Monday, January 19, 2009

Dr. King's Dream is Rising

photo via Doug Mills, NYT

Come on up for the rising,
Come on up, lay your hands in mine;
Come on up for the rising,
Come on up for the rising tonight!

If you're like me, your eyes are still a bit swollen this morning after weeping with joy during the Obama Inaugural event at the Lincoln Memorial. I also watched the replay on HBO last night, exchanging emails with Lisa Simeone, who'd live-reported the event on NPR radio earlier and was now watching it at home, this time setting aside her no-tears-on-the-air professionalism and reveling in the pleasure of it, just like the rest of us. As one stunning performance followed another, I noted that this was so intense an emotion for me, I could barely find words to describe it. "My heart is exploding and bits of stardust are all over the floor," I wrote.

In one sense, I am deeply envious of my friend T, whose children go to school with mine and whose sister is a brilliant actor and very special liberal activist; accordingly, he and his lucky, lucky family are part of the exciting festivities going on in Washington right now; more saliently, they're in the middle of history as it unfolds. (Say hello to Michelle for me, T!)

In another sense, though, as I bask in our relatively tropical Florida warmth (eek, sorry, snowbound readers), I am not at all jealous of those oceans of excited, bundled-up people who were surely chilled to the bone, from the crowds who stood on the ground to the celebrities who sang onstage. I could tell that the performers, in particular, were really feeling the cold, even with layers of gorgeous scarves and coats swaddling them: if you looked at their lips, you could see that some of them were struggling mightily to keep their mouths flexible in that freezing air so they could form the words. (When I was in high school, my singing group traveled to Europe and performed outdoors in Germany; all I can say is, singing in the falling snow is beyond challenging, not to mention terrible for one's vocal cords.)

Poor Bruce Springsteen displayed, at times, the body language of someone who was looking forward to curling up in front of a warm fire after the concert. And speaking of fire, wasn't that a soul-stirring, body-invigorating rendition of The Rising? Springsteen originally wrote this to honor all the firefighters, many of whom died, for their indescribable bravery at the World Trade Center disaster on that dark and heartbreaking day. With an animated, red-robed gospel choir joining in, its 2009 incarnation was, quite literally, a moving and joyful call to service.

And I was touched and amused by the innocent excitement of Malia Obama, who repeatedly pulled out her little digital camera and snapped photos of all those famous people singing and dancing--and remembering history--just a few feet away. Um, Malia, you're the First Firstborn, darling; those celebrities are all going to want photos of you.

Despite my physical distance from it, I felt tightly bound to the history, pride, and ever-renewed American spirit underpinning the stage at the Lincoln Memorial, and I was electrified and inspired by the unprecedented length and breadth and depth of the creative talent assembled thereupon.

So, what was your favorite part?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Would That Things Were Only This Bad...

Reality is much worse than the future that SNL's writers imagined--save the Great Lakes problem--but Will Farrell's delicious, razor-sharp Dubya impersonation made me laugh out loud just the same. As Sully says, "It could stand for his farewell address as well."

School' ecstatic tapping sound you hear is me doing a little Irish jig around my desk--and I'm back in the saddle again, to juxtapose a little Alice Cooper and Aerosmith on a cold Sunday morning (hey, why not?) Accordingly, there will be posting a-plenty going forward. Because if the tall, calm, grownup Senator President (yeah!) with the beautiful speeches and magnificent mind can't inspire this writer, I might as well hang up the Powerbook and go for an ostrich ride.

Happy Inauguration Weekend, everyone!

(H/T oddjob)

Friday, January 09, 2009

A Fundamental Clash--Not of Religions or Civilizations, but of Eras

This is Syrian-born American psychiatrist Dr. Wafa Sultan, speaking on Al-Jazeera television (English subtitles by Memritv) with Ibrahim Al-Khouli and host Faisal al-Qassem. Dr. Sultan discusses the ongoing battle between the barbarism inherent in the medieval mentality of fundamentalism and the hope and progress--both in scientific and social terms--that modern, tolerant thinking has offered, and continues to offer, humankind.

My thoughts about Dr. Sultan's words are best summed up by fellow Cogblogger Stephen, whose opinions on matters theological and historical I've long respected and to whom I sent this video earlier today. He notes:

"I could say, and have said, many of the same things about Christians that she says about Muslims. In fact, several centuries ago it was the Muslim world that practiced tolerance of other religions and saw great scientific gains; current math, physics, astronomy and medicine are all built upon what they started. The West's philosophical foundation upon Aristotelianism wouldn't have been possible without Muslims holding onto Aristotle's teachings while the Christian idiots were busily destroying anything they felt offended their Christian sensibilities. I guess the main takeaway for me is further confirmation of how similar fundamentalists from all systems of thought are to each other."


(H/T Roberto, via Yariv)

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Weekend at Bernie's

Work-weeks for the self-employed routinely stretch into seventy and even eighty-hour marathons, as Robert's continue to do these days; accordingly, he tries to ingest a decent amount of protein and vegetables, even at lunchtime, and had just bitten into his grilled chicken breast sandwich with pesto--he's the chef in these parts, not I--when news of Bernie Madoff's latest bit of sociopathic effrontery hit the airwaves.

Robert didn't choke, but I nearly did, and I wasn't even eating. And there they were, the braced-and-bespectacled CNBC crew, nattering away and wondering out loud how someone could possibly be so arrogant and unaware.

"Why are these Wall Street groupies even trying to make sense of this criminal?" I asked, resisting the strong urge to teevee-scream Take the beam out of your own motherfucking eyes first, O Masters of The Universe!

No More Teevee-screaming is my New Year's resolution. Swear.

Instead, I grumbled. "Arrogant? Aware? He's a bloody sociopath--he has no conscience."

"Maybe they feel they have to say something in order to sound smart?" Dear Husband offered.

Hey, it's bad enough that after being caught defrauding all those people, companies, and charities to the tune of many billions, Madoff packed up a million dollars or so worth of watches and jewelry and smuggled them off to the kids, claiming the items have "sentimental value". (It should be easy enough for prosecutors to debunk that one: sociopaths don't have sentiments, you see.) Now we learn he was planning to spirit away some $173 million dollars, too, confirmed by a load of signed checks investigators found during a search of his desk. And this despite being ordered to not dispose of any assets whatsoever, since said assets will, eventually, be used to partially (!) repay at least some investors.

Suffice it to say, I don't think slapping a bit of ankle jewelry on Madoff and sending him upstairs to his Manhattan penthouse is anything close to the sort of lifestyle change he really deserves to undergo right about now.

So, I propose this: until his trial date, let Madoff live off the street--for real. Strip the man down to his Sulka briefs, give him some beaten-up sneakers and an old sweatsuit from the Salvation Army--hell, the pants don't even have to match the hoodie--and point him toward the nearest Dumpster full of cardboard boxes. We got yer penthouse right here, Mister!


It's Weekend at Bernie's! All weekend, every weekend. And weekdays too--why not? Open the ultra-luxurious Madoff house to families who've been thrown out onto the streets when their banks foreclosed on their properties. One family per long weekend, I say, and give them access to the Madoff SubZero(s) and the Madoff wine cellar. Let the kids get warm--finally!--in his 1,000-thread-count Pratesi sheets and cashmere blankets and remind the parents to grab a vicuña coat or two when they head out the door and hand the keys to the next homeless family.

As for Madoff being out and about, ah, flight risk, schmight risk. I don't think he'll get too far.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

FridayTuesday Frank: Sinister Footwear (Second Movement); NYC, 1981

Inaugural planners take note: setting aside Sinister Footwear's overall musical wonderfulness (and it's not often you'll hear me say that), its title alone makes this Zappa piece the perfect music with which to bid farewell to the Inartful Dodger of Crawford Dallas.

Happy New Year, all!