Wednesday, December 29, 2004

What Better Time, Indeed!

Just a portion of what you save on cable & electricity could be sent to the the Campaign to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers :). BTW, this is a link from the TV B Gone folks. For those who don't recall one, of my first posts said I'd be likely to turn off your television. In truth, I would ask politely if we might converse instead or I'd suggest some mutually agreed upon music, games or moving pictures.

The British Government is trying to promote literacy by planting hidden messages in television soap operas, the Teletubbies are arriving in the United States, Bill Gates is thinking of buying into UK television and George Orwell's 1984 TV set, that watches your behaviour while you watch it, has finally been invented. What better time to give up television? White Dot ( ) tells you how, and about the millions of others who already have.

Get A Life -- the little red book of White Dot. White Dot's survival guide to TV- free living is published by Bloomsbury Publishing and you can order at your local bookshop or buy it from It shows readers what television does to them, how it's turning adults into babies, how it's domesticating humans like farm animals and how it's setting us up for a science fiction nightmare that's already happened. TV is causing depression, impaired concentration, impaired speech, and loss of memory. TV in schools, TV in baby's nurseries, TV that watches you, TV you can't get away from, people making love to machines, TVs on microchips implanted in your brain, - we did the research. Our readers will get the facts. TV is taking over the world. We'll take it over first. Instead of just complaining about modern life, we're describing an amazing machine that will make you happy, excited and energetic, just by flicking a switch. It's called television - and all you have to do is turn it off. No matter what your politics or background, you can help build a world without fake friends, fake experiences and the constant strain of video manipulation. This manual explains, step by step, how to break out of the box - from turning off your set to dismantling an entire industry.What better time?

The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers

Well, who'd have ever thunk it but giving away money has become fashionable. Here is my pick for the beginning of 2005. Before you visit the site's donation link, check out some of the reports it issued on November 17 of this year. If you need any convincing of the importance of the issue or have little time to browse, the news from the "Democratic" Republic of the Congo, Russia, Israel, the "Occupied" territories of Palestine, China and Rwanda are especially edifying.

This is a problem that is only going to get worse if we don't start throwing some money and shedding some light on it right away. I tend to be a bit of a Cassandra but you might recall that part of her curse was that she was always right.

Money does not always enable things. Sometimes it actually serves as a preventative. Be well in 2005.

The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

More About Susan

Published on Tuesday, December 28, 2004 by the Associated Press

Susan Sontag, Author and Activist, Dies at 71
by Hillel Italie

NEW YORK - Susan Sontag, the author, activist and self-defined "zealot of seriousness" whose voracious mind and provocative prose made her a leading intellectual of the past half century, died Tuesday. She was 71.
Sontag died at 7:10 a.m. Tuesday, said Esther Carver, a spokeswoman for Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan.

Social critic and author Susan Sontag, one of America's leading intellectuals, died on December 28, 2004 at age 71 at New York's Sloan Kettering hospital after a battle with leukemia, the Los Angeles Times reported on its Web site. Known for wide-ranging interests that included everything from ballet to photography to popularizing of the works of such authors such as Walter Benjamin and Elias Cannetti, Sontag was the author of 17 books and a lifelong human rights activist. Sontag is shown after winning the National Book Award in fiction for 'In America' November 15, 2000. (Bernie Nunez/Reuters)The hospital declined to release a cause of death. Sontag had been treated for breast cancer in the 1970s.

Sontag called herself a "besotted aesthete," an "obsessed moralist" and a "zealot of seriousness." Tall and commanding, her very presence suggested grand, passionate drama: eyes the richest brown; thick, black hair accented by a bolt of white; the voice deep and assured; her expression a severe stare or a wry smile, as if amused by a joke only she could tell.
She wrote a best-selling historical novel, "The Volcano Lover," and in 2000 won the National Book Award for the historical novel "In America." But her greatest literary impact was as an essayist.

The 1964 piece "Notes on Camp," which established her as a major new writer, popularized the "so bad it's good" attitude toward popular culture, applicable to everything from "Swan Lake" to feather boas. In "Against Interpretation," this most analytical of writers worried that critical analysis interfered with art's "incantatory, magical" power.

She also wrote such influential works as "Illness as Metaphor," in which she examined how disease had been alternately romanticized and demonized, and "On Photography," in which she argued pictures sometimes distance viewers from the subject matter. "On Photography" received a National Book Critics Circle award in 1978. "Regarding the Pain of Others," a partial refutation of "On Photography," was an NBCC finalist in 2004.

She had an insatiable passion for literature, with thousands of books - arranged by chronology and language - occupying her Chelsea apartment in Manhattan. She read authors from all over the world and is credited with introducing such European intellectuals as Roland Barthes and Elias Canetti to American readers.

"I know of no other intellectual who is so clear-minded with a capacity to link, to connect, to relate," Carlos Fuentes, the Mexican novelist, once said. "She is unique."
Unlike many American writers, she was deeply involved in politics, even after the 1960s. From 1987-89, Sontag served as president of American chapter of the writers organization PEN. When the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini called for Salman Rushdie's death because of the alleged blasphemy of "The Satanic Verses," she helped lead protests in the literary community.

Sontag campaigned relentlessly for human rights and throughout the 1990s traveled to the region of Yugoslavia, calling for international action against the growing civil war. In 1993, she visited Sarajevo and staged a production of "Waiting for Godot."

The daughter of a fur trader, she was born Susan Rosenblatt in New York in 1933, and also spent her early years in Tucson, Ariz., and Los Angeles. Her mother was an alcoholic; her father died when she was 5. Her mother later married an Army officer, Capt. Nathan Sontag.

Susan Sontag remembered her childhood as "one long prison sentence." She skipped three grades and graduated from high school at 15; the principal told her she was wasting her time there. Her mother, meanwhile, warned if she did not stop reading she would never marry.
Her mother was wrong. At the University of Chicago, she attended a lecture by Philip Rieff, a social psychologist and historian. They were married 10 days later. She was 17, he 28. "He was passionate, he was bookish, he was pure," she later said of him.

By the mid-1960s, she and Rieff were divorced (they had a son, David, born in 1952), and Sontag had emerged in New York's literary society. She was known for her essays, but also wrote fiction, although not so successfully at first. "Death Kit" and "The Benefactor" were experimental novels few found worth getting through.
"Unfortunately, Miss Sontag's intelligence is still greater than her talent," Gore Vidal wrote in a 1967 review of "Death Kit."

"Yet ... once she has freed herself of literature, she will have the power to make it, and there are not many American writers one can say that of."
Her fiction became more accessible. She wrote an acclaimed short story about AIDS, "The Way We Live Now," and a best-selling novel, "The Volcano Lover," about Lord Nelson and his mistress Lady Hamilton.
In 2000, her novel "In America," about the 19th-century Polish actress Helena Modjeska, was a commercial disappointment and was criticized for the uncredited use of material from fiction and nonfiction sources. Nonetheless, Sontag won the National Book Award.

Sontag's work also included making the films "Duet For Cannibals" and "Brother Carl" and writing the play "Alice in Bed," based on the life of Alice James, the ailing sister of Henry and William James. Sontag appeared as herself in Woody Allen's mock documentary, "Zelig."

In 1999 she wrote an essay for "Women," a compilation of portraits by her longtime companion, photographer Annie Leibovitz.
Sontag did not practice the art of restrained discourse. Writing in the 1960s about the Vietnam War she declared "the white race is the cancer of human history." Days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, she criticized U.S. foreign policy and offered backhanded praise for the hijackers.
"Where is the acknowledgment that this was not a 'cowardly' attack on 'civilization' or 'liberty' or 'humanity' or 'the free world' but an attack on the world's self-proclaimed superpower, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions?" she wrote in The New Yorker.
"In the matter of courage (a morally neutral virtue): whatever may be said of the perpetrators of Tuesday's slaughter, they were not cowards."
Even among sympathetic souls, she found reason to contend. At a 1998 dinner, she was one of three given a Writers For Writers Award for contributions to others in the field. Sontag spoke after fellow guest of honor E.L. Doctorow, who urged writers to treat each other as "colleagues" and worried about the isolation of what he called "print culture."
"I agree with Mr. Doctorow that we are all colleagues, but there are perhaps too many of us," Sontag stated.

"Nobody has to be a writer. Print culture may be under siege, but there has been an enormous inflation in the number of books printed, and very few of these could be considered part of literature. ... Unlike what has been said here before, for me the primary obligation is human solidarity."
© Copyright 2004 Associated Press

RIP, Susan Sontag

thanks, susan. i have to be reminded why i keep doing what i do. eyes on the prize. see you when i get there.

"A writer, I think, is someone who pays attention to the world. That means trying to understand, take in, connect with, what wickedness human beings are capable of; and not be corrupted --- made cynical, superficial --- by this understanding.

Literature can tell us what the world is like.

Literature can give standards and pass on deep knowledge, incarnated in language, in narrative.

Literature can train, and exercise, our ability to weep for those who are not us or ours.

Who would we be if we could not sympathize with those who are not us or ours? Who would we be if we could not forget ourselves, at least some of the time? Who would we be if we could not learn? Forgive? Become something other than we are? "

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Creepy FPs

8 Famous People Whose Smiles Give the Willies More Than Should Be Reasonably Expected

1. Nicolas Cage. He’d be less creepy if he weren’t trying so hard to look happy/sad/angry or creepy.
2. Michael Eisner. Something about him is just so creepy.
3. Michael Ovitz. Something about him is just so creepy.
4. John Travolta. It’s not clear whether he knows who he is, and that’s creepy.
5. Jennifer Love Hewitt. Proof you can be pretty and still be creepy.
6. Catherine Zeta-Jones. Look away from the phone ads! Yikes, she’s creepy.
7. Snoop Dogg. When he sneers it’s creepy, but when he smiles it’s still creepy.
8. Paris Hilton. I’d feel sorry for her except she’s creepy.
—June Melby

Nomination for Sainthood

from LA Weekly

I would like to formally nominate San Francisco electronics geek Mitch Altman for sainthood for the invention of TV-B-Gone, the universal keychain-size OFF remote control, and sole product of his company, Cornfield Electronics Inc. — "dedicated to the use of technology for something useful." This is an item I have dreamed of for many years as I sat in an empty bar or waiting room, bombarded with the inane babble of Babylon cranked up to 11. If some jillionaire would please distribute 200 million of these and an equal number of those shades from They Live, our species might stand a chance ($15 from

Thursday, December 23, 2004

This & That, Updated

Here's something easy to do for individuals seriously less fortunate than most of us this holiday season. I will refrain from making any snide comments about the fact that four of the names on this list are in Texas.

Francis Newton who had been on the NACAP action alert list was granted a 120 day of execution. Excellent. Thanks to the buds who responded to my forwarded action alert on that one.

The weather is gorgeous here is Los Gatos and my mother is doing fairly well. I'm grateful to be here, happy to not be spending so much time alone and for my family's generosity in bringin' my sorry ass out here. I'll be back in IC early next week. Here's a humorous little corporate America observation.....I was wandering around the Borders bookstore earlier and noticed that "Goodhousekeeping" magazine was on the shelf right next to "Tricycle". For those who aren't familiar with "Tricycle", it's a journal-esque monthly devoted to (mostly) modern Buddhist practice. I like it quite a bit although I haven't read it in a few years so I should say I used to? The Iowa Review was in a prominent position just around the corner. What does it all mean (joke).

I noticed the Press Citizen highlighted Marshall Crenshaw's first LP today. It's been 22 years and I am still trying to recover from the harsh reality that I'm pretty much convinced that "Cynical Girl" WAS written about me. Hey, making people earn your trust is a damn good thing. Case in point, just go read my various forms..... post

I do still believe in the high road. There's a really popular book making the rounds a lot this season that contains a chapter entitled "Working With Others". I've read it many times. The last 2 paragraphs of that chapter are pretty nice on this issue. I didn't bring the darn thing with me but I think it's on page 103 in the lastest printing. I'm kind of annoyed that I know this, to tell the truth. The experts can be so off-putting. I should know, I am can be guilty as hell. Do I recall that these paragraphs talk about this in context?

Anyway, tolerance is a good deal. That's what I think I'm getting at. I'm working on it.

Monday, December 20, 2004

You Are Beautiful

And this is what I offer all of you for the holidays:

It's the least I can do after that big 'ol whine of a post I just wrote (not that I don't stand by ever word of it). Poverty is way stressful. So is taking the high road - which I just failed to do by saying I've been doing it. Again...... Oh well.

Please, check out the above site (a link from the Reverand Billy -- hey, if he is snorting a line of blow in that one picture I do not endorse/like that, okay?)

Various Forms of Flames

I've been hearing that the definition of insanity is that you do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. Personally, I think this is a load of crap. Go spend some time in a state facility where people are actually locked up and you will get a real view of what insanity looks like. In all fairness there are varying degrees of being sane.

Having written this and being someone who has been locked up, I am here to tell you I'm still somewhat insane because I keep ignoring my gut (i.e. intuition). How, you might ask? I keep trusting that when people say they will keep something confidential, they will. I've been guilty of gossip and breaking the bonds of a pact but DAMN, I feel exceptionally bad about it when I do and apologize and attempt to make amends promptly. BTW, making amends is an offer of what we can do for someone else. It is not what we think will be the best thing to make us feel better.

Anyway, I think some people don't even have enough of a conscience to feel badly about blabbing other people's shit or feel owning up to it will be bad for person blabbed about (hubris on blabber's part and ultimately self-serving.) In my experience these "loose lips sink ships" types are usually so friggin' consumed with codependency and the need to fit in, they'll do just about anything to please another person so they are constitutionally incapable of keeping their word. If that's called getting better, I'd prefer to stay sick, thank you very much.

A friend sent me Aimee Mann's 2002 release for my birthday. I love that song "The Moth". It keeps going for that flame over and over again even though it gets burnt every time. My wish for myself this holiday season is that I stay away from the various forms of flames in my life. I wish this for all of you too.

I'd also appreciate any prayers anyone would like to extend my mother's way. She's really hurting in the wake of my father's death. I wish I liked Christmas more. Happy, happy, happy.

Oh well.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


You know, I just read what I posted a little bit ago and the truth is I HAVE been letting the walls down. What I keep doing is waiting for someone else to validate the experience for me in order that I might acknowledge to myself that it's actually happening. Aha!

The Trouble With Normal

My dear, sweet pal Kelly M forwarded this from NYC today. She and I are b-day twins with one rather insignificant difference. I was born 20 years before she was. Other than that we are practically the same person. Poor Jacques Genet is a fellow Sag (b. Decemebr 19) and apparently spent his entire life building walls around himself. I hope he found the love he was seeking before he died in 1986. Letting down the walls is one big drag. I'm trying, darn it.

Anyway, I like these lines quite a bit.

Kelly also sent this website which is a lot of fun:

Be cool. Don't be afraid to be different!!!!!! The trouble with normal is it only gets worse.

"You must always have a secret plan. Everything depends on this: it is the only question. So as not to be conquered by the conquered territory in which you lead your life, so as not to feel the horrible weight of inertia wrecking your will and bending you to that ground, you must make secret plans without respite. Plan for adventure, plan for pleasure, plan for pandemonium, as you wish; but plan, lay plans constantly."

"And when you come to, on the steps of the presidential palace, in the green grass beside the highway, in your cell’s gloomy solitude, your secret plan finished or foiled, ask your comrades, ask your cellmates, ask the wind, the waves, the stars, the sea, ask everything that ponders, everything that wanders, everything that sings, everything that stings—ask them what time it is; and your comrades, your cellmates, the wind, the waves, the stars, the sea all will answer: “It is time for a new secret plan. So not to be the martyred slaves of routine, plan adventure, plan pleasure, plan pandemonium, as you wish; but plan, plan secretly and without respite.” -- Genet

Friday, December 10, 2004

Guess What Today Is?

It's Human Rights Day and Nobel Day in Sweden (ergo my last post from Kenneth Roth, the execetive director of Human Rights Watch).

Be kind to a fellow human today (hell, everyday) however you can, okay? I was at the downtown post office earlier and a young woman was standing there holding the door open (i.e. being considerate). People were just cluelessly filing in past her and thereby forcing her further and further behind in an already long line of customers.

I was in a rush as well but I let her go in front of me. A small thing but I could tell it made her feel better about the world.

Speaking of being in a rush, I gotta go.

Spread the love.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004


Hope for Human Rights by Kenneth Roth

OK, maybe running a human rights organization isn't a laugh a minute. The world can be an ugly place. I encounter more accounts of slaughter and cruelty in a week than most people would want in a lifetime. But that doesn't lead me to despair, and it's not because I have one of those glass-half-full dispositions. For me, the key to hope is realizing that even in distant corners of the world, there are things we can do to curb suffering and end atrocities. That's hardly self-evident. Most people never see past the horror stories. But one of the great privileges of working at Human Rights Watch is seeing what a small group of people, combining their voices, talents and financial generosity, can do to address even seemingly intractable problems. Americans are particularly handicapped when it comes to understanding this power. We tend to look at human rights issues through "litigation blinders." Living in a society with a strong and independent judiciary, we tend to think that the solution to rights violations is always to sue the bastards. Since most repressive countries don't have functioning court systems, we despair. The dictator-rattling innovation of the human rights movement is its development of ways to defend rights even in the absence of functioning courts. We begin with a moral universe in which most people view human rights violations as wrong. That's why they tend to occur in the shadows. Human rights investigators operate in violent and repressive countries to document abuses, expose them to public opprobrium and generate pressure for change. These exposés raise the cost of abuse--in terms of the reputation, pocketbook and liberty of those responsible. Because human rights reports receive broad press coverage, they tend to stigmatize abusive forces, depriving them of the legitimacy they need to maintain power. Because influential governments and institutions can be convinced to condition aid and loans on an end to abuse, atrocities can be financially costly to the perpetrators. And because venues are increasingly available to prosecute the worst human rights criminals, abusive leaders must now worry about their freedom. The emotionally difficult part of this work is that we usually can't offer immediate relief to the victims whose plight we record. But we can deploy their testimony to protect others from a repetition of their suffering. And we are moving closer to the day when their persecutors will be reliably punished. Whether paramilitary leaders in Colombia or rebel groups in the Congo, whether the dictators in Beijing or the Russian generals in Chechnya, even the most recalcitrant abusers feel the heat. Indeed, when America's own legal system fails--as it often does for prisoners, immigrants, gays and lesbians, terrorist suspects and victims of the drug wars, to name a few--the tools of the human rights movement can be an essential supplement to litigation at home as well. Does this mean we are moving toward a day when there will be no more human rights abuse? I doubt it. Governments will always find it tempting to violate human rights. But we are well past the day when human rights can be violated with impunity. If we keep raising the cost of abuse, there is every reason for hope.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

May Cause Deterioration

from the December issue of the American Journal of Public Health:

"Unemployment," they write, "may cause a deterioration of economic situation, downgrading of social status, broken social relations, changed risk behaviors, impaired psychological well-being, and depression, consequences that may develop into severe illness."

I wish I could have gotten into that study, maybe they were paying the participants. I keep trying to put a positive spin on shit it's HARD.

Congrats to the Met for refusing to charge make people pay $30 to see King Tut's old stuff. Can't say I blame any Middle Eastern County for wanting to make Americans pay for such things either.

Oh my.