Monday, April 30, 2012

War! What Is It Good For?

by Dick Mac

Edwin Starr's hit single "War" is one of the most famous anti-war songs of all-time.

Even people who are now tea-baggers can be found tapping their foot or nodding their head to the song when it plays on the radio. No other protest song has been so popular.

I thought of this song this morning when I saw a list of tweets by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) about the GOP War On Women.

Republicans and their apologists, the tea-baggers, insist that the GOP has made no concerted effort to curb the rights of women, or roll-back the progress women have made over the past four decades.

And these tea-baggers who have to work for a living, insist that they are not against women's rights, insist that their "conservatism" has nothing to do with abridging the rights of women, and that the entire dialog is a conspiracy of the liberal media.

Here's the list that Barbara Boxer tweeted:

  • The GOP held hearings on women's health and the panel included no women.
  • The GOP nearly shut-down the federal government over their efforts to defund family planning.
  • GOP legislators in Virginia want to force women to undergo invasive medical procedures when they seek reproductive health care.
  • The GOP has introduced more than thirty bills to limit women's reproductive health care.
  • The GOP governor and legislature of Wisconsin repealed that state's Equal Pay law.
  • The GOP has introduced 500 bills in various states to restrict women's access to health care.

The war on woman that tea-baggers and their masters in the GOP insist is a fallacy seems pretty real to me.

I guess all these working people who support the GOP have no wives, mothers, sisters and daughters. As the father of a daughter, the son of a mother, the brother of a sister and the husband of a wife, I am very concerned about this movement by the tea-baggers to limit women's access to health care.

This could be the issue that turns our political discourse into war.

But back to the song and the singer:

The biggest hit of his career, which cemented his reputation, was the Vietnam War protest song "War" (1970). Starr's intense vocals transformed a Temptations album track into a #1 chart success, which spent three weeks in the top position on the US Billboard charts, an anthem for the antiwar movement and a cultural milestone that continues to resound in movie soundtracks and hip hop music samples. It sold over three million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.[1] "War" appeared on both Starr's War and Peace album and its follow-up, Involved. Involved also featured another song of similar construction titled "Stop the War Now", which was a minor hit in its own right.

Edwin Starr, at wikipedia

Friday, April 27, 2012

American Fun, The Stompers

by Dick Mac

1978 was a banner year for music in my life.  Sure, there had been years when more songs, better sings were released; but this was the year I became a regular visitor to clubs.  Not discotheques, clubs that showcased local musicians.  For a couple of years I spent my free time and all my money going out to see bands.

I had returned Boston, living in Mission Hill, and visiting clubs like The Rat, Cantone's, Streets, Sp()ce, and others.  I got to know which local bands I liked and which I liked even more.  Some might tell you that I wouldn't know a good band if I saw one.  I liked all the bands, some more than others.  And I liked flirting with the musicians -- some more than others.

As an evening would progress, and the bourbon would take more of a hold on me, I would become bolder and more brazen (yes, like a hussy).

It was a pretty wild scene and there wasn't much animosity towards homosexuals.  I wouldn't call the punk movement a bastion of gay liberation; but you could be queer and not be chased out of the shows.

One night, I was particularly drunk.  Not falling down and not puking, but borderline obnoxious.  I knew, or was acquainted with, many of the people in attendance at a private party in a recording studio.  There had been a big show somewhere, possibly a theater and not a club, and a number of bands had played, and we all ended-up at this party in the nether-reaches of Cambridge.

I introduced myself to a guy around my age, in his early twenties, good-looking, laughing and mingling.  He had big rock star hair and a leather jacket.  The music was loud, but not nightclub loud, and we could talk.  He was a bit stand-offish, but not rude, and the conversation was jovial.  We chatted with a couple of people he knew and a couple of people I knew and everything seemed fine.

People started dancing.  A song I liked came on and I asked him if he wanted to dance.

I was used to being in social situations where it was not unusual to see two men together.  Many of the people I met on the scene were bisexual and the exclusively straight guys were generally unmoved by other people's sexual orientation.

When he asked me to repeat what I'd said, I asked him again if he wanted to dance.

Wrong question!

He got really angry and asked (yelled at me) "what do you think I'm a queer?"

"No," I said, matter-of-factly.  What  I didn't tell him was that if I thought he was a queer I wouldn't be flirting with him because his being straight (or bi-) made the proposition much more exciting.

Things seemed to be escalating into a hostile, possibly violent situation, rapidly.  His friends started moving around us as if they were sizing me up, and the guy I had been flirting with was now screaming at me.  I knew I could hold my own if he started swinging, but if the three of them jumped me I was going to be in trouble.

I was plotting my defense and my first shot when a hand touched my shoulder pulling me gently but firmly backwards away, and the owner of the hand stepped between us.  He said something briefly to the other guys that quieted them down.

He and I walked in the opposite direction.  I don't remember what he said to me, but he just saved me from possibly having to fight three guys, and I was very happy and grateful.  He was nice, and he was kind, and the upshot of his instructions to me was that I should stay away from those guys.

I did.

The guy who rescued me was Sal Baglio, lead singer of The Stompers, who had performed at the show earlier.  I don't know if he cared one way or another about the cause of the conflict, or if he knew the three guys; I just know he defused a potentially bad situation.  I often wonder if he remembers the incident.

I made my way to a different part of the party and I never spoke to him again.  Ever.  And I only ever saw him when The Stompers played.  We never had another interaction again, but he made an impression on me that I have never forgotten.

I was a fan of The Stompers before that night, and then I become am a bigger fan!

I have always loved this song:

The Stompers Official Site

Thursday, April 26, 2012

"Shit" as a Lifestyle Choice

by Dick Mac

Somebody once told me that recycling is a lifestyle choice and should not be required or promoted by the government.

I guess that's the same thing as, "flush toilets are a lifestyle choice and nobody should be required to have one in the home."

What if I don't want to flush my shit and piss down the toilet?  Shouldn't I be able to let it pile-up in my apartment with no consideration for the people around me.  Isn't that my right as an American?  And why is the government interfering in the handling of my excrement?

Well, the government is involved in the handling of my excrement because it is best for everyone if humans are forced to have their waste products handled in a consistent manner.  In the case of excrement, we have laws and codes that define plumbing standards and the storage of waste.  We spend tax dollars on that.

After forty-plus years of Earth Days and public discourse about waste, our municipal recycling plans, codes and laws are grossly lacking.  All efforts to improve recycling standards are hampered by "conservatives" who care not about conservation, but about preventing the government from governing (that is, traitors).

The arguments against mandatory recycling are borderline psychotic -- they bear no resemblance to reality.  With Fox News informing and defining the "conservative" dialog, the "conservative" movement and its mission against human progress is more like "The Simpsons" and less like "Fox News."

There really is no talking to "conservatives" about an issue like recycling because their arguments are always the same:  "no government this" and "small government that" and "freedom of choice" and blah blah blah; all of which they believe for themselves but not for anyone with whom they disagree (like homosexuals, women, people of color, immigrants, scholars, thinking people, etc.).

When indoor plumbing became fashionable and Americans were expanding the cities into the suburbs under the Communist regime of FDR and other liberals, can you imagine how we would have treated anyone who argued that the government had no right to define plumbing codes?  We would have laughed at them.  They would have been ignored.  And for good reason:  it's insane to consider matters of environment and safety to be "lifestyle choices."  We should be laughing at the "conservatives" who oppose mandated recycling.

The handling of excrement should be controlled by government regulation, and so should the matter of trash and recycling.

Fortunately, there are companies that believe in recycling.  They have taken the initiative that "conservatives" won't allow the government to take.  Stonyfield Farm, Coca-Cola, and Starbucks, to name a few, have instituted recycling programs that might help us save the planet.

I think those companies are branded as "liberals" by Fox News executives, who are now the arbiters and decision makers of the GOP.

Those damned "liberals" are at it again, forcing us to dispose of our shit in a a healthy manner!

Companies Pick Up Used Packaging, and Recycling's Cost

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What is Neglect and What is Abuse?

by Dick Mac 

It can be hard to get information from children when they are young, even when they need help.

Before kids can explain things succinctly, we put a good deal of faith in the idea that their care-givers (teachers, etc.) will protect them.  These professional are paid to protect our kids, after all.

People who hurt children are particularly despicable people.  Whether they hit, rape, or belittle a child, an adult like this is to be despised.

Sure, I'll accept the notion that "they do this because they were victimized themselves."  I believe that is true - it is part of the insidiousness of child abuse:  that it is self-perpetuating.  More often than not, an adult who hurts a child had been hurt the same way by an adult when they were children.

That is an explanation, not an excuse.

Some people who are abused as children make a conscious decision to avoid hurting children they way they themselves were hurt.  That is something that an adult survivor of child abuse must choose.

When I hear about children being physically and sexually abused, I am disturbed.  It is disturbing.  I tend to detach from it because I get rather emotional:  angry and sad.  I avoid most news outlets, including all television news outlets, because of the sensationalism they attach to child abuse, and their penchant for highlighting those stories, seeking them out, fabricating them, and profiteering from the pain of children.

Many adults have been wrongly accused of hurting children and had their lives, careers, and families torn asunder.  This happens.  I know a person to whom it happened:  wrongly accused of hurting a child, and when discovered to have been innocent, receiving no public exoneration, just left alone in the shambles of his former life.

So, the issue is explosive and difficult.

A recent news story caught my eye.  I generally turn away from a story like this, because I am so moved by them that I become, as I said earlier, angry and sad.  Lately, however, I have been in an ongoing discussion with a dear friend about the problems of families, parents and children, life and death.  So, I have been attuned to the issue of children and childhood.

I encountered this headline:  Stuart Chaifetz Secretly Tapes His Autistic Son at School, Discovers He's Being Bullied by Teachers.

Autistic children and their parents often have major obstacles when communicating, and the parent of an autistic child must rely on caregivers who can be trusted.

I am wary of news articles that print the names of adults who are accused of hurting children.  Sometimes an incorrect conclusion is being drawn from "facts" that have been shared among people.

This story includes actual recordings of the ongoing abuse of an autistic child by his school teachers:  "he was being mocked, mistreated and humiliated . . ." according to his father's web site No More Teacher/Bullies.

Perhaps these teachers are innocent; but I think not.  As a result of the incident, one teacher's aide was fired. Another aide and the teacher were reassigned but not fired.  If the recordings this man is presenting are bona fide, and there is no reason to think (or even suspect) otherwise, none of these people should be allowed near children and should be prosecuted for child abuse, or at least neglect.

Fortunately, I know these three people will have to live with this forever and when they look in mirrors, they will see the faces of people who failed to help a helpless child.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto

by Dick Mac

There are stories like this that restore my faith in humanity.

Acts of selflessness and generosity.

Actions by people not interested in blaming other people for the conditions or predicament in which they find themselves.

Actions by people who believe that doing the next right thing is the next right thing to do.

Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto is a martial arts fighter.

The story is simple: he saw a person in need, he tried to help, required assistance, convinced others to help him, and rescued a man from certain death.

Three cheers for Kid Yamamoto!

What would I do if confronted with that same challenge?

What would you do?

Do all of us have the fortitude and generosity of spirit to do such a thing?

"Kid" Yamamoto saves injured man’s life at Tokyo subway

Kid Yama

Monday, April 23, 2012

"We Must Stop Bullying . . . "

by Dick Mac

Yesterday's Sunday edition of The Sioux City Journal featured full-page anti-bullying editorial.

The editorial was prompted by the suicide of 14-year-old Sioux City, Iowa, citizen Kenneth Weishuhn Jr.

Weishuhn came-out to his family about a month ago. Between the time he came out and April 15th, according to friends and family, he suffered intense harassment such as vicious online comments and threatening phone calls.

This is is a close-up of the image that accompanied the anti-bullying editorial the front page of The Sioux City Journal. (AP Photo/The Sioux City Journal)

I know that pre-teens and teenagers are tough on each other. As a teenager, I both suffered moments of derision and took part in bad-mouthing someone weaker than me. I think to some degree we are all confronted by that decision in our youth and "going with the flow" can be easier than being brave and sticking-up for a weaker person. Never was the bullying I encountered, nor the bullying I witnessed around me, in the early 1970s, as vicious as the stories I hear today; and technology was not very advanced, making it difficult to spread that hatred any further than that circle of friends at that moment.

That is not to say that the bullying of forty years ago was any less hateful or any more forgivable. The fact that it was so limited in scope and audience may have played a role in the bullied being able to overlook and move past the bullying.

There is something insidious about bullying, name-calling as we referred to it during my youth. We say: "it's only words." You know: "sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me." But, I can tell you that it runs deep when a group of the people you most respect, enjoy and feel connected to, have turned on you and decided to focus on your less impressive features: pimples, a lack of masculinity, your clothes, your lack of physical prowess, etc.

I always laughed along with the crowd, knowing it would pass and was restricted to this circle of people. I also enjoyed a certain amount of dignity and self-confidence. Yes, I was a fag-gy teenager. I had long hair, I was sensitive, I liked odd clothes, I was precocious, I took an interest in things outside my community. I was bisexual, and I was relatively young to come-out in that era.

I could run away from the bullying, from the hatred, and I did. I made friends outside my neighborhood and spent as much time as possibly getting away from the people who disliked me. The silver lining was seeing the world (or at least the city, region, and country); visiting and hanging-out in places my peers never considered or knew about, meeting people who were smart, rich, attractive, and funny.

With the internet incredible communications system we now have, it is not as easy to vanish into another neighborhood or even the demi-monde.

I know people who think the focus on bullying is ridiculous. There are people I know well who think that kids will be kids and everyone is bullied.

I can say confidently, that every person I know with this attitude was a bully in their youth, was never personally bullied, got away with hurting smaller, weaker people, and/or is still a bully today.

Those are the people who need to read editorials like this, and they are the people least likely to read it.

To get parents to stop their kids from bullying, there will have to be a dramatic incident that hurts the bully, instead of the bullied. The bullied experience dramatic things all th etime, up to and including suicide. The bullies are never inconvenienced.

Fortunately that is changing. We see the Tyler Clementi case where two fellow students spied on, and shared video footage, of a gay college freshman in a sexual encounter. He was so humiliated by the incident that he jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge. His perpetrators were arrested, and one went to trial.

Believing his actions were not related to Clementi's death, Dharun Ravi refused a plea-bargain, went on trial, was found guilty and faces 10 years in prison. I'll bet the parents in his neighborhood, those who know him, will tell their kids to refrain from bullying the weak.

How many suicides will it take for all parents to tell their children to defend the weak?

How many young people need to be imprisoned before the bullying stops?

What do you tell the kids in your life?

Sioux City Journal editorial

Friday, April 20, 2012

Get Down Get Down Get Down Get Down Tonight

Arsenal midfielder Alex Song of Cameroon, defender Bacary Sagna of France, goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny of Poland, and striker Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain of England, dance ballet to promote the new Citroën DS5, in that company's "The Refined Redefine" campaign.

Then for a bit of fun, athletes and ballerinas alike "get down, get down, get down, get down tonight."

Well done, boys! Well done!

See also:

Citroën & Arsenal - The Refined, Redefined

Citroen DS5 commercial combines Arsenal soccer and English ballet [Video]


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sports And Violence

by Dick Mac

Sports can be rough going; and some sports are rougher than others.

In baseball, there is rarely an incident or injury that is life-threatening. On August 18, 1967, Jack Hamilton, of the California Angels, threw a pitch that hit Tony Conigliaro in the eye. Hamilton was a tough pitcher and Conigliaro was a batter who did not give the pitcher a lot of room with the strike zone.

In the NFL, players are often injured seriously. I remember Darrel Stingley, of the New England Patriots, being paralyzed for life after a hit during practice; and Lawrence Taylor weeping on national television after he cause a compound fracture of Joe Thiessnam's right leg.

Soccer players are regularly stretchered off to the the hospital for broken bones and head injuries from the fierce contact made without the benefit of padding. Just last week, Shea Salinas, a young player for the San Jose Earthquakes, was carried off to the hospital with a broken clavicle after a particularly nasty tackle by Red Bulls midfielder, Rafa Marquez. I don't think Americans have much of an appreciation for the physical strength and dexterity of soccer players, nor the remarkable physical danger in which they find themselves regularly.

Hockey, of course, is supposed to be vicious. There is the occasional Bobby Orr or Mark Messier or Mario Lemiuex who are incredible athletes and gentlemen; who are tough enough to hold their own, and gentle enough to stand-out as paragons of sportsmanship.

There are also monsters in hockey. The vicious stick fight between Teddy Green and Wayne Maki, in 1970, that led to a severe head injury to Green, is commemorated everyday by the use of helmets by all hockey players. Prior to Green's head injury, hockey players wore no protective head gear (goalies didn't eve wear masks, yet!).

I stopped watching hockey a couple decades ago after hearing for the umpteenth time: "I went to a boxing match and a hockey game broke out." I grew-up in the era of Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali. I don't need hockey to be a display of boxing.

Earlier this week, during a playoff game, Blackhawks' Marian Hossa was taken off the ice on a stretcher after Coyote Raffi Torres took him down with a vicious, illegal hit to the head.

My problem with hockey, and one I find hard to overlook, is that somehow no official saw this majorly egregious hit in the middle of the ice, and Torres sat peacefully on his bench during the entire emergency. He was not escorted from the ice and he was not arrested.

I have just returned to following hockey, because my daughter has become enamored of the New York Rangers and their goalie, Henrik Lundqvist. To hear her cheer for him is a wonderful thing (even if he does play for the Rangers).

Having this vicious incident take place so soon after my latest attempt to embrace the sport, makes it hard for me to continue.

It was vicious. Pay close attention at 5 seconds in:

I don't want my daughter watching that.

Blackhawks’ Marian Hossa leaves game on stretcher after Raffi Torres hit (VIDEO)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Were Your Parents Shitbags?

by Dick Mac

We all have stories about how terrible our parents were. They did this and that or failed at that and the other thing.

When we are young (under 30), this and that and the other thing are monumental infractions for which are parents will never be forgiven. As we age, this and that and the other thing fall into perspective and we often realize that our parents weren't that mean after all and that we were lucky they were looking out for us.

This is not to say that all parents are good parents and all parental decisions are good decisions.

I agonize over some of the decisions I make for my child.

I don't want to be a shitbag father. As my child grows to hate the things I've said and done, and then grows to appreciate and/or accept the things I've done, I hope that my parenting keeps my out of the shitbag category.

What makes a parent a shitbag parents?

I'm certain we all have some different criteria: physically, sexually, or verbally abusive parents might fall into that category. Irresponsible, neglectful parents might, too. Parents who marry and divorce and marry and divorce and drag their kids through a string of households could be considered in this way, too.

One group of parents that I think likely falls outside of the shitbag category is a couple who works hard together through thick and thin, teaching their children survival techniques and life lessons.

I am confident that there are few of us who are perfect parents.

One family that has been in the news recently is a couple who have worked hard all their adult lives, have had their ups and downs, have lived in safer and more affluent neighborhoods than many of their peers, and have not been under investigation for being horrible parents.

The mother is a "well-respected" program coordinator at the Miami-Dade Housing Authority, where she has worked for 23 years; and the father father is a truck driver.

After their 17-year-old son was shot dead in cold blood in a neighborhood that was supposed to be 'safe' and the murderer was not charged with a crime, they went public with their story.

The legal authorities eventually brought charges against the murderer, but I am not alone in thinking that this man - no matter how guilty - will not be convicted of a crime. The dead boy was 'black' and the murderer is 'white.' This pretty-much stacks the deck against the victim and his family.

Why would anyone think that race matters in this case?

I mean, we've come a long way.

Our government is open about it's disdain for racism and unequal application of the law.

Or is it?

An employee of the government discussing the family of the victim, and the socio-economic vagaries of present-day America, had this to say:
The state seeks reelection again, truth aside. I and my coworkers could rewrite the book on whether our urban youths are victims of racist profiling or products of their failed, sh*tbag, ignorant, pathetic, welfare dependent excuses for parents, but like Mrs. Corey, we speak only the truth. They're just misunderstood little church going angels and the ghetto hoodie look doesn't have anything to do with why people wonder if they're about to get jacked by a thug.

The public employee who offered that profound, sophisticated and in-depth analysis of urban America is Captain Brian Beckmann, of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue.
When confronted about his remarks, he said:
I am a private citizen and have the same right to freely express an opinion on any subject that anyone else does. I chose not to embellish or alter the facts as your employers chose to do so.

Yes, he couches his hatred, racism and violent language in his Constitutional rights as a private citizen. This is what all criminals and social retards, racists and bigots of every stripe use to defend their stupidity.

Perhaps Capt. Beckmann is not a racist or a bigot. That is possible and I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. If his statements were not rooted in racism or bigotry, then he is just plain stupid. Only a stupid person would say that stuff.

Should a person that stupid be a captain in a municipal organization?

If the person isn't stupid, but is just a flaming bigot, should that person be a captain in a municipal organization.

Yes, Capt. Beckmann, you are a private citizen who has the right to say anything you choose - you can even yell FIRE in a crowded theater. What happens right after we yell FIRE in a crowded theater is often no pleasant. I hope what you experience after exercising your First Amendment rights to refer to hard-working, dedicated, upstanding black parents as "shitbags" is similar to the experience you would have by using your Constitutional right to yell FIRE in a crowded theater.

Oh, and by the way, Capt. Beckmann, those shitbags pay your salary!

Miami-Dade Fire Captain Blames Trayvon Martin Killing On "Shitbag" Parents Of "Urban Youths"

Miami-Dade Firefighter Brian Beckmann's Facebook Post Blames Trayvon Martin Situations On "Shitbag" Parents

Trayvon's parents find purpose, solace in activism

Miami-Dade firefighter investigated for Facebook post about Trayvon Martin

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

How's That Hope-y Change-y Thing Working For You?

by Dick Mac

I keep hearing that President Obama is the worst president ever.

This, after 8 years of George W Bush, a President who drove our government to bankruptcy, collapsed our economy, gave trillions of our tax dollars to his rich friends, watched a city drown, lost Number One and Number Two World Trade Center, watched-over a successful attack on the Pentagon, engaged us in an attack on a sovereign nation while lying to us about it, and pulled our military out of Afghanistan (the most important battleground since Normandy) while our greatest enemy fled through its mountains. I needn't go on. Every cognizant American know these things happened.

The way the former President's supporters (they are more accurately called current-President haters) paint the picture, Barack Obama is responsible for every economic, social, and military problem we face.

They say he's done nothing.

I think he hasn't done enough.

This graphic below was posted on the Americans Against The Tea Party Facebook page:

Is this a comprehensive list? No.

Does this list address any of Obama's failings? No.

Barack Obama inherited a government near collapse, an economy in free-fall, and a scattered military struggling to win battles. He has reversed all of that.

I think he's done a pretty good job, actually.

OK, you hate him, so hate him; but stop pretending he's done nothing and that he is the worst president ever. That was his predecessor!

That Hope and Change thing is working pretty damn well, thank you. I look forward to more of it.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Marissa Alexander

by Dick Mac

Many people believe that the laws of the land are applied differently between the rich and the poor, men and women, white and non-white.

There is quite a bit of evidence that laws and sentencing are applied differently among different groups of people. A man who murders his wife for infidelity rarely serves much (if any) time in prison because it is a crime of passion. A woman who kills an abusive husband who has been beating the shit out of her is generally imprisoned for manslaughter or worse.

It is not uncommon to hear people state that had the tables had been turned in the Trayvon Martin murder, that Martin killed George Zimmerman instead of vice-versa, the boy would have been arrested, probably held without bail, and prosecuted for murder. Since the victim is black and the perpetrator white, no such thing happened. Zimmerman claimed protection under the Florida "stand your ground" law and the police decided no crime was committed - even though a dead 17-year-old boy lay dead in a pool of his own blood.

So, Florida has a law that allows use of a licensed firearm, by a licensed gun-owner, to protect himself, his family, and his property.

In Duval County, Florida, a gun-owner licensed to carry a concealed weapon, was in possession of a legal firearm when a life-threatening attack took place in the kitchen. The gun-owner knew the perpetrator and did not wish to shoot him. The gun was raised in the air and a single shot was fired up into the wall and the perpetrator fled.

This, you might think, is a perfect example of the success and appropriate application of Florida's stand-your-ground law.

The story is familiar: an abusive husband was in a rage against his wife. She tried to flee and was unable to get out through the garage. Believing her attacker had left the house, she entered the kitchen to find her car keys. The attacker had not left the home and confronted her. The woman was in possession of a legal firearm for which she was licensed to carry as a concealed weapon. When he saw her he said he was going to kill her. She raised the gun in the air.

As stated above, she did not want to shoot her husband, just scare him and get him to go away. So she shot into the wall near the ceiling, and he fled the house.

The attacker called the police and said that the woman was shooting at him and his sons.

When police arrived, she explained the situation, including the detail that there had been restraining orders against the attacker in the past. She was expecting to be protected by the State's stand-your-ground law.

Oddly, even though nobody was harmed and nobody was actually shot at, she was arrested.

Marissa Alexander is a black woman. There is likely no group of Americans less protected by law enforcement than black women. These are some statements she has made about her case:
Prior to my arrest, I told the office I was in fear for my life due to the prior violence against me. I also told the officer there was a domestic injunction in place to protect me against abuse from the alleged victim. This information was written in detail by the officer in my arrest report, but ignored for some unknown reason.

In July of 2011, a hearing was held, where I along with the alleged victims testified as it relates to the stand your ground law and its immunity from prosecution.

After the hearing, Judge Elizabeth Senterfitt denied my motion, citing that I could have exited the house [through] the master bedroom window, front door, and/or sliding glass back door. The law specifically states: No duty to retreat.

She could have exited through a window in the master bedroom, therefore she had no need to use her gun for protection.

The judge has actually said that the woman could have escaped through a window while under attack inside her own home.

This flies in the face of the intention of the law, which is based on the notion that one should not have to flee her own home if under attack.

The case is pending.

She is black. She is a woman. Laws are applied differently for black women. Especially if they are believed to have threatened the safety of a man.

Things don't look good for Marissa, or her children who will be left without a mother when she is sentenced to prison.

At Moorbey's Blog, Lincoln B. Alexander Jr has decided to tell Marissa's story:

Marissa Alexander Stood Her Ground – No One Was Injured or Murdered – She Faces 25 Years In Prison

Friday, April 13, 2012

A 50th Birthday Bash Song

by Dick Mac

You may have died and gone to heaven if you see Gail Ann Dorsey and Kim Gordon on stage at the same time. I did and lived to tell it.

David Bowie and Sonic Youth, January 9, 1997, David Bowie and Friends, A Very Special Birthday Celebration, Madison Square Garden.

This is for my friend Helen: someone to now be afraid of:

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Caine's Arcade

by Dick Mac

I don't know how this stayed off my radar all these months, because it is right up my alley.

Caine Monroy is a 9-year old who spent last summer building an elaborate cardboard arcade in his dad's auto parts store, in East L.A.

All he wanted was to share his arcade with some customers.

Nobody in the neighborhood showed interest.

Then one day a guy stopped by to buy an auto part, saw the arcade, talked to Caine, bought a fun pass and began to play.

The intricacies of the self-made arcade impressed the guy. He started asking questions, met the dad, and eventually asked if he could make a short film about it.

First, though, he wanted Caine to get some customers. Lots of customers. So he created a Facebook event, and created a flash mob that was also promoted at Hidden LA. It went viral.

One day, Caine's dad took him for pizza and arcade games and the flash mob set-up.

Caine returned from lunch to an amazing sight. Watch the movie. Buy the movie (it only costs a buck, for crissakes), and support the effort that has become a movement to ensure this brilliant boy gets a college education that he could never otherwise afford.

Yes, I wept.

Best quote from 9-year-old Caine: "I used to like Hot Wheels when I was little."

The theme song:

Caine's Arcade on Facebook

Buy the movie

Donate money to his college fund here
At the Caine's Arcade website

Edit 12:25 PM: An auto-correct appears to have changed Caine's name to Blaine in a couple of places. This has been fixed.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Humor - A Vow Of Silence

by Dick Mac

Sister Mary Katherine decided to be cloistered and live in silence as a humble nun in service to the Lord.

Upon arrival, the priest explained, "Sister, this is a silent monastery. You are welcome here as long as you like, but you may not speak until directed to do so."

Sister Mary Katherine lived in the monastery for 5 years before the Priest said to her, "Sister Mary Katherine, you have been here for 5 years. You may speak two words."

Sister Mary Katherine said, "Hard bed."

"I'm sorry to hear that," the Priest said. "We will get you a better bed."

After another 5 years, Sister Mary Katherine was summoned by the Priest. "You may say another two words, Sister."

"Cold food," said Sister Mary Katherine.

The Priest assured her that the food would be better in the future.

On her 15th anniversary at the monastery, the Priest again called Sister Mary Katherine into his office.

"You may say two words today."

"I quit," said Sister Mary Katherine.

"It's probably best," said the Priest. "You've done nothing but bitch and complain since you got here."

Thanks to Dave for this.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Ashley Judd Speaks Out

by Dick Mac

Women in America are objectified in many ways.

That is the nature of patriarchy.

The objectification of women as Madonnas and/or whores is the most effective way we disempower women. It is not just men who participate in this objectification. Many women (most women?) subscribe to notions of beauty, fashion and success, that are intended to keep them subservient to men.

When famous women are discussed in the media, we are generally treated to lavish and/or vicious analyses of their physical appearance: body shape, piercings, facial expressions, clothing, tattoos, gait, etc.

I remember reading an interview with Cher after the filming of "Witches of Eastwick." I like Cher. I have always liked Cher. I will always like Cher. I think it's sad that Cher has chosen to alter her physical appearance so many times so that she fits in patriarchal notions of female beauty, but that is not my point here. Cher was quoted about working with Susan Sarandon (perhaps my all-time favorite actress), saying: "She has the best tits in Hollywood."

I think this is probably true. It was certainly true 25 years ago when they made that movie with Michelle Pfeiffer and Jack Nicholson.

We have been treated to displays of Sarandon's tits throughout her career: In a bra in "Rocky Horror Picture Show." With lemons in "Atlantic City." On Catherine Deneuve in "The Hunger." Sarandon is a brilliant, hard-working actress whose work stands the test of time, irrespective of her "nice tits." She has used that particular asset wisely and judiciously.

Few women have the talent or physical beauty that Sarandon, Pfeiffer, Deneuve, and Cher enjoy. Yet we hold these women up as images of beauty, a very narrow, exclusive definition of beauty. And in our patriarchal society, we expect women to strive for that narrow interpretation of beauty.

When they don't pursue that goal, we call them names: fat, ugly, bitchy, aggressive, butch, lazy, etc. We conclude that they are power-hungry, feminist, male-hating bitches.

This is real. I am not making this up. And we all participate to some degree. We have no choice really, it's what we know, how we have been acculturated. The only thing we can do is be mindful, stop actively participating in it, work to change the language we use to discuss women and beauty, and speak out about sexual objectification of our daughters/sisters/mothers.

This is not easy. When we do, we are called names by people who quite like the comfort of patriarchy, are profiteering from patriarchy, or are too stupid to even consider an alternative to what they have been taught. You know the words: feminist, liberal, pussy, fag, sissy, pansy, cunt, etc. We've probably all done it at one time or another, to some degree or another.

It's hard to change, so mostly we don't change. Some of us learn to give convincing lip-service to it, but are then called those names. We aren't even DOING anything more than talking about it and we still suffer those consequences.

I do not know very much about Ashley Judd, except that she is an actress/star/personality. I thought she was a country singer until I started seeing advertisements for a television show in which she stars. The singers are different Judds. I don't even know if they are related - but, that really has nothing to do with anything.

Ashley Judd has been all over the media in connection with the massive advertising campaign for her new television show "Missing." So, I know what she looks like. She is white, she is attractive although not beautiful in the patriarchal Hollywood way we like to think of beauty, she appears to be in her late thirties, and from the clips of the show, she appears to be a good dramatic actress.

Being this exposed in the media during a promotional campaign has the unfortunate side-effect of being exposed in the media for the duration of the campaign. This means that everyone gets to express their opinion about you: your hair, your face, your politics, your clothes, your body shape, etc. And sometimes even your professional abilities are discussed (but not often, especially if you are a woman).

I stumbled on an article titled "Ashley Judd Slaps Media in the Face for Speculation Over Her 'Puffy' Appearance" at the Daily Beast site. The article is actually not only "about" Judd, but is also written by her.

In the article, Judd discusses the issues of misogyny, patriarchy, beauty, and feminism.


Yes! She is a Hollywood type who is not generally lumped-in with the radical-fringe-feminists that the right-wing media (that is: all of the media) like to discredit regularly. I think she is mostly known for being a young(ish) successful, monogamous, Christian star who volunteers to prevent animal cruelty. And I never even thought I would ever know that much about her.

In the article, Judd is addressing those in the media who make their money on the objectification of women, and the fallacies they perpetuate about women, beauty, health and fitness.

I was pleasantly surprised (pleasantly shocked?) to read the article:
The Conversation about women's bodies exists largely outside of us, while it is also directed at (and marketed to) us, and used to define and control us. The Conversation about women happens everywhere, publicly and privately. We are described and detailed, our faces and bodies analyzed and picked apart, our worth ascertained and ascribed based on the reduction of personhood to simple physical objectification. Our voices, our personhood, our potential, and our accomplishments are regularly minimized and muted. . . . Continue reading at Daily Beast.

Well done, Ashley Judd. You have a new fan and supporter. If you were a singer I would buy all your records right now; but, you're not, so I am going to have to try to watch your television show.

Watching television series is not an easy or pleasant feat for me, so you better damn-well be grateful for it!

I hope you keep this discussion alive. I hope you can introduce this conversation to other Christians and people of faith (I do believe that Judeo-Christianity is the basis for patriarchy), and I hope you can teach other women, young women, how to speak-out against objectification.

Ashley Judd

Monday, April 09, 2012

Who Is The Best Front Man?

by Dick Mac

The Top 50 front men? For New Music Express (NME) the fiftieth is Richard Hell of The Voidoids. He would probably make my list. Who would be on my list?

The lead of Tin Machine? Rolling Stones? Patti Smith Group? T.Rex? The New York Dolls? Sly & The Family Stone? The Stooges? Plastic Ono Band? Velvet Underground? Sex Pistols? The Heartbreakers? Blockheads? Blondie? Joy Division? The Ramones? The Jam? Queen? The The?

There are people on the NME list that never would occur to me to select. I'm not even sure I could come-up with 50!

So I'll do my Top Ten:

01 David Bowie
02 Mick Jagger
03 Patti Smith
04 Lou Reed
05 Iggy Pop
06 John Lennon
07 David Johansen
08 John Lydon
09 Freddie Mercury
10 Diana Ross

That list will be different as soon as I publish this article, but I think Bowie will always be at the top. I also think that Patti Smith might bump Mick Jagger out of second place. Or perhaps Iggy Pop would be #2.

The John Lennon on the list is the John Lennon who was the front man for Plastic Ono Band, not The Beatles. I did not include Yoko Ono with him, even though she and Lennon were almost always listed as co-leads of Plastic Ono Band). Also, if you have been fortunate enough to see any of the current Plastic Ono Band shows over the past few years, your opinion of her might change. Seeing a 79-year-old Japanese woman dancing and singing with a rock band is a show you shouldn't miss. I know that most of you hate Yoko Ono, but I don't care. :-P

The NME #1 was an impressive choice that reflects, I think, a rather sophisticated analysis of such a list. I won't tell you. Go find out: 50 most electrifying frontmen (and women)

I am not embarrassed to say that I did not even know some of the NME Top 50!

Who are your Top Ten? 20? 25? 50? 100?

Friday, April 06, 2012

Murray Head, "Superstar"

by Dick Mac

The original Concept Album release of Jesus Christ Superstar in 1970 featured a remarkable line-up of singers and musicians.

Ian Gillian of Deep Purple sang the part of Jesus, and Yvonne Elliman a young American singer living in London sang Mary Magdalene. Elliman would go to New York to become a member of the original Broadway production. The supporting cast included one Paul Raven (born Paul Francis Gadd) who went on to become Gary Glitter. The band was comprised of some of London's best studio musicians of the day:

Neil Hubbard, who went on to play guitar for Bryan Ferry; Henry McCulloch, from Spooky Tooth and later the original line-up of Wings played acoustic guitar; Chris Mercer, who played with John Mayall on sax; Peter Robinson who went on to score movies (including a number of 'horror' films) played keyboards; future Fairport Convention drummer, Bruce Rowland; and the amazing Allan Spenner (whose credits include stints with Spooky Tooth, Roxy Music, Peter Frampton, Joe Cocker and others) on bass guitar.

The depth of talent in this line-up is readily apparent when listening to the album.

Murray Head as Judas, in particular, bridges the entire production from "opera" to "rock." He infused a soulfulness, and an actor's sensibility that no future Judas would ever duplicate. His renditions of the songs are the best, by far, of all of the versions.

Although Carl Anderson did an excellent job as Judas Iscariot in the Broadway production, subsequent road shows, and the film, Murray Head set the bar very high. His version "Superstar" was a Top 40 hit.

This promotional video is over 40 years old, and although production standards were high, existing technology was not cooperative.

Murray Head performs "Superstar" at Proms in France in 2007.

I hope you and yours enjoy a blessed Passover and Easter, and no matter your religious beliefs, you should really listen to "Jesus Christ Superstar" from beginning to end some day.


Thursday, April 05, 2012

I Don't Know How To Love Him

by Dick Mac

Following the flogging and condemnation of Jesus Christ, his betrayer Judas Iscariot commits suicide.

In Jesus Christ Superstar, the four minute song includes an excerpt of Judas pleadingly singing "I Don't Know How To Love Him."

Earlier in the opera the same song is sung by Mary Magdalene, in a much different tone, appealing to an equally intense relationship that ends much differently than the one between Jesus and Judas.

It is a very dramatic rendition of the song, and Murray Head delivers it convincingly. The passion, the depth of love between the two men can be heard in the antagonist's voice.

Like all his performances as Judas on the record, Head nails this song.

Here is the excerpt:

This excerpt is used without permission for non-commercial purposes, and indulgence is begged. The copyright is held by legitimate sources. Please support the creation of art by purchasing this music at the links below.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

It's Rock N Roll, It's Opera, It's Rock, It's Opera: Stop! You're both right!

by Dick Mac

There is a point where it IS opera, most decidedly opera.

The scene takes place at the end of Passover, in Jerusalem, a very long time ago. Jesus Christ has been arrested. The Roman prelate, Pontius Pilate, has already refused to participate in the lynching happening around him.

Pilate sent Christ be dealt with by local authorities. Herod was too smart to get involved with this fiasco and gave the prisoner back to the local civic and religious leaders.

Since it is a holy day, and believing they had no authority to condemn Jesus to death, the local leaders return Christ to Pilate.

In the rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, this encounter is titled "Trial Before Pilate (Including The 39 Lashes)."

Much of Jesus Christ Superstar is rock n roll, or folk rock. There is certainly some classical musical influence, but most of it is not terribly "operatic" in my view. This track however, has all the elements of an opera aria (not all arias are solo performances).

There is a protagonist and an antagonist, and a chorus. The music is decidedly classical in style, if modern in execution with some modern rock interspersed. The back and forth could have been written by Puccini or Bizet (if they had been post-hippie Englishmen of privilege with a penchant for the absurd and a burning desire to succeed).

The piece opens with Pilate telling high-priest Caiaphas that he wants nothing to do with the whole Jesus thing; but Caiaphas and his entourage insist that Pilate handle the political morass that is the arrest of the outsider, the Nazarene.

The dramatic back and forth between Pilate and Jesus, and the chorus interjecting provocation, create the operatic highlight of the entire show.

When Pilate has Jesus flogged, a rock 'n roll riff is inserted as the lashes are counted.

After the flogging, Pilate's anger increases as Jesus becomes more adamant in his debate. Pilate reaches wit's end and he sings in a rage: "Don't let me stop your great self-destruction. Die if you want to, you misguided martyr. I wash my hands of your demolition. Die if you want to you innocent puppet."

When this ends, the opera moves into its most famous piece: "Superstar" with its magnificent opening chords, the strains of which are familiar to anyone who could hear and comprehend music in 1970.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Today's Douche-Bag is Today

by Dick Mac

Many of my friends and acquaintances will tell you that I don't like the term "douche-bag'; that I find it to be sexist and misogynist.

On several occasions recently I have been able to find no other word to describe some people.

Today's Douche-Bag Is Today. Not the day: the show.

Today, Sarah Palin is co-hosting the Today Show on NBC.

The Today Show viewers are not happy about it.

The 3,300+ comments on the NBC Facebook page are wonderful and you should read at least some of them.

Go here to see the Today Facebook page.

Go here to read the incredibly insulting, badly written, sexist, misogynistic article that NBC has published on the web as publicity for the show. It actually says:
Matt will deface your property, so don't bring anything of value. Ann hits the limoncello on a pretty regular basis, and if Al asks to let him 'show you his neck of the woods,' run.

Excuse me? Was this supposed to be funny? Am I missing something? Am I insane to find the "neck of the woods" remark odd, possibly offensive?

I know that Fox has lowered the bar for all network television so low that whale shit is up; but NBC hiring Sarah Palin as a co-host of their morning show is really beneath even them.

Today is a good day to stop watching Today.


And let them know what you think about hiring Sara Palin.

Palin Turns Off Today Show Viewers

Monday, April 02, 2012

Iggy Pop describes the making of The Idiot

by Dick Mac

Who knew that "China Girl" was originally written while "politely drunk, after-dinner drunk" using a toy piano and child's drum kit; or that "Lust For Life" was hatched while Iggy and Bowie were settled in front of the television for their weekly viewing of "Starsky & Hutch"?

In this four-minute clip, Iggy uses a power drill to open a coconut and talks about working with David Bowie on the albums "The Idiot" and "Lust For Life."

For me, and I think for rock and roll, this collaboration was world-altering. It put Iggy Pop into the eyes of the mainstream. Not that "The Idiot" or "Lust for Life" were 'hits' or popular radio fare. In fact, like Bowie's "Low" and "Heroes" of the same era, they were not really appreciated until many years later. But they certainly put Iggy into the mainstream media spotlight and onto the "Dinah Shore Show" and that alone is world-altering!

These records have always been shrouded in mystery: two rock stars living in the demi-monde of Berlin, near The Wall, getting loaded, writing songs.

These 35 years later, the myths continue to be shattered, and these two stars become more and more human and more and more like regular guys.

And the song "Lust For Life" might have been used in more television commercials than any other rock song. Who'da thunk it?