I write like
Cory Doctorow

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Friday, January 29, 2010

Aren't Fridays supposed to be slow news days?

So much to chew over. Let me start by giving a couple of sentences to another unique way where folks can help people in need in Haiti.

I've had a link off to the left to the Grameen Foundation for a while. Grameen has a presence in Haiti through a group called Fonkoze. In a post on their website today, there was
a grant recently made to Fonkoze to operate a "mobile bank branch" which will meet bank members wherever they are in Haiti. Fonkoze, like Grameen and other microfinance group, is a bank. Loans are given to the poor based on a skill they have to manufacture and sell something and/or provide a service to others. Borrowers are charged interest and are given a plan to pay back the loan with interest as long as they are willing to work with other borrowers in a peer-support system. They keep the profit they make and are invited to open savings accounts with Fonkoze, etc.

As long as people are thirsty, hungry and in need of medical care and shelter, donations to organizations that provide this service will be needed. The long-term challenge is to support the work done by groups like Fonkoze who, instead of fostering dependence on aid, are raising the poor up from desperate poverty and giving them and their children to rebuild their nation bit by bit. While grants may be needed for one-time programs and to grow new branches, the branches support themselves after just a couple of years.


I'm writing and watching MSNBC's "President's Question Time" special with President Obama answering questions asked from Republican legislators. What's nice about it is that the question and answer is about 95% unedited so that one can watch this event, unique to the U.S, in bite-sized pieces. The "no teleprompter for the President" aspect is just wonderful! It was nice to see him speak off the cuff and I'm looking forward to more of that. I don't know if what happened in Baltimore today is the start of something we'll see every couple of months, but what a fresh way to approach the whole "politics versus the facts" thing that MSNBC and Fox News spend hours a day, Monday-Friday, chewing over and pontificating.

Finally, a few folks in California moved one step closer to doing something that will, no doubt, start a snowball of controversy. Nearly 700,000 signatures were collected and around 143,000 of those delivered to the Los Angeles County Registrar's office in Norwalk to add a proposition to the November 2010 ballot to legalize personal possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by those age 21 and older, permit those 21 and older to grow enough marijuana for personal use and "..would also allow cities and counties to permit marijuana to be grown and sold, and to impose taxes on (sales of marijuana)".

This isn't just a few thousand stoners in a state with 36 million residents trying to get their habit legitimized. While the amount of money raised to campaign for this proposition so far isn't jaw dropping, it's not just as much money those same stoners found under the sofa cushions. While the case for medicinal use of marijuana has been made by those with something to gain, the city of L.A. has been trying to reign in the proliferation of cannabis clubs recently. Delivery of these signatures is a bit out there in contrast to the relatively modest moves in the state to carry out medicinal use of cannabis. On the other hand, I can take a quick stroll at lunchtime and pass two such clubs within a couple of blocks of each other (see the photo above for a sign for one such club -- the green cross with caduceus). These clubs aren't just in the funkier neighborhoods in LA County, either.

I don't use marijuana. Yes, there is a fairly liberal gay person in California that doesn't use the stuff. On the first smell I took of the smoke I was turned off and haven't found a reason to be turned on to it since. That said, if marijuana is regulated, used privately and penalties for impaired driving, use while at work, etc., are as strong as drunk driving, being drunk at work, etc., then any health concerns just go out the window for me.

What makes this proposition likely to succeed? If the backers have enough sense about this, it'll become about money. Money to be made by growers, retailers and, as tax collector on every sale of the weed, the state government. For all three groups, the promise of legitimate profits/revenue to be made may prove too irresistible to vote down.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Opportunity at the Metro stop

(from my iPhone about 5:35 pm)

I've been waiting 20 minutes at what is usually no more than a ten minute wait for Red line. Apparently, there is some 'maintenance issue' so trains running in both directions have to share one track. It's the first delay of this sort in months. Instead of walking to the next stop after a leisurely supper in downtown LA, I'm listening to a live announcer tell me it's only a 3 minute wait for the next train going my way.

As the 4th train going the other way stops then opens its doors with its passengers staring blankly through the huddled masses waiting along with me.

I'd be grateful for the long break if it wasn't for the four trains stopping in front of me going the other way.

I must be out of my everloving mind! The train going my way is here but too crammed! Another disconnected voice saying another one is coming in 5 minutes. Well, at least the crowd has thinned out.

(and, the next train was considerably less crowded. I wound up getting home 40 minutes later than usual. Still, it makes me wonder if maybe blogging, unlike songwriting or a lunch break, isn't something better done at home with the TV on and my partner engaging me in conversation)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Never gonna give in

Feels good to be writing this.

This Wednesday will be President Obama's first State of the Union address. For a politics geek like me, it's like a championship game or an awards show night. While there is still a lack of fashion critique and entry to the big auditorium softball interviewing, there are plenty of experts on both teams with all sorts of predictions about the final outcome of Wednesday's address.

Though, as of this writing, I haven't found any posting of opinion just yet. So, I'll take a crack at it.
  • Saying that the phrase "The state of our union is strong" will be uttered is a bit like saying "the stars are out" at the latest Hollywood love-fest or at my house while I'm watching the "arrivals" part of the awards show.
  • Yeah, even I see the 60 degree head swivel the President usually does when he's giving a speech. It's like noticing when someone drops the phrase "you know" into their everyday speech and you've finally discerned it and now "you know" sounds like nails on a chalkboard. If I had my choice of speechgiving off the top of one's head or reading a speech from a Teleprompter in a clear, melodic tone of voice, I'll take the Teleprompter reading. Still, the best sort of speech is the one that comes from the head with bits of improv dropped in so it sounds organized and just a bit personal. I've given improv'd and read aloud speeches and usually feel like I'm only giving half the effort. This address is a big one -- even I would be pacing, memorizing and rehearsing this one as often as humanly possible weeks ahead of time.
  • These addresses are usually by the book. In recent years, it's a bit difficult to tell the difference between them and getting an OMG moment out of them is highly unlikely. Same can be said of award shows and championship games. Even the notion of turning the SOTU into a drinking game is getting a bit cliche. Still, even one such game suggested for Wednesday's address might be worth a try. For us 12-steppers, perhaps substituting jalapeño poppers and a sip of milk for each drink will lead all to the same, dreadful conclusion.
I would have been stunned if Obama was able to have pulled off a total recovery of the economy and have ended both wars by now. However, I'm quite worn out by the light touch he has exercised over Congress this past year. While I love a good work relationship with colleagues, he's been apart from his former Senate colleagues long enough that he can now start to be the goal-setter, take more responsibility for setting the legislative tone and navigate progressives/liberals toward having a truly progressive/liberal government.

For now, a healthy amount of skepticism is required to get some kind of grasp of what's going on in D.C. these days. A little music helps, too. I heard this version of the song earlier today on "Feel The Spin" as I was driving home from church. Yeah, there are club versions of this song out there, but it was nice to hear real drums and guitar backing a talented girl singer. I know she's singing about a guy, but I couldn't help hearing the lyric and thinking about how it relates to the upcoming week's world of U.S. politics.

The mark of good art is that it means something different to everyone who experiences it. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What the hail?

Ooh, I've been waiting so long to say that!

It's not rock salt or my personal stash of diamonds cubic zirconia strewn on the ground and photographed at night for maximum visual effect. I "got lucky" being in LaHabra for a haircut earlier this evening when a teeny, tiny yet strong cell of heavy rain/lightning/thunder passed by and created a small hailstorm. I'm having so much fun documenting the wacky state of weather in Southern California, I'm almost forgetting all about the state of politics in the Supreme Court, the Congress and the White House.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Another good soaking

And, we still have a day or two more of this cold water dripping from the sky. How does everyone else in the U.S. manage this much water all at once? Here's some photos from the Boulevard neighborhood showing how the cars driving down Franklin Ave. were handling standing water in a decent downpour in the middle of the afternoon. . .

Even a set of stairs leading up to an apartment house was sort of getting into the act.

I have to admit I am having a lot of fun just walking in the rain. We don't get a lot of it here in southern California, so when it happens, I find a safe place to be and try to get outside for walks as often as I can.

The sunshine returns by late Friday. Hoping for some more unique rain-soaked photos tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Neither rain, nor sleet, etc.

The slogan is, for the most part, true of the US Postal Service. It's also true of the folks who set up the front of Graumann's for a World Premiere movie earlier this evening.

The layer of clear plastic with the white, nearly vertical lines at the bottom of the picture shows the top of the tents that were pitched as I was walking to work today.

By lunchtime, everything was nearly set up. The title of tonight's movie (see the banner-style poster on the lower left corner) which is being shown tonight is a pretty apt description of the effort it takes to set up a Red Carpet affair even in the rare L.A. rainstorm.

And, I suppose, a good description of the movie's plot. Whatever.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Cold water falling from the sky

Well, it almost never rains 'round here . . .

My water-resistant jacket barely worked this afternoon. The winds were spraying around the water, making the Boulevard look more like the middle of a mild hurricane or the aftermath of a large structure fire (rivers of water, every wall and floor sopping wet, etc.). See for yourself:

Above: looking across the street at the Jimmy Kimmel Live building
Below: a view of Graumann's Chinese

It rains hard enough for long enough, you might as well pack a couple of oars in the backseat of the car. And, there's more rain on the way this week.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Out of the closet

Like many others, I cannot help but watch TV news/opinion, read news websites and blogs and listen to the radio during breaks from the work day to find out if there is anything new to report from Haiti.

Much like I did with Hurricane Katrina and 9/11/01.

I've come awfully close to tears, then realize that all the cried tears in the world do nothing to help those who inch closer and closer to desperation and chaos.

Acting and speaking contrarily is not rescuing anyone from the ruins, it does not give someone who needs it a few sips of water, a swath of sterile bandage and a five-day supply of antibiotics.

Neither is giving those who are behaving so poorly an even brighter spotlight by grumbling over those words going to inflate a hospital or innovate, then construct, new means of ingress into Haiti.

I will say that after hearing and seeing the babble about the pact, I came as close as I dared to dumping Christianity as my religion of choice. Then, I considered the source and, with each passing day, he has less and less time on this world and has to reconcile himself with his maker sooner rather than later. He and his lot will take care of themselves and are nothing more than a gnat flying in our collective face on a lazy, roasting and damp summer afternoon on the East Coast.

How to be of help from where we are? HuffPo has a link to causecast.org where one can purchase supplies then have them shipped to where they are needed, just as soon as it can be sent.

What are the next steps?
  • The Grameen foundation (see the badge on the left) has had a presence in Haiti for some time. How better to help someone by investing in their time and talent and giving them a basic education on personal economics, growing their small business and saving for their children's future.
  • Make a note on your calendar to make a second donation to the charity of your choice two weeks from now and, if you are blessed with steady employment, see if your charity will accept a rolling donation, which draws a steady donation from you at regular intervals. Gifts are great, but reliable sources of income are invaluable to non-profit/charitable organizations.
  • Clean out your closet.

When supplies were pouring into NYC, Washington DC and, later in the previous decade, New Orleans, there were only so many ways to get to the cities and far too many trucks, boats, etc. that could drive/dock and unload. Supplies have had to have been turned away because there was no way to get those supplies to those who needed them.

By cleaning out your closets, you will discover what you need and what you can forego. Once your pile of "what you can forego" is completed upon your closet cleaning, donate what you can do without to those in your neighborhood who would appreciate having those things.

By donating to local charities, the local charities need to rely less on larger non-profit organization and government funding. The funding they receive can then be redirected to provide further aid to the people of Haiti.

It is not important that your box of hand-me-downs gets shipped across the country and through half of the Carribean. You stand a much better chance of having those gifts used where you are then where you want it to be used.

You get a more spacious closet. Someone else gets something so much more.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

No. 366 and two aspirin

Yesterday would have been Elvis Presley's 75th birthday. To prove what a fan I am, I had completely forgotten this until, on one of my many strolls through Hollywood I came upon this bright, shiny memorial:

I wished I could say this brightened my mood or elicited some kind of emotional response. Mostly, I was just trying to avoid the great hoards of visitors in the area to watch the BCS Championship game at the Rose Bowl Thursday night. I've not seen so many dark blood red and burnt orange shirts in one place at one time and, with any luck, won't have to witness that hideous clash of colors again anytime soon.

Fighting a ridiculous headache this morning, I'm afraid. I had big plans to wash the car and grocery shop. Blessedly, both chores don't require appointment times. Seems like avoiding garish color combinations and overzealous fans is the only way to ensure a swift return to full health.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Oh, for the love of . .

I had a spiritual awakening soon after the death of my Aunt. Without going into much detail, during her final months I experienced all that is good in humanity, fellowship and faith as well as the dangers of placing one's entire supply of faith into one human whose only focus is on improving the status of his bank account, not in the physical and spiritual well-being of his clients.

As a Christian, I enjoy an unspoken set of beliefs with my fellow Christians. We all understand, even those with limits to their biblical scholarship (or other aspects of the full faith experience), that when you have done something to harm someone, even if it's only to yourself, asking for forgiveness is the first step. If the person harmed is not ready/willing to forgive, we Christians ask forgiveness from God and are granted it. While forgiveness wipes a figurative slate clean, it does not absolve us from any future transgressions. In fact, it serves as a reminder to not repeat the same set of behaviors which led to the transgression in the first place.

All of which leads me to what a certain Fox News personality said earlier today regarding Tiger Woods and his alleged transgressions of late. Sadly, it's all too easy these days to hear/read people invoking Christianity as a "cure-all" or salve for all that ails.

I really tire of media personalities invoking my faith as justification for all manner of transgression. The plea earlier today to Mr. Woods to ". . turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world" may just have worked my last nerve.

Or, maybe it's my impending migraine talking.

While I have it in my head, though, I decided to see if, perhaps, Buddhism was the source of Woods' problems of late. You can even look for yourself. It took me about 47 seconds of reading to figure out that Woods' choice of faith was not the root cause of his alleged infidelity. In fact, after looking over the Four Noble Truths and the Five Precepts, Woods' faith would have clearly informed him of his transgression (see F.P #3 and #4).

While Buddhism doesn't appear to have a cleansing of sin clause, all Woods would need to do is refresh himself of the Three Trainings and get back on track with the Eightfold Path and his troubles will work themselves out, more or less. With corporate sponsors leaving him and his wife weighing her options, he probably has more time to refocus himself in his faith.

As there is no commandment to visit a place of worship on a regular basis and help to support it financially, his best choice may be to remain with his faith.

What, do you suppose, Fox News anchors/hosts do to stay true to their own faith?

Friday, January 1, 2010

'One Life To Live' Gay Sex Scene Is First Ever On Daytime TV (VIDEO)

What a wonderful way to wake up this morning to a new year! The scene was no different from other sex scenes in daytime soaps, and that's what makes this scene such a joy to watch. All that us gay & lesbian couples want is to have the same rights and acknowledgement that straight couples have, and we're well on our way!
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

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