly with Molly. We were crowded into what I'll call the backyard at Stubb's Bar-B-Que on Red River, just a few blocks from the capitol, awaiting the big speakers of the evening, including Molly, of course, early on, and late in the evening Howard Dean, that other perhaps less prickly but even stickier thorn in the side of the establishment.

Late June in Austin, Texas: hotter'n hell, really, a might uncomfortable, a big crowd rustling around like the cattle of flower children, but it's summer in Texas, so, rather dusty and disheveled, you know, grassroots types. And a bit parched, too, so the beer flowed. Molly milled around the crowd a bit, holding her own plastic cup of beer, a beverage she proffered a handy lubricant for facing our life and times. She liked square on, but she liked tipsy, too.

Molly was so much taller than I expected, and thinner, and despite the heat, she was dressed in a long solid black dress, which set off in a startling way her straight silver hair, flimsy from chemo. I gave her a bit of a hard time for wearing black in the late afternoon Texas sun, she ought to know better, and she sort of rolled her eyes with a dramatic pant and said, "yeah, what was I thinking?"

Well, maybe her mind was elsewhere. She'd lost weight and color, but I thought she might make it to old age. I mean, she already looked older than 60, but therein lay the ticking clock of cancer.

On stage, Molly had the crowd. As opposed to some of the other speakers, no matter how compelling in their own ways, she was not running for anything or from anything. She launched into some Texas talk, a mix of her own compassion and the unduly elected crooks she loved to skewer. Amiable yet rabble rousing, playing up the sway of her twang, yet steely eyed on the prize. She comforted us, the crowd, for being the salmon swimming upstream. And her camaraderie, her "audacity of hope" was the real thing.

Here is the essential, most admired and most valuable aspect of Molly's punditry: she realized that power is admired, especially in throwback, oversized, good ol' boy Texas, this most boastful of bass ackward states. Power is admired, no matter how you get it: rogues and wildcatters rule. So rather than build up a good ol' boy's own bluster by trying to overpower him, better to call the spade a fool. Better to make the back room boys out to be nothing more than juvenile delinquents. Molly said, "make the ridiculous look ridiculous," and therein lay her best voice and best advice.

Texas is a big state, at the top full of pomp and power. Wheeling and dealing here is big enough to be a danger to the world, but Molly helped make our political fortunes (or lack thereof) seem sillier and more beatable. With a now famous and still rare sort of swooning and loving sarcasm, she toyed with the selfish and the shrewd. She could turn a backyard bar-b-que into a global issue. She could make a campaign to rule the world seem like the Keystone Cops. Molly Ivins was our Mark Twain and our Dorothy Parker.

We needed her, and now we need a few more like her.

The Texas Observer was Molly's home in print. You can link to the Observer's eulogy via the great website Alternet here.