Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wish List

Okay O Man and/or Santa, World Peace, but also...

...A subscription to The New Yorker.

...A subscription to Harper's.

...A Specialized San Francisco Globe 1 (silver single speed) or, preferably, 3 (midnight blue 8-speed) bicycle. Size 17.5 inch/medium.

...Gold (one of the few 'hedge funds' I care to trust). Any form will do. Best: bricks.

...Car repairs (crunchy steering, broken window, engine light mystery, oil change, inspection sticker).

...Car insurance.

...Health insurance (bonus points for possibly saving my life).

...Airline tickets.

...Train tickets.

...A good old-fashioned cash for debt installment (and my de facto lenders will thank you, too).

...Bills PAID. Wow, what a concept.

...Something from the nearly 700 things on my Amazon wish list.

...A grown-up sized tooth fairy with deep pockets.





...An REI shopping spree.

... A National Parks annual pass.

...Jetboil backpacker stove.

...Steripen Adventurer water purifier.

...Black wool top coat to the knee, 38S.

...Anything I can resell on eBay.

...A rebirth of freedom.

...Government of the people, by the people and for the people.

...A good home for polar bears (and other animals at the top of the food chain).

...A great date.

...A charming romance.

...Another great date.

...The Love of My Life...

...And then comes Valentine's.

XO SantO... LOrenzO Elf

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

'Tis the Season

'Tis the Season...

Not for driving fast.

Not for buying a bunch of stuff.

Not for settling scores.

Not for an eye for an eye.

Not for noise.

Not for blockbusters.

Not for malls.

'Tis a wonderful life.




Quality time.


Love, love, love.

Monday, December 15, 2008

"Slumdog Millionaire"

Go see "Slumdog Millionaire on the big screen, so you can enjoy the SIZE of the soundtrack and the memorable compositions of COLOR.

Without having seen any of the other contenders, yet, I would bet right now that "Slumdog Millionaire" will win many awards, including the Oscar for Best Picture.

I was enthralled with the visuals and the soundtrack throughout, and oh what a PRIZE Frieda Pinto is!

"SM" has loads of intriguing chronological leaps and jumps which add to the suspense. And the craft of this film: above and beyond direction, cinematography and lighting -- the colors! I'll remember the colors most of all, along with the scenery and the gritty views of Mumbai -- even more than I'll remember the often torturous twists and turns of the main characters. This movie is being billed as 'a poor "slumdog" gets on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" to win the heart of a girl.' In the early ads, the movie sounds light and uplifting, but let's just say the road to that train station is rough, frought with real world peril.

A gorgeous film. I'm off to buy the soundtrack.

Friday, December 12, 2008

"Milk" & "Fuel"

I just had a back to back movie day, thanks to friends Raul and Sandy. Not exactly a double feature since we had to drive from one theater to another, squeezing in a quick dinner in between.

In the afternoon, we saw "Milk" which will, no doubt, earn Sean Penn many award nominations. I do believe that he is the finest actor of our times. "Milk" is certainly well-made, and the twin themes of, on the one hand, acceptance/inclusion/HOPE and, on the other hand, discomfort and dread (since we know where we're going in this biopic) are ripe for our times. We do ask ourselves, how accurate and depthy or idealized is this portrayal of Harvey Milk? At the same time, we can't help but be swept up in his rise to heroic stature. Josh Brolin seems to be everywhere these days, and his characters always seem to have their finger on the button. I recommend "Milk" as a must see film of 2008.

"Fuel" is a cross between "An Inconvenient Truth," "The Eleventh Hour" and the playful documentaries of Michael "Sicko" Moore and Morgan "Super Size Me" Spurlock. "Fuel" is not at all a one man show (celebs include Sheryl Crow and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.), but the film does revolve around the temperament and the fossil and cooking oil fueled ramblings of a new young filmmaker, Josh Tickell. Tickell was present at our screening of the film, along with his number one fan, his mother, who worked the audience like crazy to support the film and help it find a wider audience.

There is more hope in this film than in most environmental explorations. And there are real solutions for change (CHANGE and HOPE being such big words these days).

"Fuel" won an audience award at Sundance and is racking up other awards as well, though I would say it's chances of wider release will be hurt by it's two hour twenty minute length. The film urgently needs to be cut by half an hour to come in well under two hours, and I said so at the screening. But if I get the chance, I will definitely watch this one again. And if you get the chance, definitely see "Fuel" however you can, and like Josh's mom, work your friends like crazy to see it as well.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bailout Sellout

Congressional Republicans are mostly right about this one: there are not enough reforms written into the Big Three bailout bills offered up so far. Real innovation is needed, and so far, it's all bass ackwards. Demand the changes first, then issue loans with plenty of strings attached.

The car companies should not be allowed to continue lobbying in Washington AT ALL. End lobbying for any business seeking either a bailout or bankruptcy protection. It is the strong lobbying efforts of the Big Three and the United Auto Workers union that have lead to much of this trouble (thus making Congress itself a part of the problem for being suckers to -- and sucking up to -- the lobbyists for decades).

The car companies should not be allowed to make certain wasteful, poorly designed private vehicles at all. Start with the Hummer and other cars that get less than 15 mpg , real symbols of America's decline. Cut these immediately. End production by December 31st. And starting in two years, add just about any car that gets less than 25 mpg to the hit list. Produce no more sub 25 mpg cars after 12-31-10. Don't just hope that CAFE standards are met by fleets overall. Specifically outlaw gas guzzlers, including gargantuan RVs. We can't dig ourselves out of this mess by continuing to drive dinosaurs.

And the car makers in dire straits should applaud the implementation of higher gas taxes, to keep the price of gasoline near half the current minimum wage per gallon (which would currently be about $3.50/gallon). If cigarettes can be taxed at dollars per pack, certainly we can tax gasoline at a dollar a gallon. The additional federal revenue would be used to clean up this mess.

Friday, December 05, 2008

My Crush on Caroline

Very few crushes last a lifetime, but so far, so good.

Caroline Kennedy and I are about the same age. (I was born November 23, 1957 in Schenectady, New York. She was born just four days later about 200 miles down the Hudson in New York City.) Except for a loving husband, three children, and a seemingly settled family life, she's perfect for me. And she always was.

I always thought she was so cute as a kid -- and lovely as a young lady. And now, she's been a vetting insider for Obama and talked with NY governor Patterson about replacing Hillary in the Senate, potentially taking over a seat her uncle R.F.K. held around the time I first became really aware of his niece.

This is perfect for Caroline, considered, among all of the higher profile Kennedys, an unlikely politician. The good news for her (and for us, even, after the two years of campaigning just past) is that she would not have to run for the job. That is what she probably would not want to do: be a CANDIDATE.

But ACCEPT the office, I think she would, and I hope she will.

I am still in love with her looks, her grace, her reserve, and the narrative thread of hope and high ideals her family has brought to American politics for 60 years. Not naive, not too eager, just right.

Caroline's been waiting in the wings and now has a great chance to join her family's historic fight for justice.

And the Obama White House would have yet another connection to Camelot.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Big Three, I Repeat

You American car companies spent millions of dollars lobbying against increasing fuel efficiency standards and other incentives to modernize/diversify/reduce the size of your dinosaurs.

So not a dime for you. For decades, you have spent fortunes working against progress.

Now of course Toyota also lobbied against the higher fuel efficiency standards (more so than did Honda, btw). But neither Toyota nor Honda are asking for a taxpayer bail out. They're doing OK because they have stylish, reliable, efficient, forward-thinking models to fall back on as their truck and SUV sales plummet as well.

And even if gasoline goes to a buck a gallon again for a while, there are billions fewer barrels of the stuff every day. As a species, we are burning it up about as fast as we can.

What a waste.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Re In Car Nation?

The CEO of Ford says he'll work for a buck. And the CEO's of Chrysler and GM are saying the same thing. Great. That'll buy them each a half gallon of gas and keep them from flying not only in private jets but from flying at all. Even in America, rich beggars are ugly. Those guys need to do more sitting in their driveways or walking to work, as it is.

But still, a dollar a year for the three heads of Motown is just a rather empty, symbolic gesture. These companies have thousands of upper management guys who don't want to suffer for any reason, symbolic or otherwise. But obviously, these dinosaur makers all need to take a cut, from top to bottom, yes CEO to janitor. How about starting with 15% across the board? I mean, it is a recession, and for collars blue and white, a "decent" job is better than no job.

Then, anyone making over $200,000 a year takes another 15% cut in pay, effective immediately, long before any taxpayer bailout cash comes in. Everyone, and no one gets a raise for at least two years. Show some backbone. Show some dedication (besides greed) to making these antiquated automobiles.

Toyota and Honda and BMW are not so top-heavy in top brass. Their management to labor ratios are considerably better than those of "the big three." Toyota, Honda and BMW are not asking for a bailout. They're already building better cars than the competition. And isn't capitalism based on the premise that competition (among well-run companies) brings us the best products for the money?

Any bailout money comes from hundreds of thousands of American taxpayers who earn a heck of a lot less than $200,000 or even $80,000 a year. No way should the lower middle class pay for the bloated salaries and the audacious righteousness of the rich.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Hillary Around the World

When I first heard of President-elect Obama's interest in having Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, I was kind of nervous and more than a bit skeptical, but now it seems to make a lot of sense.

At first, I was concerned about the loss of so many senators and congressmen at one time, but it seems even good replacements were considered in the mix. Obama, Biden, and Clinton leave good choices to the governors of their states. (But what about taking Governor Napolitano out of Arizona? Unless she really is the best person for the job, that really does seem a loss. The executive branch can only pilfer so much.)

Even after his shaky testimony to the U.N., I still miss Colin Powell, and this time around, I wanted Al Gore for State. I still do. But Hillary has the fame and the fire power to be really good at it, especially if, beyond the "call to serve," she really wants the job. It is a plum, and post the less than fluid tenure of Condi Rice, Senator Clinton could bring a lot of esteem to State and to diplomacy around the world. Send her forth.


In an aside, I am still concerned that, even after his strategic resusitation of the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party, Howard Dean may be shut out of the Obama administration. Dean's still my second-favorite politician these days, and surely, as with Rahm Emanuel, there's a place for the rambunctious Dean to do good. Too bad he can't take Hillary's seat in the Senate.