Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Riddle me this

All this talk of French women has got me thinking. Why do I even like France - or more specifically - Paris?

There's actually a good reason for me to ask. When I went to Paris a few years ago, I hated it. That's right, the whole time I was there I kept noticing everything awful about the place. I had a good time and saw some neat stuff, but all I could think was that it reminded me of New York, - but with short buildings and everyone speaking French.

Not at all like the impression Venice made on me the year before, or Heidelberg a few days earlier. I fell in love with both of those cities nearly the moment I stepped from the train. In the case of Venice it was the very second I emerged from the station and saw the Canale Grande right there. The clouds broke just then and the sun lifted everything like a rising symphony, glinting off the water and the still wet cobbled street.

Heidelberg was a bit less of an instant blast of emotion. It crept up a bit at first and was in full swing by the time Steffi and I where halfway up the main shopping street there. By the time we climbed the fourteen million steps up to the castle, I was in love with the place. Maybe it was the company, but I think I would have been taken with Heidelberg anyway.

I never really wanted to move there though. Heidelberg was nice, but not a place that called for me to live. Venice - I wouldn't mind living there, but not for a long period of time. The faded grandeur is awesome, but the haunted feeling of the streets at and the way there always seems like there is something dark just below the surface, would be too much. Venice is a place to live when you write a book, or a place to go when old age reduces life to dark halls of thought.

Paris, on the other hand...I want to live there. Even as I was walking the streets, despising the place, I couldn't help but feel at home there. Maybe it didn't stun me with beautiful sights because it all seemed familiar. Even watching 'Taxi Driver' in French on a bad television, in an equally run down hotel room across from Gare de l'Est, didn't strike me as particularly odd.

I even went so far as to look at apartments with a real estate agent while I was there. Some people go to the Louvre, I looked at Paris apartments. But I got to drive in a Smart car and learn about real estate from a guy who spoke very little English. I, by the way, speak no French - or, at least, none to speak of.

So, what was it about the place? What is it about any place? Why do we fall in love with certain places?

I still don't know what did it - maybe a lot of things. Perhaps the lemon tarts I found in a bakery on a side street, or the Greek gyros down in the Latin Quarter, or the gypsies playing music on the Metro (not just in the stations, but on the trains too), or the buildings, or the beautiful women, or the music listening stations in the McDonalds in the movie theatre district, or the Opera Garnier, or...heck, I have no idea.

Anyway, despite hating the place - I loved the place too. I wish I could figure out why.

Thursday, May 25, 2006 can't be helped

"Honey, I'm leaving you for Audrey Tautou."

I'm giving ample warning to any woman I might get involved with. I'm really sorry and it would make me feel bad for awhile, but I would run off to marry Audrey Tautou in a minute.

No wait, that's not entirely true. I wouldn't wait that long.

Ever since seeing an 'Amelie' poster on Daniel's wall in Munich, I was mesmerized by those eyes. The poster was everywhere in the city that year, because the movie was everywhere. I hadn't even heard of it, but it was the rage in Europe. Steffi and I thought about seeing it, but the thought of seeing a French film with German subtitles seemed like a lot of work and although the English language theatre was showing it, the lines seemed eternal.

Anyway, I got back home and it made it's way to the States. I was at the theatre the first chance I got.

Captivated. Enamored. I became a fan of Audrey Tautou - complete with a framed 'Amelie' movie poster on the wall.

For me, the movie strikes a lot of chords. Not only does the movie sing for me, but it never fails to bring up a layer of subtext of my time in Germany with Steffi. The bittersweetness of that mixes well with the movie. Stephanie might be the one person I wouldn't have left for Audrey Tautou.

Over the last few years, I've seen pretty much everything Audrey Tautou has done. Some, like 'Venus Beauty Academy' I could have maybe missed. Even that wasn't too bad though, and was worth the glimpses of Audrey. I liked 'Happenstance', 'He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not', 'L'Auberge Espagnole' and 'Dirty Pretty Things.'

'He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not' has one of the most interesting premises that I've seen in a long time. Definitely worth seeing.

'A Very Long Engagement' is another one worth taking the time for. She creates yet another memorable character in it. Her range is awesome.

Now it's 'DaVinci Code'. I sort of enjoyed the movie. Not at all as bad as the critics have said. It is what it is - an entertaining film based on an entertaining book. It's perhaps not a real memorable performance for either her or her co-star Tom Hanks, but overall it's pretty good. Check out Laura's take on it if you want to know more.

I don't know what else to tell you. She stands 5'4", has a rapturous smile and was born in 1978. Her dark eyes melt me and she's French which automatically moves her up the scale a few notches - not that she needs any help there.

Anyway, you've been warned. I would have left you for that other Audrey too - you know, Audrey Hepburn. But since that didn't happen, that only leaves you Tautou to worry about.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

No rant in sight...just a link to an interesting interview

This is an interesting interview with one of the attorneys for several Kuwaitis held illegally at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It's part of a series of interviews. I haven't read the rest.

It's easy to believe the constant refrain of 'these are bad people, dangerous people...' until you actually look at how many haven't even been charged. Many have been released and sent back to their countries where they have been acquitted of any wrongdoing.

Friday, May 19, 2006

We're going the wrong way...

Republican politicians and their beltway spinners are intent on showing you that they are a strong bunch. If there's a problem in the house, they'll take care of it. Who wouldn't want a strong father figure around to watch out for them?

Most of us would fight to defend our homes and our families. If someone attacked your child, you would defend him, right? Of course you would. There's little question about that.

On 9/11 our house was attacked. A small group of madmen crashed through our welcoming front door and murdered members of our family. They violated us. Americans felt the touch of terror on their shoulders and they didn't like it.

A response had to be made, justice served.

Our home and the entire neighborhood needed to be made safe again. We looked to our president to lead us. Democrats and Republicans, Independents and Greens, Christians and atheists, all showed they would support the president, if only he would truthfully and honestly lead us.

We started out on the right path.

We went into Afghanistan with a mission. We were going to find those behind the attacks and bring them to justice. Brave men went into the hostile territory and sought out the madmen that attacked us, our values and our way of life. Some of these advocates of terror were found and justice was swift. And, although the key figures remained alive and untouched, we were getting closer to them every day. Our soldiers courageously vowed to risk their lives to bring us justice and safety.

Instead of staying true to our goals and remaining committed to making our home and neighborhood safe again, we were led astray by the Bush administration.

While cooler heads moved closer to punishing those responsible for hurting our country, the Bush administration chose to squander lives and resources to get back at anyone they didn't like.

Instead of finding the murderers who attacked us, this administration thought it more important to get the guy who shook his fist at them when they drove by his house.

Their first claim was that he had a stockpile of bad things that he was going to use to attack our house again.

Trusting the word of the president, many Americans believed what he said. Democrats and Republicans stood behind him when he choose to ignore our neighbors' calls for reason. We were lied to and we found that out when we burst into the Iraqi home and found no weapons.

The administration declared the neighborhood a better place, a safer place - but the murderers of 9/11 are still roaming the streets.

While rational voices pointed back to our original path, Republicans and the Bush administration wasted time and resources seeking ways to dole out billions of dollars in corporate welfare checks. And even that wasn't enough. They wasted more resources and time pushing large government handouts to the elite few and millions in small handouts to the rest of us.

And still the murderers of 9/11 stalk us.

What has been accomplished in the last half a decade?

Instead of bringing sure and firm justice, we've chased around the world, diverting troops from their true mission. We've sent brave men and women into a conflict with poor equipment and no plan for their return. Instead of strategy, we've allowed this administration to ignore the need for setting a goal and left our troops to take fire and face death because of weak leadership.

Despite having the strongest military in the world and the most well-trained troops, this administration's lack of planning and disregard for voices other than their own has allowed our sons and daughters in uniform to be killed and maimed by insurgents armed with bombs made from nail polish remover and detonators made from garage door openers.

And still the murderers of 9/11 are roaming the streets.

The Bush regime has set us on a course of spying on each other and distrusting our neighbors. It has become more important to check library records, make lists of who calls who, and find out if Hester Prynne is still dancing in the woods than it is to return to tracking the killers who planned the attacks on our country, our home.

Republicans have doled out billions to cronies and pals and left real Americans to foot the bill. Oil companies are reaping record returns and the rest of us are looking at record gas prices at the pump.

Our ports are still wide open. Our government has been distracted with the need to keep nail clippers off of airplanes and has neglected to find a way to ensure that the billions of tons of cargo entering our country every year is safe.

We've managed to alienate our neighbors and create an environment where many in the world fear the instability caused by the United States more than they fear terrorists. Our unfettered spending of money we don't have has most of the world afraid of what might happen to the world economy and our unilateral uses of military force have many afraid of the terrorist breeding grounds we've created.

Too much time has been wasted with petting bickering over who should get the bigger room and the keys to the Lexus. Most of us don't care, we just want our home to be secure, our family safe, and our future secure. And since the Republican elitists with the reins of the House, Senate and the White House can't be bothered to balance the check book, secure our home and improve the neighborhood, it's time to remove them from office.

The right path is over there... Let's elect people who can see it, stick to it and lead us along it. We can't afford to wander aimless anymore. It's time to show real strength. It's time for real leaders.

Found on some journeys...

I'm not such a bad guy...all you had to do is ask to take it down. Sorry that you were embarrassed. I'm sure it will unGoogle in a month or two. Cheers.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

H...E...double toothhpicks!

Oh Hell! I can't believe the bad fortune. There it was, shining like a jewel in a Technicolor Sinbad the Sailor movie, and I blew it.




That was just me kicking myself.


Oh, I woke up to find that I was eligible for a designer purse (pending participation) and that I would also soon be enjoying a free 42" Samsung widescreen HDTV, and what did I do?

That's right, I accidentally tossed out the emails.

How am I supposed to enjoy my Hoodia and the new penis enlarging cream I ordered without a 42" TV? And where will I put them without that designer purse?

God, I'm so stoopid.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Where have all the dollars gone...

Yeah, we're gonna have to privatize Social Security. It's just not working. It can't be fixed.

Never mind that it's one of the few government programs that does work. Granted, its constant and steady single-digit return on investment is far from stellar, but the program works as it should - to provide a retirement safety net.

See, the idea is that if you keep repeating that it's a failing program, people will believe it.

Why not? It worked when the administration wanted to march into Iraq. Where are those weapons of mass destruction? Here? No, maybe over here?

It's an oft-repeated strategy of repetition.

Republicans have been pushing this message so long and hard that most of America's young people and many of her old ones believe it too be true. Are you in your 20s or 30s? Do you think you'll be collecting Social Security? Neither did I.

Lucky me though. I did some research and found that the latest projections show that if left untouched, Social Security will continue paying out for about 34 years. Yippee. That puts me in my 70s, so I'll be getting some of mine.

That's assuming two things of course.

First, that the Republicans don't continue to try and squeeze it out of existence. And second, that a bi-partisan group of legislators actually sits down, does their job and finds ways to ensure that the popular program remains viable.

But Republicans really want to end this program. It's a reminder of all the social reforms they despise at the very core.

They don't see it as a successful program paid into by millions of hard-working Americans. They see it as an extension of welfare and food stamps. If you were successful and wise, you would have a comfortable retirement set up. Social Security is a wobbly crutch that encourages Americans to be less successful. To admit it has benefited millions of Americans would be to admit that perhaps their faith in the cult of big business was ill placed.

Therefore, the endless push to dismantle Social Security and hand it over to big business - privatization.

The problem is that most Americans don't want that. That's why you don't hear many Republicans utter the word privatization in the same paragraph - much less same sentence - as Social Security. What you will hear are terms like 'choice' and 'self direction'. It's all about distracting people with things that sound appealing until they become comfortable with them and thus slowly move toward the ultimate goal of handing over a functioning multi-billion dollar pention plan to big business.

That's not the only way for Republicans to attack Social Security though.

The second prong in the march to privatization is creating a fiscal crunch. It's one reason you don't hear much in the way of concern over neither the irresponsible deficit spending of the current administration nor the unwarranted tax kickbacks President Bush has championed since taking office.

See, there's a little secret that Republicans aren't letting you in on. They don't really mind big government - as long as it's their big government. They've been fertilizing and watering this one, that's for sure.

Who would have guessed that it would be the Republican guard that squandered the wealth of hard-working Americans? Well, a lot of Democrats it turns out. But that's a story for another day.

Today's story is about how Republicans are planning on stealing your retirement and giving away your grandchildren's security.

Eventually, all this spending has to be paid for. Even Republicans have to pay their tab sometime. And when the tab comes due, it's going to hurt the average Joe who will bear the brunt of footing the bill. If the bill is high enough, there will be no choice but to drastically cut government spending. Republicans are hoping that by then they'll have you convinced that it's Social Security - a program already funded - that's bleeding the country dry, not the massive bureaucracy building campaign they've been busy funding.

Thus, the tale of the two-pronged Republican assault on Social Security nears it's end. Only you should decide the final chapter...

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Hey, I've got a great idea. Let's take the guy in charge of the illegal NSA domestic spying ordered by the President and make him the head of the CIA. It's pure genius.

Let's see those wiley Quaker terrorists escape our nets this time.

On a dollar saving note, I wonder how much the NSA will charge to look up numbers and connect me directly? If it's cheaper than my cel phone company, I'm just going to call them now. They probably have more up to date phone records than my cel company anyway.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Weird ass day...

Where to start? about the Chili Pepper's new album, 'Stadium Arcadium?' Why yes, good idea.

It's been nice to be excited for an album to come out. I haven't felt that way for a long time. The last one I was actually excited enough to get antsy waiting for was U2's last one. Other than that, I've been okay with waiting.

This one excited me and I'm happy to say it's deserved the excitement and anticipation. I'm not even through it all yet, but I'm stoked. It's that good.

Youthful's nice to know things can still bring that out.

Next? about a question of ethics and stuff? Wow, great idea.

Suppose you had a job that had you in peoples houses or apartments when they're not around. You go into an apartment, clicking on the tunnel vision on the way in. Just do the job and leave.

All's well but on the guy's coffee table is a pile of pills. Not a couple...a pile, say about 30. They look a lot like some pain pills you once had.

Focus, it's none of your business.

Then you head upstairs and start working. Glancing to your right you see another pile of pills on the dresser. It's a bigger pile. On the floor is a pile of empty prescription bottles...all unmarked. They're next to a shipping box that may or may not have more pills. And for good measure, toss in a bulk jar of prescription sleeping pills.

The dresser pile is at eye level. You see them and now know that these are indeed generic Vicadins. (Later on you'll probably verify the numbers with a friend who's a pharmacist, just to be sure.)

Focus...none of your business.

Then you see the guy's uniform hanging on a rack. He's a county Corrections Officer.

What would you do? Mind you, pretty much any thoughts you come up with have likely crossed my mind. Let er rip...

Anything else happen today? Well, I did get an email from the guy running for Congress against James 'the Prick' Sensenbrenner, R., WI. He just wants to know how he can get an endorsement from a group I've been working with.

Oh, and Matt Damon emailed me too. Well, me and all the other millions on the One Campaign's email list. Still, it is kind of trip to see an email with Matt Damon on the sender line.

That's about it. New Red Hot Chili Peppers CD, a pill pushing Corrections Officer, random political candidate, and Matt Damon... How was your day?

Friday, May 05, 2006

Dis an dat...

What kind of crap is this? I don't have to work and it's cloudy? Yesterday was golden, today is dross. I hope, at least, tomorrow is nice.

Okay, I feel better.

Just a few thoughts...

My job is pretty boring. There's not a lot to it, that's for sure. Okay, that's not entirely true. There is a lot to it, but the basic day-to-day is pretty easy. So, I have long chunks of time that I now fill with Boris (my little black iPod).

Boris and I have a bit of an arrangement. He plays me what I want to hear and I do my best not to scratch his face. It's not as easy as it sounds, by the way.

I'm not sure how Boris feels about my listening habits, but I usually listen to whole albums instead of shuffling tunes. It's just easier to put something on and not worry about fiddling with buttons. Since, I have too weird a collection of music - everything from ABBA to George Strait, Gang of Four to The Clash, Black Flag to Mahler - I wouldn't even want to deal with the mix that would hit my ears. I know, I could make some playlists, but I'm too lazy for that.

Anyway, big chunks of music it is. Last night, it was Nouvelle Vague and Mark Knopfler...I was in a mellow mood.

The best part isn't the music, even though that's pretty awesome. The best part is that Boris can be a bit of a professor. I listen to a lot of podcasts and I have to say that I love this technology. It can be an incredible learning tool and it can be entertaining. I've been through lectures on most of the early Byzantine emperors, for example. I also listen to a weekly surfing podcast, chock full of stoke, dudes, and Bettys.

A couple of nights ago, I listened to a discourse on the Diamond Cutter Sutra by a well-know Buddhist monk, Lama Zopa. Before that, the Dalai Lama tried to teach me to deal with feelings of's taking some time to sink in.

Today I found some more that I liked. Useful Sounds is a podcast done by a German girl, Nicole Simon. Useful Sounds is in English. It's fun to hear a European take on things and her accent is great. She's got another one that she does in German,

In the cast I just heard she talks about how un-Continental the American continental breakfast is and laughs at herself for mispronouncing soccer as sucker.

Another German one is I just found a crazy good accapela group through this podcast, U-Bahn Kontrollore, and that made me happy.

Of course, I'm still a fan of Annik Rubens and her Schlaflos in Munchen podcast, but hers are all pretty short ones - usually about three minutes. Sometimes short is nice, but other times only a big, long one will do. What? No need to perv out now...

Seeing this on the screen, I'm confronted with my utter love of commas. I can't, it seems, get enough of them. It's possible I've even used some of them properly. Only a copy editor can tell for sure.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Snoochie Booches...

Fan: I love these guys! You know what? they're like Bill and Ted meet... Cheech and Chong!
Holden McNeil: Yeah... I kinda like to think of them as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern meet Vladamir and Estragon.
Fan: Yes!
Fan: Who?

Listened to 'Waiting for Godot' last night. It was a lot more fun than trying to read it. I don't much like reading plays, so hearing it performed was nice.

Watched 'Shopgirl' too. I've been waiting for this movie ever since I first read the book when it came out. Unfortunately, limited release and bad timing made me miss it at the theatres. Thank goodness for DVDs.

Of course, I thought it wasn't as good at the book. I sort of expected that. Claire Danes, however, was both beautiful and perfect for the role. She gives a nice, quiet performance. The guys do a good job of supporting her role too.

It was a nice movie, but it didn't hit me the same way the book did.

Went out on Friday night. Got lit. Oops. Well, these things happen. How else can you end up meeting Crazy Dave the biker guy? Let me answer that one for you. There's really no other way.

On Saturday, I read 'Night' by Elie Wiesel. I blame that one on Slade who had a list of opening lines from books. 'Night' was one of the books on her list that I have never read. Wouldn't you know, I saw it staring at me from the shelf of the store the other day. So I bought it. And read it. It made me think...a lot.

Is there a more enjoyable way to enjoy a nice spring day than sitting down with a personal account of life in the Nazi extermination camps written by someone who was there? I'll answer that one for you too...yes there are plenty. It made me think though, and that made it a good thing.