Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Credit Where Credit Is Due

I was remiss by failing to mention the source for obituaries in my post earlier today. I am a member of the mailing list and you can get more information about them at their Deathwatch Info Page.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot . . .

I have been tracking deaths since February, and I offer you this list of 2003's notable deaths. Some are old, some are young. I am glad you are not on the list!

2003 Deaths

Earl Hindman, actor, 61
Isabelle Stevenson, chairman of the board of the American Theatre Wing, 90
Anita Mui, Hong Kong pop star, 40
Bob Monkhouse, British comedian, 75
Alan Bates, actor, 69
Gary Stewart, musician
Les Tremayne, actor, 90
Patrick (Paddy) Crean, director, 93
Jeanne Crain, actress, 78
Paul Simon, former senator, 75
Ruben Gonzalez, Cuban musician, 84
William Roth, former senator, 82
Keith Magnuson, athlete and coach, 56
Madlyn Rhue, actress, 68
Otto Graham, athlete, 82
Jenifer Estess, theater producer, 40
Hope Lange, actress, 70
Ethel Winant, first television network female executive, 81
Keiko, killer whale, 27
Earl Bellamy, TV director, 86
Ellen Drew, actress, 89
Joe Skeen, Ex-Congressman, 76
David Hemmings, actor/director, 62
Gertrude Ederle, first woman to swim English Channel, 98
Eddie Gallaher, radio legend, 89
Richard Thomas Goldhahn, singing cowboy, 88
David Holt, former child actor, 76
Tony Canadeo, athlete, 84
Ken Brett, athlete, 55
Hugh Danaceau, newscaster and commentator, 74
Derek Prince, author and biblical scholar, 88
Eugene Kleiner, Silicon Valley pioneer, 80
Warren Spahn, Hall-Of-Fame Pitcher, 82
Snowflake, albino gorilla, 38-40
Gene Anthony Ray, actor, 41
Kellie Waymire, actress, 36
Jonathan Brandis, actor, 27
Dorothy Fay Ritter, actress and celebrity mother, 88
Canaan Sodindo Banana, first black president of Zimbabwe, 67
Robert Hodges, America's oldest veteran, 115
Penny Singleton, voice of 'Jane Jetson', 95
Irv Kupcinet, Chicago columnist, 91
Tony Thompson, Chic, Power Station drummer, 48
Art Carney, actor, 85
Bobby Hatfield, Righteous Brothers singer, 63
Franco Corelli, opera singer, 82
Rod Roddy, 'Price Is Right' announcer, 66
Madame Chiang Kai-shek, driving force in Taiwan's Nationalist gov't, 106
Michael Hegstrand, pro wrestler 'Hawk', 46
Fred Berry, TV's 'Rerun', 52
Elliot Smith, singer-songwriter, 34
Jack Elam, actor, 86
Manuel Vazquez Montalban, Spanish author, 64
Eleanor Lambert, fashion world icon, 100
Don Lanphere, jazz musician, 75
Carolyn Heilbrun (aka Amanda Cross), author, 77
Eugene Istomin, pianist, 77
Baba Jallow, suspected penis snatcher, 28
Israel "Izzy" Asper, founder of Canada's largest newspaper publisher, 71
Wally George, 'combat TV' host, 71
Marge Bong Drucker, "most shot at girl in WWII", 79
Elena Slough, oldest American, 114
Dan Snyder, NHL Atlanta Thrashers, 25
William Steig, illustrator and author, 95
Robert Kardashian, businessman and lawyer, 59
Elia Kazan, director, 94
Althea Gibson, first black to win Wimbledon, U.S. Open, 76
Sonora Webster Carver, horse rider, 99
Stanley Fafara, former child actor, 53
Donald O'Connor, entertainer, 78
George Plimpton, writer, 76
Herb Gardner, playwright, 68
Robert Palmer, singer, 54
Frank O'Bannon, Indiana governor, 73
Jay Morton, writer and artist, 92
Anna Lindh, Swedish Foreign Minister, 46
Harold Rose, horse trainer, 92
Gisele MacKenzie, singer, 76
Larry Hovis, actor, 67
Wesley Willis, schizophrenic street singer, 40
Kirk Varnedoe, art historian and curator, 57
Ramon Serrano Suner, Spanish minister, 101
Charles Bronson, actor, 81
Bobby Bonds, former baseball player, 57
Idi Amin, former Ugandan dictator, 78-80 (?)
Gregory Hines, Actor-dancer, 57
David Hampton, "Six Degrees of Separation" inspiration, 39
Strom Thurmond, Former U.S. Senator, 100
Lester Maddox, former Georgia governor, 87
Larry Doby, Baseball Hall of Famer, 79
Hume Cronyn, actor, 91
Gregory Peck, actor, 87
David Brinkley, newscaster, 82
June Carter Cash, country music pioneer, 73
Nina Simone, jazz and soul singer, 70
Karen Morley, actress blacklisted in the '30's, 93
Fred Rogers, every child's TV neighbor, 74
Ty Longley, musician, 31

So join me in some revelry:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days of auld lang syne?
And days of auld lang syne, my dear,
And days of auld lang syne.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days of auld lang syne?

We twa hae run aboot the braes
And pu'd the gowans fine.
We've wandered mony a weary foot,
Sin' auld lang syne.
Sin' auld lang syne, my dear,
Sin' auld lang syne,
We've wandered mony a weary foot,
Sin' auld ang syne.

We twa hae sported i' the burn,
From morning sun till dine,
But seas between us braid hae roared
Sin' auld lang syne.

Sin' auld lang syne, my dear,
Sin' auld lang syne.
But seas between us braid hae roared
Sin' auld lang syne.

And ther's a hand, my trusty friend,
And gie's a hand o' thine;
We'll tak' a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak' a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

A Happy and healthy new year for you and yours.


Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Lust For Life

One sign of aging is noticing the use of the songs from your youth in television advertisements. I will never get used to it. I remember my mother complaining about the same thing in the 1960s, but I paid it no mind really. She was my mother which meant she was old and they only use old songs on television commercials. No problem.

I think the first time I was personally blind-sided by this was the use of some Jimi Hendrix song to sell a car. Still, Jimi Hendrix died when I was twelve, so he was really of an earlier generation. As was Janis Joplin, whose little diddy Mercedes Benz was used by that car company in the 1980s.

In the late nineties a car company used Iggy Pop's Lust For Life and I was floored. I rationalized that it was OK because the song had been used in the movie Desperately Seeking Susan and had become part of the general pop consciousness.

Iggy Pop has never been mainstream, so to hear one of his songs used in a television commercial is always disconcerting. Lust For Life was co-written by David Bowie, who brought Iggy as deep into the mainstream as he had ever been; but even Bowie's middle-of-the-roadness can't soften the edge of Iggy's lyrics. Iggy is simply not mainstream or middle-of-the-road.

Last night I noticed Lust For Life being used in an ad for a cruise line. There is nothing more middle-of-the-road than one of those all-inclusive cruises-to-nowhere. So, I am baffled that Iggy’s music would be used.

I wonder if the cruise line's board of directors, its officers, or even its VP of PR have ever heard the lyrics to Lust For Life. Or, did some conglomerated advertising agency only play the infectious music and the lyric edited to say: "Here comes Johnny Yen again, with a lust for life." This edit completely sanitizes the sentiment of the song. Couldn't be further from the spirit of an Iggy song.

If the cruise line's owners heard the actual lyrics, do you think they would have allowed it to be used? I can see it: Lovely image of a white nuclear family swimming in an onboard pool or playing shuffleboard while Iggy sings: "Here comes Johnny Yen again, with the liquor and drugs, and the flesh machine, he's gonna do another strip-tease"?

I find that to be a great lyric and it would make a very appealing advertisement, but for what product? I don't think Joe Boardofdirectors at Happy White Family Cruise Lines would be happy if he learns that his VP of PR is using a song that includes "of course I've had it in the ear before" on the lyric sheet to advertise his fun family all-inclusive cruise to nowhere on the world’s cleanest and funnest ship.

So, for the benefit of all corporate members of the board, I offer you the lyrics to one of my favorite songs, which you keep using to sell cars and cruises and the such:

Lust For Life
(Words by Iggy Pop, Music by David Bowie)

Here comes Johnny Yen again
With the liquor and drugs
And the flesh machine
He's gonna do another strip-tease

Hey man where'd you get
That lotion? I been hurting
Since I bought the gimmick
About something called love
Yeah something called love
That's like hypnotizing chickens

Well I am just a modern guy
Of course I've had it in the ear before
'Cause of a lust for life
'Cause of a lust for life

I'm worth a million in prizes
With my torture film
Drive a GTO
Wear a uniform
All on a government loan

I'm worth a million in prizes
Yeah I'm through with sleeping on the
Sidewalk - no more beating my brains
With the liquor and drugs
With the liquor and drugs

Well I am just a modern guy
Of course I've had it in the ear before
'Cause of a lust for life
'Cause of a lust for life

I got a lust for life
Got a lust for life
Oh a lust for life
Oh a lust for life
A lust for life
I got a lust for life
I got a lust for life

Well I am just a modern guy
Of course I've had it in the ear before
'Cause of a lust for life
'Cause of a lust for life
'Cause of a lust for life

Here comes Johnny Yen again
With the liquor and drugs
And the flesh machine
He's gonna do another striptease

Hey man where'd you get
That lotion? Your skin starts
Itching once you buy the gimmick
About something called love
Oh love love love
That's like hypnotizing chickens

Well I am just a modern guy
Of course I've had it in the ear before
'Cause of a lust for life
'Cause of a lust for life

Got a lust for life
Yeah a lust for life
I got a lust for life
Oh a lust for life
I got a lust for life
Yeah a lust for life
I got a lust for life
A lust for life
Lust for life
Lust for life

From the 1977 Iggy Pop album Lust For Life

It really is a great song!

The only good thing about advertising agencies using this song is that Iggy is making money each time it's used. Between the royalties from Lust For Life and China Girl, he can probably pay the mortgage indefinitely. I would never begrudge Iggy the money.

I wish the corporate types would listen to the lyrics of the songs being to peddle their wares. I think I would feel better if Lust For Life was used to advertise booze or prescription drugs or a rehabilitation center? At least they are products more in line with the sensibility of the song.

Anyway . . . in the end, I am glad Iggy is making money. I should just stop watching television!


Monday, December 29, 2003

Amateur Athletics

It seems that professional sports might have a negative effect on secondary education in America. Hmmmmm! Is that an understatement?

College sports are a big business. Well, college football and college basketball are big businesses. These two sports generate huge amounts of money for their school's athletic programs. Is it a coincidence that neither of these two sports' professional leagues, NFL and NBA respectively, invest any of their own profits in farm systems? Are these two leagues using our universities as farm systems?

There are many industries that use colleges as their training grounds: medicine, law, communications, entertainment, education, etc. All of these industries use college students to help make their industries tick. These students are called interns and they are paid nominal (well, sometimes generous) salaries to learn their craft and ply the wares of their prospective full-time employers while still in school. None of these industries, however, seem to use, abuse, discard, and never really employ these interns to the same degree as the NHL and the NBA.

Sure, a theater arts major might never become a Broadway star; but, the school does not dismiss them without a degree, irrespective of their scholarship and financial aid status. Why are they not dismissed? Because they have potential in their fields, and though they might not be the next big thing in their fields, they are allowed to continue to hone their craft and acquire a degree in theater arts, studying theater arts, and learning skills relative to their chosen career track. This is not true for a student of athletics. They have no similar college of sports in which to learn and acquire a degree.

I think a theater arts degree is an important degree. I think the study of theater and drama is important to civilization. I do not compare it, though, to a medical degree. That is an unfair comparison. An actor or lighting designer or playwright need not know about the circulatory system or the history of philosophy in order to be a good theater arts degree candidate (even at the doctoral level). We, as a society, would never pretend that the next Tennessee Williams should be required to learn about the nuances of tort law. Why do we pretend the next Michael Jordan should learn these things?

A theater arts major will also spend some months of each year earning money in the theater world, either as an intern or at a summer job. This is expected of the student. And if the student is from a family of modest or impoverished means, that theater arts major would be required to earn some money for survival. Every adult student should keep themselves in clothes, toiletries, Kraft macaroni & cheese, Ramen noodles, a few beers, and some condoms. So, you do what you must do: you work. Hopefully, you find work in your chosen career. We do not allow student athletes to do this. They are supposed to magically support themselves without using their God-given skills to acquire money.

Some universities actually have colleges of theater arts. Entire schools dedicated to this discipline; and there are staff employed to help them find work and ways to earn money while learning and plying their trade. This is how it should be. This is sensible. Anyone in an athletic program found to be financially aiding an athlete is dismissed from the school and disgraced in the media.

A college football or basketball player is given a scholarship to attend school for the sole purpose of playing sports and helping the amateur athletics industry generate profits. We pretend that this student, gifted in many ways, will somehow find time during training, travel, games, team meetings, fitness training, medical examinations, and attendance at school fundraising events, to obtain a degree in some field completely removed from both the reason they have been brought to the school and that in which they are interested.

We can argue that in the old days it was students who played athletics, and they were only in the school to acquire an education. That is very sweet. It's a lovely memory. It's a little slice of sentimentality that has no bearing on the reality of today's college sports. That was the old days.

Sure you have the occasional Notre Dame where student athletes ARE students first and athletes second. Notre Dame does an excellent job finding those miraculous people every year. The other thousands of schools are looking for athletes they can call students, so they can field a team worthy of television broadcast. Why? Because the revenue generated at the ESPN Nestle RIAA Super Duper Bowl Of The Year will pay the school millions of dollars for their performance!

So, we ask these athletes to come to our schools and raise these remarkable sums of money while working forty, fifty, sixty hours a week for the team; and we pretend we are giving them an education. We almost never give them a degree, of course, and we barely teach them anything, so they are dumped back into the job market (which barely exists in America) and we scream about the horrible graduation-rate of college football and basketball players.

All the while, the NBA and the NFL are using our schools to recruit their future superstars. They are paying our schools to provide them with the talent. This is the same thing the law firms, hospitals, studios, and accounting firms ask of our schools. The difference is that the sports leagues pay the money to the school and the other private industries actually pay the student! Why are we not paying student athletes the same way we are paying other students who work and prepare for industry?

I think each University that wants to participate in Division One Profit Making Televised Events should be required to establish a College of Sports that offers some sort of sports degree. I am serious. Here we have a group of barely literate Americans who bring huge sums of money into a school, are deserted by our nation's failed public education system, and want to work hard and earn a lot of money. Why not use their skills AND teach them how to be successful citizens?

The curricula could include life-skills subjects that we all need, but do not all know. How To Read. How To Count. How To Use A Phone Book. How To Get A Passport. How To Balance A Checking Account. How To Register To Vote. Charity: How It Works. Filling-Out A Job Application. Real Life Economics. I know it sounds flippant, but I think we owe it to these athletes to make sure they really can make it in the world the day after they are dumped from the squad and their scholarship is cancelled.

Stepping back, however, we can see that this is really not an answer to the problem. The problem is that the NFL and NBA are recklessly using our institutions of higher learning as the minor leagues and farm systems that other sports pay for out-of-pocket.

Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League do not present as much of a threat to their young athletes. These sports recruit and train and guide and groom young athletes. They do not abuse our educational system.

If we prevented professional sports from using our colleges as proving grounds, we would have better educational institutions, better professional sports, better opportunity for athletes, and a better society because of it.

Theater majors, baby lawyers, medical interns, and all the rest are paid money while in college studying what they do best. We should afford American athletes the same privilege and opportunity; and we should remove their futures from the clutches of greedy athletic directors who would be better off hired to run professional development camps outside of our education industry. Let the NFL and NBA invest in farm systems and hire these horrible athletic directors to run them.

An athletic director is no more an educator than a basketball player is a student. Let’s stop pretending! Either develop colleges of athletics, or dump the sports that are using our schools as their minor leagues.


Saturday, December 27, 2003

Saturday Again

I do not post a new article to this Blog on Saturdays; but, there are articles in the archive dating back to 1997. So please read away and leave a comment.

Friday, December 26, 2003

Just So You Know . . .

It is not cool or smart to be a Republican.

Republicans are greedy, self-serving war-mongerers. As much as they want to hide their avarice behind remarks about tax-cuts, freedom, and free-markets, it is a lie. Republicans are only interested in helping themselves and their rich friends at the expense of working Americans. They have never lowered your taxes, they have only raised your taxes and given your money to the rich. They have dismantled services meant to help all of America and given those funds to wealthy Americans.

The difference between a powerful nation and a great nation is how it treats its citizenry, ALL its citizenry. It is cool to help others. It is smart. It makes the world, you, and your nation, a better place.

Since the rise of christian conservativism, America has been slowly eliminating social services, public safety and education funding while cutting the taxes of the rich and beefing up corporate subsidies. If you work for a living, your taxes have not gone down, they have gone up. This is not cool. This is not smart.

This agenda put forth by the Republicans has been a failure. It is not cool or interesting or even good. It is bad. Republicans and their primary supporters, the christian conservatives, are bad people and they are destroying your nation.

If you vote Republican, you support the rise of christian fundamentalism.

If you are a Catholic or a Jew or Muslim or a Jehovah's Witness or a Buddhist or a Hindu or an agnostic or an atheist or anything besides a white, born-again christian, and you vote Republican, you are voting to put in power a gang of thugs who want your beliefs to be marginalized and your voice to be silenced.

If you are a person of color, or a woman, or a homosexual, or a non-English-speaking citizen, you do yourself a disservice by voting Republican, because the christian right that has taken-over the party has no interest in anything but your financial support of their agenda, which includes your marginalization.

No matter how bad any of the other parties might be, they are not co-opted by the whackos who have made the United States the world's largest christian fundamentalist nation. No matter what the other parties are doing, they are not attempting to abridge your constitutional rights one insidious little step at a time. What the christian conservatives are doing to America through the Republican party is frightening, and each time you vote for them, you are making the world a much worse place.

The United States used to be a great nation, now it is a powerful nation.

Too bad.

Not cool.

Not smart.


Thursday, December 25, 2003

Merry Christmas

I love Christmas!

Irrespective of the actual birthdates of prophets and sons of God, today is a really cool day! Personally, I follow the teachings of Christ and consider myself a Christian, so today does hold dramatic spiritual significance for me, and then there's the fun of it all, too.

I am a reasonable human being and I know that today is a holiday in America not to promote Christian love, but so that the retail industry can realize an amazing boom in sales at the end of the year. As soon as the working-poor becomes the working-totally-bankrupt, and can no longer afford to spend a small fortune on Christmas presents, we will likely be working on December 25th if it falls on a weekday and the phony celebration of the birth of Christ will be swept aside like so much social justice.

I love Christmas. I love Winter, and I really love when (unlike this year) they happen at the same time. This year, the New York Christmas is warm and damp. Oh well.

Mrs. Mac and I decided to have a more frugal, toned-down Christmas this year, because we are planning to move and between the expense and the logistics, a big Christmas is just not feasible. We have a ceramic tree, not a real tree. We have fewer presents, and are hosting no big parties. We are having a little family Christmas of our own.

Yesterday, I found the No Milk Please blog and it included an article about the music industry. The recording industry is now almost as heinous as energy, banking, insurance, and electoral politics. Unlike those other big businesses, though, we consumers have a chance to fight back against the recording industry and their evil leg-breakers, the RIAA. It is a Downhill Battle and we can win it!

No Milk Please included a link to What A Crappy Present which explains how CDs are really crappy presents for kids. Adults know how to buy CDs for other adults, but we never know what kids would like.

I wish someone had told me about this when I tried to buy CDs for my niece last year. I gave her three big releases from 2002: Moby 18, David Bowie Heathen, and Bruce Springsteen The Rising. She hated them. Well, she liked the Moby CD, but had no interest in Bowie or Springsteen. Oh well. I learned that lesson. This year, she got a gift card.

The whole music industry mess is depressing. We have the RIAA telling us that we can't copy songs because it hurts the artist. Just in case you don't know: This is a lie! The RIAA represents big labels. The big labels are owned by big conglomerates. They charge you $18.00 for a CD. It costs less than $1.00 to manufacture, and the artist gets about the same amount. That leaves $16.00 to go to service the debt assumed to acquire all the record label and pay the over-compensated executives more money than they deserve. The amounts of money paid to music industry executives makes vulgar seem humble, and the debt service the boards of directors must maintain would make a corporate raider blush. The artist gets almost nothing, so when you download a free song, you are not hurting the artist. In fact, you are probably helping the artist by spreading his or her work to new ears.

It's important to work against the RIAA and speak out against the corporate homogenization of the music industry. So, learn about it and ignore the apologists who will tell you can't change things. You can. You can change the world.

Still, I love getting CDs at Christmas, because it is often music of a band or artist I have never known. So, when you want to get me a CD, get me something by an obscure artist I have never heard of! Preferably on an indie label.

I like getting books and DVDs, too.

Damn, I just love getting gifts!

Send me a gift!

Or send me money!

Go ahead!

Get in the spirit of giving and give to ME!

Besides that: Have a blessed and merry day.


Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Joe Namath

When I was about eleven or twelve years old, I got a copy of Joe Namath's autobiography I Can't Wait Until Tomorrow ('Cause I Get Better Looking Every Day) from my mother's book club. I read it all the way through and understood less than I would have admitted.

As a boy, Namath was a hero of mine, probably as much because my father hated him as being impressed by his athleticism. He wore fur coats and Nehru jackets and turtlenecks and medallions. He was loaded all the time (still is, apparently), and I thought it was all very amusing. He was surrounded by girls, he was not 'macho' like most athletes, he was in Playboy, he was on television talk shows laughing and carrying on. He was a man's man!

My dad? He liked Arnie Palmer. Joe Namath was everything that Arnold Palmer was not.

I have been trying to acquire a Book Club Edition of his book, which is what I had in the sixties and I found these pictures recently:

The two gems I remember from the book was this quote about his childhood: "Till I was 13, I thought my name was Shut Up." and the title of one of the chapters: I Like My Girls Blonde And My Johnny Walker Red.

Namath was always on television, in the paper, in magazines. He was everywhere, and I loved him for it.

He has done a good job getting himself some attention recently. During last Saturday's Patriots-Jets ESPN telecast, sideline reporter Suzy Kolber interviewed Joe Namath. Not only was Broadway Joe not at his most sober, he was obviously blotto out of his mind. When Kolber asked what the Jets' recent problems meant, he slurred: "I want to kiss you."

There is a website out there with an audio feed of the interview. Follow this link to
I guess this interview is the logical 2003 event in the long and storied life of Joe Namath.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

MSG After-Party

As Bowie and his band made their bows and curtsies from the stage of Madison Square Garden last Monday night, I was at the souvenir stand getting a program for Liz in London. She had attended some dozen shows around Europe and failed to acquire even one. Since she had kindly sent me a copy of "Playing For Uncle Sam, The Brit's Story Of The North American Soccer League," I thought it only right to get her a program from the show.

The souvenir stand was operated by the actual two incompetent woman you expected. They had no time for customers, they were chatting about their nails and comparing the manicures they’d gotten which resulted in each of them having ten fingers with five inch nails! Watching them try to handle money and merchandise (especially their feeble attempts to roll posters) would have been hilarious if it hadn't taken them nine minute to get to the third customer: me!

I made my way to Seventh Avenue, down Thirty-Third Street, into the back door of my building and up to the apartment before most Bowie fans had given up their final hope for a surprise second encore. Face it: if Bowie has sung "Ziggy Stardust" as the twenty-fifth song, it is over!

I had to make my way home quickly so I could collect Mrs. Mac and attend the big after-show party at Siberia. There were two bands scheduled and a fashion show. We were asked to be judges of the fashion show competition. Before leaving the apartment, I quickly printed eight signs with a large "10" on each. Judges have to judge and holding up numbers is always an effective method.

We easily got a taxi to Siberia and found the standard Siberian chaos inside: motorcycles parked in the middle of the room, jukebox playing bad music too loudly, general confusion about "what the hell kind of a party is this anyhow," lots of people to greet.

Mrs. Mac lasted just a short time. This was not her scene and the lateness of the hour, combined with the impossibility of figuring out the proceedings and schedule, led us to find her a cab even before the bands began.

After milling about a bit, I noticed the bands were ready to go but they had yet to start. It was getting late and it was a school night. I was given the honor of acting emcee.

Robbie Blender has a stage presence that reminds of Marc Bolan and Eddie Izzard, only younger and cuter. Robbie tore through a solo set charged by Thunders-esque strumming and the enthusiasm of any ten drag queens. His set ended too quickly for me, and I was promised I would be told when he will next appear with his band.

Saphin was up next and they managed a multi-media show that was rather extravagant for the modest technology of the space. High-energy dance music and costume changes made this short set whiz by faster than it should have. Excellent songs and an excellent band always make for an entertaining act. I look forward to seeing a full show by Saphin right after the New Year.

Next order of business was a Fashion Show of Bowie fans strutting their stuff for fun and prizes. Mrs. Mac and I were invited to be judges, and though she couldn't last until it started, I sat on a panel of judges that had the best time viewing and judging the following:

MandN: Best Bondage Witch Who's Most Likely To Pratfall: gothic, gauzy and sexy. Corset and skirt, Lace-up black shoes and stockings.

NancyH: Best Reality Act, complete with The Belt That Makes Everyone Hot, trousers with zip 'round fly and slappy belt.

Eammon: Best DQ, with the cutest little bod and the most infectious smile!

TV Queen Bitch: Best TV, Best Tits, Best Red Dress, Best Ink. So swishy in his satin and tat!

Saxonny and Gwyn: Best Girlie Glam Tag Team and Male Fantasy. Riding crop, black boots, leather and red corsets, frilly cuffs, handcuffs. Best Beating For Dick Mac.

Cartal: Best Names Brand. All the best names listed on all the brightest clothes.

Cavebat: Best Snow Globe. Amazing! You shuold have seen it.

AlanDyer: Best Royalty. Screamin’ Lord Nawlins, the King of Bowie Gras.

I probably forgot someone, and for that I apologize. Had I written this immediately after the party, it would be more accurate (and that today’s lesson).

I had a blast and it was so late, or is that early, into the morning that I had to say all my good-byes and make my way back home.

I can't wait for another party at Siberia with that lot!

Monday, December 22, 2003

The Projects – Part One

I awoke this morning remembering Patty and Cathy. They were the girls upstairs when I was growing-up in the Mission Hill Housing Projects.

The projects were built right after World War II about a mile southwest of downtown Boston. We were surrounded by Harvard Medical School, and State Teachers College, to the West, by Wentworth Institute of Technology, and the Museum of Fine Arts to the North, and more projects, abandoned industries, train tracks, and failed urban redevelopment to the East. To the South was the huge Catholic church.

Map taken without permission from MapQuest.

The majority of the people who called the projects “home” were Catholic, mostly Irish, all poor. We all attended Mass at The Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help (a/k/a Mission Church), and most of us attended the Catholic school, as well.

My earliest memories living there are about playing in the well-kempt grassy yards at the front and back of every building. There was always a huge crowd of kids. There were twenty-three kids, six mothers, one father, and one grandmother living in the six apartments of our building.

Mary and her children lived upstairs. She worked at the Museum of Fine Arts, down the street. Though I made my way to the museum as often as I could, I never saw her there. The kids, Jimmy, Patty and Cathy, were older then me.

Patty had been my babysitter when I was a toddler, and she was very responsible. The world was a different place and you could leave a child with a teenager for a few hours without an attempted kidnap by a stranger or over-zealous government official. Patty was popular and all her friends would be with us. They would fawn over me and give me soda, er . . . tonic, and play with me.

Cathy was much closer in age to me. She was just a few years ahead of me in school and I would see her with the older kids in her school uniform during recess. The school yard was strictly segregated, so there was no way I could ever go talk to her; but she was always nice to me outside of school.

My favorite memory of Cathy was being invited up to their apartment to watch The Beatles on Ed Sullivan. The buzz around that broadcast was the most exciting thing on television since the Kennedy Assassination.

There was no end to my amusement when The Patty Duke Show was aired and the two characters were named Patty and Cathy. I was almost proud, as if the coincidence of names was somehow proof that my friends were special, and I was connected to their specialness.

I remember that Jimmy went off to Viet Nam. I watched the news each night and I knew it was a war; but everybody seemed so happy that he was going. There was a big celebration upstairs. Jimmy looked so handsome and spiffy in his uniform. I was just as excited as the others. I don’t know if he was drafted, or volunteered, or if it was part of a plea-bargain, but off he went. Mary kept a portrait of him in his uniform prominently displayed. All the mothers in the building worried about him.

I cried when I heard he was shot. I don’t know where he was stationed when it happened, nor do I remember how long he had been gone, but it wasn’t fatal and it was a ticket home for him. The hoop-la surrounding his return was much bigger than the celebration for his departure.

Things started changing in the projects in the late sixties. More and more white families moved-out to places like Jamaica Plain and Quincy and Braintree, and more and more black families moved-in from places like Alabama and Mississippi and South Carolina.

Summers started peacefully. Then there would be a fight at the basketball courts between the white kids and the black kids. Then there would be a gang-war between all the white guys and all the black guys. Then we would have to stay inside the apartment after dark, because the battles shifted to a war-like battle between the police and all the residents.

It wasn’t all bad in the Summers of 1967 and 1968, there was Summerthing, and the Red Sox, but the race-riots were memorable.

Some time in 1968 or 1969, the maintenance men and management staff stopped coming to work. The maintenance office was closed. The sidewalks were no longer swept. The incinerators began malfunctioning so trash was just burned in a big pile. The landscaping was ignored, so grass stopped growing and trees began dying, the clothes-yards became unusable, and chain link fences began disappearing.

These change hastened the departure of most of the families in our building, and in 1969 we moved to Forest Hills.

The projects are gone now. It’s a sign of your own aging when the building you were raised in is demolished for new construction.

On Easter Sunday in 1998, I drove down into the projects to see my old building. The eastern end of the projects near Parker Street had already been demolished, but the western end was still in use. 104 McGreevey Way stood at the corner of Oregon Court, a little worse for the wear: dilapidated windows keeping the cold out and a patch of mud where the grassy yard had been. Scores of cars, some parked on the sidewalks and walkways, contradicted the poverty of the residents. I wanted to get out of the car and walk around, but it didn’t look safe. I drove slowly back and forth a few times, until an angry man appeared on the steps of the building glaring and pointing at me. Nothing good for him could come from a white guy in a new car driving up and down the street looking at the buildings. I drove away.

The projects have been replaced by mixed-use housing. Little townhouses all in a row, interspersed with apartment buildings. Poor families live with young middle-class families and students from the nearby schools. It’s supposed to be a better design for living.

Patty, Cathy and the entire family moved out of the projects shortly after Jimmy’s return from the war. I never knew where they went. I wonder where they are now?

Saturday, December 20, 2003


Though I don't post a new blog on Saturdays, there is an explanation for this weeks' sparseness of blogging in the first line of this week's OMG!™


Thursday, December 18, 2003

Iraqi Playing Cards

Street vendors along Sixth Avenue are still selling those decks of playing cards with the former Iraqi leaders on them, and it got me thinking.

That deck of cards was one of the most brilliant marketing moves since the advent of neo-Nazism . . . er, neo-conservatism in America, and thinking people (i.e., liberals) should take a cue.

Someone should publish a deck of playing cards depicting all the evil American fundamentalists! Bush on ace of spades, Fallwell on ace of hearts, Dennis Miller on two of clubs, old-timers like Anita Bryant and Phyllis Schlafley (for historical reference) along with Sandra Day O'Connor and Condaleeza Rice on the queens.

This could be great fun! I think I'll start a list myself and publish it in a few weeks!

There is nothing more dangerous to humanity than fundamentalism! Nuclear war just kills you, fundamentalism provides a long, tortuous life for everyone but the torturers!

Know your enemy!


Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Cloying Aroma

(An article about the MSG-After-Party will appear later this week. My article about the Bowie show is below.)

Perfumes were invented to cover unpleasant smells generally associated with hygiene. If you are not clean you often smell. Perfume will make you smell better. Some perfumes are more pleasing than others. Each of us can list perfumes we find revolting or pleasing. I am a fan of Chanel perfumes. I have never smelled a Chanel perfume I found unpleasant. I know there are many who will disagree. That is not the point.

There are aromas that are cloying. They are choking even in the smallest amount.

In the 1980s, I remember an Avon product called Skin So Soft becoming very popular because it was discovered to work as an insect repellent without the annoying, though not necessarily cloying, chemical smell so common in products like Raid. This Avon product had a cloying aroma. If someone was using it outside I barely noticed it; but inside, especially on the subway, it caused a gag reflex in me. If more than one person in my general vicinity was softened with this remarkable new insect repellent, I would have to get off the subway and move to another car. This was a dreadful product, and the bottles of it tucked-away in my bathroom were quickly disposed of.

Fortunately, I think others came to the same conclusion because I rarely smell it now.

The subway is the place where we most infringe on each other's personal space. It's important to walk that fine line between holding enough space for my own safety and comfort and leaving enough room for others to enjoy the same sense of security. The worst activity on the subway is the consumption of food and beverages. It might actually be illegal, but people do it with remarkable frequency. The worst offense is drinking coffee that has been artificially flavored with some sort of nut substitute. Though not the most cloying aroma on a morning subway ride, the advent of the flavored coffee might overall be the most annoying cloying aroma of this millennium.

The most offensive aroma on the New York subway these days is, of course, a result of so-called conservative fiscal policies implemented by Republicans since the advent of Reaganomics. The taxpayers (yes that is you) have allowed greedy businessmen to convince them that public transportation is unnecessarily expensive and can be better run by faceless corporations employing workers at slave-wages and providing no benefits. Allegedly, this will make public transportation better and cheaper. It is worse and more expensive, of course, and taxpayers no longer have any control over the service, because it is privatized. Privatization is a failure. The most obvious manifestation of this failure is the methods used to allegedly clean subway cars.

Little cleaning is done except picking up newspapers and coffee cups, and damp-mopping the area where you spilled your grande hazelnut latte delight on the elderly woman for whom you failed to give-up your seat. Then the under-paid, poorly supervised, untrained cleaning staff who get no health benefits from their private employer apply an artificial strawberry scent to the inside of the car, which is supposed to make it smell clean.

This artificial strawberry deoderizer is singularly the most cloying aroma on the subway. No cheap perfume, vanilla bean coffee, stale cigarette smoke, Avon skin softener, or damp newspaper can ever cut through it. It is horrible, and it is no substitute for cleaning the subway cars.

I wonder if we will ever elect public officials who will fix America's infrastructure? Will we simply apply artificial fruit flavoring to the highways, military, schools, and social services programs in the hope that nobody notices they stink?


Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Bowie at Madison Square Garden - 15 DEC 03

I am a Bowie fan! I am a big Bowie fan. Even when I am critical of his music or performance or business decisions, I still adore him.

Last night, I met a gang of people at a tarted-up pub near Madison Square Garden to collect friends and my ticket for the David Bowie "A Reality Tour" with Special Guest Macy Gray. Sadly, our timing meant we missed Macy Gray.

Our seats were on the floor, near the stage, but my companions decided against those and made their way to the very front, up against the stage. This was wonderful, because I got four seats to myself and I had plenty of room for dancing!

Bowie had cancelled five shows in the previous ten days because of illness, so this was the first United States show of this world tour, his first in over a decade.

He was in top form and played twenty-five selections as old as the classic "Man Who Sold The World" and as recent as the rather dull "Reality." His conversations with the audience were animated and humorous. He was frisky, and sexy, and flirtatious. He was butch and femme, cowboy and drag queen, a little bit street and a little bit regal. He's a man's man and a big queen!

The show opened with the screeching chords of Earl Slick playing the riff of 1974's "Rebel Rebel," one of the many Bowie songs that has reached anthem status. As the singer appeared, the band dropped the tempo to the new, slower rendition of the song that was re-worked in 2002. It's great that Bowie has done new versions of some of his best-known hits, and the new "Rebel Rebel" is surprisingly infectious.

I am not enamored of the new "Reality" album. The two strongest cuts on the album are cover versions, and neither was performed at this show. After performing "New Killer Star" and "Reality," it was back to hits with "Fashion" followed by "Hang On To Yourself" and "Fame." The crowd was pumped-up, and though he almost lost the attention with his cover of The Pixies' "Cactus," he did a great job getting them back by requesting, because of his recent throat troubles, that the crowd please sing the next song.

The stage went black, the band broke into "All The Young Dudes" and the audience went ballistic. It was a quintessential rock show moment, lacking only cigarette lighters held aloft, as all of Madison Square Garden swayed back and forth, arms in the air, straining through the chorus. It was rather wonderful and the singer seemed very pleased when he thanked the crowd afterwards. It is amazing to me that Bowie also counts the glam-anthem (is that a glanthem?) "All The Young Dudes" in his vast array of anthem-status songs.

Most were thrilled with his saccharine-sweet version of Iggy Pop's "China Girl." I have always appreciated that Bowie's recording made Iggy rich for life, but this version has never held a candle to Iggy's. Hard to argue with success, of course, while watching most of the arena dancing and singing along. This was the perfect time to take a break and get a bottle of water. The rather-lovely, but not very dynamic or interesting "The Loneliest Guy" started as I returned to my seat and I used this time to visit the toilet! All concerts need these little breaks in the action.

After polite applause, Bowie explained that the next song was the first David Bowie song he ever heard on the radio in America. More than one person around me referred to "The Man Who Sold The World" as a Nirvana song, and I realized that the tickets for the good seats still get into the wrong hands most of the time. The guy next to me actually said, "Wow! I didn't know he covered Nirvana!" I will never tire of hearing TMWSTW.

I am criticized by many Bowie fans for disliking the "1.Outside" album. It was Bowie's renaissance release and the ensuing tour with the always-tedious Nine Inch Nails garnered him a new generation of fans. I think the idea for the record is a great idea, I just find it completely unlistenable, and it is the only David Bowie album I do not have in my collection (I have never opened my "Tonight" CD, but I do own it.) "Hallo Spaceboy" has been a staple at Bowie shows since 1995. I am done with it. If I never hear it again, it will be too soon.

The grinding of Spaceboy was relieved with the lovely "Sunday" from last year's "Heathen" record (Bowie's best release since "Scary Monsters").

When I saw Bowie at Avalon Ballroom in the mid-nineties, he and Gail Ann Dorsey sang "Under Pressure" as a duet. This is one of the most wonderful rock duets ever, and they should release it as a recording for some Freddie Mercury foundation benefit, or the such. They are great together and it's a joy to watch Bowie fawn over her and beam like a proud parent when she sings so brilliantly. She has a magical voice, and the appreciative applause was extended.

Bowie took the spotlight again as Mike Garson played piano and he sang "Life On Mars," which is not an easy vocal and he performed impressively given his recent flu.

Bowie's fascination with cowboys (and their late-century counterparts, astronauts) is well-known. Bowie says his favorite cowboy song is "Ashes To Ashes" and I might agree.

The only low-point in the evening came next when he offered the lovely "Afraid" (from 'Heathen) followed by "The Motel" (from "1.Outside"). The singer got it right when he laughed that about 240 people in the audience had heard of it. The man has a remarkable catalogue and I will never understand why he would choose anything from "1.Outside" for an interlude obscure. The song is boring, it is from a boring album and he almost completely lost the audience (including the hardcore fans) with such a dreary selection. If he wants to do a little-known slow number that his best fans would love, why not do "Win" from Young Americans, or "Lady Grinning Soul" from Aladdin Sane, or "Never Let Me Down" from the album of the same name? "The Motel" is a horrible choice, and I don't think there were 240 people who appreciated it.

The audience reaction was so poor that he interrupted the show and announced, willy-nilly, to everyone (much to the band's surprise) that they would do "Changes" next.

He recaptured the crowd and never looked back as he crooned through a soulful "Five Years," the rockin' "I'm Afraid Of Americans," and a finale of a toned-down and dramatic "Heroes."

The bad left the stage at exactly 11:00 (which I think is union rules), and returned to do an encore of classic Bowie. How can you go wrong with a three-song encore of "The Jean Genie" (with Bowie blowing the love-me-do-harmonica), "Suffragette City," and his signature "Ziggy Stardust"?

The show was wonderful. I quickly exited as the band took their bows and curtsies, got Liz a program, and was on my home to collect Mrs. Mac for the after-party, before the band left the glow of the lights.

I will write about the after-party at "Siberia" tonight or tomorrow.

Until that time, here is the set list:

01. Rebel Rebel
02. New Killer Star
03. Reality
04. Fashion
05. Hang On To Yourself
06. Fame
07. Cactus
08. All The Young Dudes
09. China Girl
10. The Loneliest Guy
11. The Man Who Sold The World
12. Hallo Spaceboy
13. Sunday
14. Under Pressure
15. Life On Mars?
16. Ashes to Ashes
17. Afraid
18. The Motel
19. Changes
20. Five Years
21. I'm Afraid Of Americans
22. Heroes

23. The Jean Genie
24. Suffragette City
25. Ziggy Stardust

Monday, December 15, 2003

Parties: Cocktail, Guilty, Political

It was a spectacular weekend for me. My best friend, Steven, who is one of my favorite people in the whole world, arrived Saturday for a weekend visit. At the same time, a bevy of friends and acquaintances from England and Ireland began arriving for a few days of winter revelry and entertainment.

I was invited to a Brits-only cocktail party being held at the Jet Silver Hangar in the Travis Section of Staten Island. As an American, I was quite hono(u)red to be included. Steven and I gathered up about ten blokes and birds, took the Seventh Avenue Local to South Ferry, got the Ferry across to Staten Island, and caught some cabs from there. It made no sense to try and get out of Manhattan in a car or cab at that hour, and the Ferry was the perfect choice, especially because it offered some of the first time visitors a view of the Statue of Liberty.

I have learned a great life lesson: one of God's greatest gifts to humanity is the drunk English girl! (Did I just say that, or did I just think it?) We partied until far too late, and I was not in bed until close to dawn!

I awoke to a remarkable snowstorm, a second-hand smoke headache, and the news that another guilty party had been captured in Iraq. They got the big one. The pictures actually showed him to look like an elderly political science professor with a soft-spot for communism. Dress him in a tweed jacket with patched elbows and he could have been a tenured faculty member at a University.

Now they are proclaiming that America is safe! Each morning I walk by the CNN studios and they have one of those Times Square-style news tickers. It dismays me that the christian fundamentalists controlling the United States deem CNN to be liberal media. Very sad for both liberalism and freedom of the press. Today the CNN ticker was proclaiming that Sunday's capture would lead to the capture in Afghanistan of the guy whose financial interests are represented by Henry Kissinger and whose hobbies include convincing others to fly jets into American skyscrapers. It's sad to watch the media manipulate the hearts of Americans by linking those two tyrants. Anyway, the former Iraqi dictator looked better in capture than he ever did as a dictator in faux-military drag.

I think it is time for American liberals, no all liberals around the world, to force Senator Joseph Lieberman to switch to the Republican Party. I know he is a politician, and therefore a megalomaniac, so his remarks are always rooted in a psychopathic need to acquire more power and money for himself at the expense of anyone around him; but his statement on Meet The Press yesterday went beyond the pale. He said: "If Howard Dean had his way, Saddam Hussein would be in power today."

This remark is so inappropriate as to be offensive. Lieberman would do anything to maintain the status quo, including the continued lying about homeland security (which sounds more Soviet by the day), support for irresponsible military policy in the Middle East, continued corporate deregulation, and turning a blind eye to the fundamentalist take-over of America's cultural institutions. This man is a conservative of the worst sort, because he is a man who knows better. He is a man who knows that conservatism is dangerous, but as long as he gets more money and power, he will let it continue.

Lieberman is such a horrible man that I can't believe liberals do not speak out against him more often. Can it really be possible that this man would be even remotely considered a Democratic presidential candidate by anyone outside of Connecticut?

If this remark is the sort of thing a pig like Lieberman says about Howard Dean, then Dean looks better and better by the minute!

Have a drink, capture a deposed dictator, and vote Dean!


Saturday, December 13, 2003


Dick Mac (alive!) will be published daily, Monday through Friday. On Saturdays, you can visit the new edition of OMG!™.

Friday, December 12, 2003

A Joke - Hillary Clinton

Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, and Al Gore were in an airplane that crashed. They're up in heaven, and God's sitting on the great white throne. God addresses Al first.

"Al, what do you believe in?"

Al replies, "Well, I believe I won that election, but that it was your will that I did not serve. And I've come to understand that now."

God thinks for a second and says "Okay, very good. Come and sit at my left."

God then addresses Bill. "Bill, what do you believe in?"

Bill replies, "I believe in forgiveness. I've sinned, but I've never held a grudge against my fellow man, and I hope no grudges are held against me."

God thinks for a second and says "You are forgiven, my son. Come and sit at my right."

God then address Hillary. "Hillary, what do you believe in?"

Hillary says, "I believe you're in my chair."


Dick Mac says: "I think Hillary would make a swell President!"



Thursday, December 11, 2003

Intensity? Emotion?

I gave up on College Basketball a few years back when it became as unpleasant to watch as the NBA with the cheating, commercialization and bad announcers.

One of the things I dislike most about sports these days is the showmanship cum one-up-manship that permeates victory and good play. The incessant pumping of the fist in the air, the in-your-face gloating, the deep throated, gutteral shouts of "Yeahhhhhhhhhhh!" and the genuflecting air punch are all too unpleasant. Whatever happened to winning with grace?

My father-in-law visited for a few days this week. I love spending time with him because we have a lot in common. He likes basketball, so last night we watched the Maryland v Florida game.

The dreadful and tedious Dick Vitale referred to an early-game celebration of an out-of-bounds call in Florida's favor (an out-of-bounds call, for crissakes, not even a basket) with the statement: "Look at the emotion, look at the intensity!"

What was displayed by the player was not emotion and intensity, it was sociopathic bullying approaching criminal assault. When did this become entertainment?

Wednesday, December 10, 2003


There are so many reasons for war. Currently, we are fighting a war so that a tiny number of Texan oilmen, and their cohorts around the Western world, can profit magnificently from America's tax-investment in the military. It's sad, but true.

The worst war fought since the advent of American conservatism in the late 1970s, has been the war on drugs. This war is, of course, not really a war. It's a public relations campaign fueled with billions of American tax dollars. This money is generally given to the governments and militarys of South American countries that allow American corporations to deal untethered in their domestic natural resources. No drug production or distribution is ever really stopped, because the people receiving the money to prevent the drug traffic are usually the people receiving money to ensure the drugs continue to move freely.

Who is being harmed by this so-called war? American drug addicts, drug users, police officers, educators, and families.

Our prisons are filled with drug-addicts and drug offenders. Police forces use inordinate amounts of their resources to fight recreational use of drugs, schools are forced to "teach" conservative drug policy (Just Say No), and families are torn asunder by the lack of proper mental health and addiction treatment funding, and the imprisonment of family members because of drug use.

All the while, coffee companies and oil companies and clothing manufacturers make billions in the South American countries that supply the drugs. They are free to do business, because the people running those countries are receiving a LOT of money from the US Government in the form of drug war money. (You de-fund the war on drugs and you will see our resources of cheap labor dry-up faster than you can say Ronald Reagan!)

The Nation is one of the most important journals of American political writing. It has been publishing for almost 140 years. Impressive.

Last night, I found this article, which I reprint without permission, that I think is very important:

Criminalizing Motherhood

by Silja J.A. Talvi
The Nation Magazine

Regina McKnight is doing twelve years in prison for a stillbirth, carving out a dangerous intersection between the drug war and the antichoice movement. In the eyes of the South Carolina Attorney General's office, McKnight committed murder.

Her crime? Giving birth to a five-pound, stillborn baby. As McKnight grieved and held her third daughter Mercedes's lifeless body, she could never have imagined that she was about to become the first woman in America convicted for murder by using cocaine while pregnant.

The absence of any scientific research linking cocaine use to stillbirth didn't matter. Nor did it matter that the state couldn't conclusively prove that McKnight's cocaine use actually caused Mercedes's stillbirth. What mattered was that South Carolina prosecutors were hellbent on using McKnight as an example.

Thanks largely to the efforts of the former Republican Attorney General, Charlie Condon, now running for US Senate, South Carolina is the only state in the nation with a child-abuse law that can be applied to "viable fetuses." At least 100 women have subsequently faced criminal charges in the past fifteen years for using drugs while pregnant in that state, according to the Post and Courier (Charleston). South Carolina was also the first and only state to test pregnant women for drug use and report the findings to police without the woman's consent--or a warrant--until the US Supreme Court struck down this bill as a violation of the Fourth Ammendement.

But McKnight, now 26, was the first to be imprisoned on a murder conviction under the "viable fetuses" law. In October McKnight lost her best shot at release when the Supreme Court decided not to review the case, allowing the conviction to stand by default.

"What South Carolina has done, in effect, is made pregnancy a crime waiting to happen," says Lynn Paltrow, an attorney and the executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women in New York.

Paltrow served as one of the attorneys who took the appeal to the nation's highest court. In so doing, she joined twenty-seven other medical and drug policy groups that sought to overturn the conviction, including the American Public Health Association, the American Nurses Association and the American Society of Addiction Medicine. These mainstream health organizations saw the situation exactly for what it was: an extreme manifestation of an increasingly successful antichoice agenda wrapped in the cloak of the War on Drugs.

"The prosecution, conviction, and sentencing of Ms. McKnight for her stillbirth not only distorts the law, but contradicts the clear weight of available medical evidence, violates fundamental notions of public health, and undermines the physician-patient relationship," as the organizations put it in their amicus brief to the Court.

Approximately 275 women nationwide have already faced charges relating to drug use during their pregnancies, says Paltrow. In a country where a pregnant woman has no legal right to safe housing, daycare, nutritious food, medical care or mental health services, it's horrifying to witness the development of a law that allows for women's bodies to be treated as if they were mere vessels.

A pregnant woman who has used drugs doesn't easily win public sympathy, and the prosecutors knew exactly how to demonize a "drug mom." But, as Judy Appel of the Drug Policy Alliance points out, women who are in serious need of prenatal healthcare--and at most risk of having medical problems--are even more reluctanct to turn to a system that might press charges if something goes wrong with their pregnancies.

McKnight was a seasonal tobacco farm worker with a tenth-grade education who was living homeless, drug-addicted and trying to cope with the recent loss of her mother, who was run over by a truck. McKnight never received help for her drug problems. (South Carolina, it's worth noting, ranks lowest in the nation for spending on drug and alcohol treatment programs, according to the Drug Policy Alliance.)

The legal precedent set in the McKnight case is far graver than it might seem at first glance. As the laws have been written in South Carolina, child abuse charges could as easily be applied to pregnant women who smoke, drink even a moderate amount of alcohol, work around certain kinds of chemicals or even change cat litter--in essence, any activity that is "within the realm of public knowledge" of causing potential harm to a fetus.

Appel, who worked extensively on the amicus brief to both the South Carolina and US Supreme Courts, notes that McKnight's case has since emboldened South Carolina to go after other women, even retroactively. In early January South Carolina prosecutors are scheduled to go after their second murder conviction against a mother. In this case, it's another African-American woman, by the name of Angelia Kennedy, who allegedly smoked cocaine during her pregnancy, which resulted in a stillbirth five years ago.

This kind of persecution hasn't stopped at the state line. Right after the Supreme Court decided not to review McKnight's conviction, Honolulu city prosecutors went after a 31-year-old native Hawaiian, Tayshea Aiwohi for the death of her two-day-old son. The prosecutor's office has charged Aiwohi with manslaughter for using crystal methamphetamine during her pregnancy. Although Honolulu prosecutors denied any connection to the McKnight case, they went further to say that they would now consider prosecutions of "meth moms" and alcohol abusers, even when those babies survive.

Women like McKnight and Aiwohi are the victims of prosecutors who have decided that they have the right to judge and punish women for what happens to their bodies. It is a definitive step toward a government that would have the power to tell us what constitutes acceptable pregnancy and motherhood.

Please consider subscribing to The Nation. It will make for a better life.


Tuesday, December 09, 2003


Just before 8:00 A.M. EST, I got this message at my blog:


Monday, December 08, 2003



How did it happen that golf became cool?

All of a sudden, I know people who can go to punk clubs and debate important issues of the day (qualities I think of as implying a certain level of coolness), who also golf. Being cool has always implied a certain sophistication and forward-thinking. Coolness implies being culturally outside the mainstream. Golf is none of this.

I have played golf. I have played golf sober, I have played golf drunk. I have even played golf while tripping on acid. I have enjoyed a round of golf, and I have found a round of golf to be the most painful hours of my life. Before I go further, I want to make clear that I do not really hate the game of golf. That is tempered, of course, by my disdain for the culture and politics of golf.

Mark Twain's philosophy that golf is just a good walk ruined might be true depending on your golfing companions. A round of golf with people you like, admire, or respect might be enjoyable. Otherwise, it might just be a good walk ruined.

Friday night it snowed in New York and I needed to make my way to The Continental at St. Mark's and Third to see Dead Blonde Girlfriend. I take the N/R from 34th Street to 8th Street and I land pretty close to the venue.

While waiting for the train, I was talking to two Filipino guys who work at the local bodega. One was wearing a Yankees cap, which is standard fare in New York, and the other was wearing a Nike Golf cap. It got me thinking about two things in particular.

First, I am no fan of Nike. I have boycotted them since I learned about their slave labor practices, and they took such a hostile stance against the ensuing criticism. There are plenty of corporations that have bad business practices, but they are generally contrite when exposed, and they make an effort to change. Nike has been downright offensive in the pride they take in their business practices. Be that as it may, I will never purchase their products. I will not have an Arsenal kit or a MetroStars jersey because they are manufactured by Nike and include the dreadful little tick. I can no longer by Converse Chuck Taylors because they have been bought by Nike.

Second, Golf is the only professional sport that still convenes and competes in whites-only venues. This is the 21st Century! It is one thing that whites-only clubs even exist, there is little to be done about that. To have the Professional Golf Association compete at these clubs is unforgivable.

So, I didn't like his Nike Golf cap.

I remember a few years back, some jerk named Payne Stewart got on ESPN and was angry that people outside the game of golf would criticize the PGA for playing at a whites-only country club. What a jerk! This idiot was defending the PGA's right to use a whites-only country club and was belligerent about the criticism it evoked! Can you spell clueless?

The professional associations that control sports, like the MLB, PGA, NFL, NHL, NBA, MLS, WWE, et al., are the organizations that define the culture of the sport. To say that the culture of baseball is not defined by Major League Baseball would be folly; same with football and hockey and basketball and their respective organizations. It's just simple socio-economic analysis for which one need not possess a college degree. In that same vein, the PGA defines the culture of golf.

In case you might be confused at this juncture: It is NOT cool to belong to a whites-only club. It is NOT hip or cool to support a whites-only club by contracting to perform at the venue. It is NOT hip or cool or sophisticated to defend or support idiots like Payne Stewart and the PGA who do business with these people.

Members of whites-only clubs are dull. Those who support that sort of organization by giving them business are dull. Defending the existence of those clubs and the right to do business with them is dull. It is not wrong or bad, just dull.

Golf culture is dull because it is the last bastion of this sort of All-American segregation. This means that golf cannot be cool. Segregation is not cool. Ever! No high-tech, glitzy ad campaigns can make golf cool. Even eXtreme golf, if ever there will be such a thing, will not make golf cool. As long as there are whites-only country clubs for golf, golf cannot be cool.

It's really simple. Golf is not cool. Ever. So, go ahead and enjoy golf . . . just please stop pretending it's cool! Hide it. Be ashamed of it!


Saturday, December 06, 2003

The Weather

Herald Square, Macys In The Snow. 06 DEC 03

Many people know I am a fan of weather. I grew-up in New England and there is always plenty of weather in the Northeast of the United States. I prefer the cold Winters to the hot Summers, but Autumn will always be my favorite.

I lived in Florida and I hated the weather that never really changed, except to get hotter. I was depressed by the sight of a front lawn Christmas display that included a creche, a Santa in sleigh with reindeer, and pink flamingo, all basking in 75F sunshine.

A move to California was more to my liking as the ever-changing climate of San Francisco reminded me more of home. I loved that I could leave my apartment in the Mission with the sun shining and not a breeze to be found, and make my way over a hill and find deep, chilly fog and stiff breezes after a sixty minute walk.

Many days I would make my way to Noe & Market and take a seat at Cafe Flore at eleven in the morning for a double latte and a spacecake, struggling to situate out of the sun. Two lattes later I could be rushing home with a chill to the bone because the sun rolled-out in a flash and the clouds rolled-in.

My move to Minneapolis was a lesson in real weather. Three months of very hot Summer, followed by two quick weeks of Autumn, seven cruel months of Winter, two weeks of lovely Spring, and a partridge in a pear tree.

I liked Minneapolis with its liberal culture of Scandinavian sensibility. A real sense of social responsibility and charity. A growing arts community, a fledgling punk movement, and a booming pre-Reaganomics economy. Sadly, the weather was not for me and a quick succession of minor, but unpleasant, events sparked a return to my hometown of Boston.

I do not think there is a city in North America with a more balanced change of seasons than Boston. Sure, there is the occasional year when the Spring or Autumn is nonexistent, and the occasional Winter that seems to prove that Hell is not hot at all, but a hilly landscape filled with snowdrifts buffeted with biting winds. These are seldom, though. Most years, Boston has lovely Springs, and Summers not-too-humid and not-too-hot, and spectacular Autumns that draw tourists from around-the-world, and Winters that have some snow and some cold and rare blizzards. Boston has a true change-of-seasons climate.

Since I live in New York City, which is only 200 miles from Boston, I do not quite enjoy the same fantastic climate. Two hundred miles doesn't sound like it should offer much of a climate change, but it does. New York City Summers, especially in Manhattan, can be brutally humid and much hotter than Boston.

I don't know how people lived without air-conditioning in New York City. I might find out next year when we move from our luxury apartment in Manhattan to a more family-oriented residence in an outer borough. Hopefully, though, we will find an air-conditioned apartment, because the Summer can be brutal. I had never heard the term Heat Index until I lived in New York, where the concrete and towering skyscrapers above and tentacles of the subway below all conspire to keep the heat in like so much hot air in a Jiffy-Pop waiting to explode. Linen and fans and air-conditioning and filtered water make the Summers bearable.

Winters are less predictable. A few years ago, Manhattan had a winter with a snowfall of zero accumulation. Less than an inch fell from the sky and none of it stuck to the ground. It was cold, but dry and very odd for a Winter in the Northeast. Last year we had quite a bit of snowfall. The city is lovely after a snowfall. The traffic is diminished and the pedestrians are mostly indoors, the sky is bright reflecting the snow.

Manhattan residents are, generally speaking, not from New York. Most seem to be from places where Winter is non-existent and they complain incessantly about the snow and cold. I always ask why they live here if they hate Winter so much. They always respond the same way, that they are here for their career and to make money because this is where the action is. They always say it with a certain amount of pride and conviction and I think they really believe it is a reasonable response. In truth, they are rather disgusting people whose sole purpose in life seems to be the acquisition of power through money and the acquisition of status through the consumption of clothing and products splashed with designer logos. They are horrible people who twenty years ago would never have dreamed of living in an urban setting, they would have ensconced themselves in some sterile suburb surrounded by people they never know and television sets providing them with a distorted sense of the world and their own personal ambitions. In these post-Reagan days, this ilk is now revered as the perfect American and instead of hiding in the suburbs where they belong, they have taken over many urban centers and helping to homogenize each American city with consumerism and Faux News.

People seem to take their cues about the weather from television, and now the internet. These media sell advertising by keeping tuners tuned-in, and one way to do that is to turn every event into an absolutely remarkable instance of the history of humanity being unalterably changed by a single event. Like a snowstorm. Weather in our culture is now discussed as if it was a new phenomenon, and each change in the weather is a reason to stock-up on supplies, stay indoors, complain to your neighbor, and be absolutely shocked, Shocked I Tell You, that it is snowing in New York!

Now . . . I love weather. I get excited by snowstorms and rain and wind and sunshine; but, I do not think these momentary changes in the climate are events worthy of news stories. It's the weather. There is no need for some bland, twenty-something, bleach blond, Hilfiger-clad, journalism school dropout cum model-spokesperson to read a script intended to move me emotionally. It's the weather! Weather is good. All weather is good. Sure there are weather-related disasters and crises; but they are few, far-between, and impact humanity on a smaller scale than fossil-fuel emissions, breastmilk substitutes, deregulation, war, cultural homgenization and rainforest depletion! Weather is good. We need weather!

The next time you complain about the weather, think of how the world would be without weather. The day you awake and there is no weather, you are in big trouble. I hope that day never comes because it will likely be the end of humanity. Until that day comes, love the snow! It's fun!


View from Herald Towers In The Snow. 06 DEC 03

Friday, December 05, 2003

How To Spam Your Friends

Yesterday, I was feeling good about finally having enough material in this blog to make it worth sharing. Damn, I've managed to publish articles going back to 1997! Unfortunately, the software will only let me backdate to 1999, so I am faking it for now.

Sharing a blog is awkward. "Come look at me," is about all you can say when you invite people to come and read. "See how interesting I am! See how witty and verbose! Aren't I cool? Don't you wish you were like me?"

Of course, that is never what we intend, but isn't that how it comes off?

Anyway . . . In my efforts to get an email out to the fifty or 100 or so people I wanted to invite to read my blog, I got lazy. I opened Outlook and created a new Distribution List (that is the sensible part, not the lazy part). I wrote a short (but interesting and dynamic) email and sent it to myself with the new Distribution List as a BCC so the header would not include everyone's address (also sensible, not lazy). I sent it off and began reading other mail.

Then it happened! Damn, an email from the System Administrator announcing "Your message did not reach some or all of the intended recipients." A long list of those who had not received the very important notification that my blog was available for their entertainment was included. (I guess there is a limit on BCCs to prevent spamming!)

This is the lazy part! I left the list opened, found the original message in my Sent folder, selected Actions | Resend This Message, pasted the first recipient's address in the To field and clicked Send. Repeat until complete. Simple! There were fifty-odd names on the list and it took me no time at all to take this lazy-man's approach. In fact, thirty-four individual emails were sent in less than six minutes.

Then I noticed it! My Inbox was filling up with the same message from my System Administrator. Although it wasn't appearing in each message, I was BCC'ing the message to everyone in the Distribution List! The BCC field wasn't displayed, but it was populated.

One hundred and twenty-two emails (including one from a former boss), and three phone calls (one from my current boss) later, things had calmed down. What a mess I made. I received thirty-five "Out Of Office" notices from my friend Donna (which is how I know how many times I sent the message).

Some people were scolded by their IT Departments. Most snickered and laughed at me. Some contacts have put me on their spam list, so all of my messages will now be treated as junk mail and I am sad that this might be appropriate.

One man's blog is another man's spam; and when it comes to Spam, I sometimes get a hankering!


Thursday, December 04, 2003


December 4, 2003

I sent an email to many people and used the BCC function of Outlook so your name wasn't shown to the other recipients.

When I used the Resend feature, the old BCC list did not appear in the message, but everytime I sent the message to another recipient it resent to all the BCCs. I had done it about twenty times (or more), before I saw the error of my ways.

I know I sent it to some work email addresses and this is more embarrassing for you than me. Words cannot explain how sorry I am for inconveniencing you (and your I.T. Staff).

I wish I could take my friend Holly Grace Moses's sage advice. She said: "If God had meant for me to get upset about such things, He wouldn't have put a 'Delete' key on my computer!"

I hope your Delete key is kind to you and you can find it in your heart to forgive me.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003


In 1969 I made my first trip to the optometrist because the school nurse at St. Andrew's had determined my vision needed correction.

Dr. Shulman was the family eye doctor with an office on Huntington Avenue in Brigham Circle. It was right next to Staples (long before the office superstore chain), which was the local stationery store that sold games and toys. I bought all my models with airplane glue and paint-by-numbers sets from Staples. I remember getting a Batmobile model and a super-heroes velvet paint-by-numbers at Staples one Saturday afternoon!

My Mother wore glasses all my life. Here's a picture of me and her in 1965:

My Mother also smoked my entire life and this picture actually shows her cigarette more clearly than her glasses!

Anyway, my previous visits to Dr. Shulman's office had been with my Mother when she needed a new pair of glasses or an adjustment. She always reminded us that the receptionist was our aunt's sister. She was my father's brother's wife's sister, so she was really no relation to me at all; but, my Mother valued connections of all sort, no matter how vague or distant.

One Friday afternoon I left school and took the trolley to Brigham Circle for my first visit to the eye doctor. Wire-rimmed glasses were the newest rage in glasses, and I selected a pair that were sort of hip. They weren't round like John Lennon's, but they were as close to round as I was going to get when combining my Mother's meager budget with Dr. Shulman's charity.

It took some time for me to get used to seeing the world so clearly. I was almost dizzy from the clarity. The red brick and white mortar of the Farragut School across from Dr. Shulman's office was crystal clear and I could make out the definition of each individual bar in the surrounding cast-iron fence. The orange trolley-cars were bright orange. Walking down the street was almost difficult both because of the vertigo and my amazement at the clarity of it all!

I guess this is why I got them on a Friday! So I would have the weekend to get used to them!

I still have those glasses, and if they would fit I would have them fitted with my current prescription.

On Monday morning, Sister Theresa Ann (yes, a nun in the sixties with a woman's name), made certain to point out to everyone that I was wearing glasses. Damn, we hadn't even had our religion class yet and I was already feeling bad. I was the butt of all the jokes that day, and I made certain to take the glasses off for recess and the walk home.

I quickly got used to putting them on for movies and television and school; but after I'd forgotten them here and there a half-dozen times, I took Dr. Shulman's advice and just wore them all the time.

I learned to clean them and care for them and repair them myself with paper clips and the such. When I got new glasses I always kept these safe. I didn't know I would be writing about them and taking a picture of them in 2003, but I always held on to them. These eyeglasses have lived in seven American cities, and at two addresses in London. These eyeglasses have traveled (off my face) more than most Americans travel in their lifetime. I can't believe I still have them. Stranger than having my original pair of eyeglasses, is that I always know exactly where to find them. Seeing them makes me feel a bit old.

In the mid-nineties, I shared an apartment with my brother Stephan and I introduced him to the fine art of collecting art. Together we purchased a series of original drawing, twenty drawings of eyeglasses. They were all different, but all of the same pair of eyeglasses. My brother still has them in a drawer somewhere. I wish I had one to hang with my collection.

I hadn't thought of those eyeglasses or drawings in a long time until today when I got my first pair of bifocals. Yup! It's happened: bifocals. Almost thirty-five years after my first pair of eyeglasses made me dizzy and trippy, I am trying to get used to wearing glasses that work one way when I look up and another way when I look down.

If I turn too quickly, the entire world looks like a fishbowl. When I walk, I sometimes get a touch of vertigo; but when I try to read, I can see the print! I don't have to remove my glasses to read! It's almost as thrilling as the bricks of Farragut School!

I guess this means I'm getting old and the best part is the memories and mementos! I have my original pair of glasses and it's only at times like this that I appreciate how wonderful that really is!