Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Mr. Abdulmutallib was not a so-called “terrorist” said Secretary Napolitano, encapsulating the word in hand gestures representing quotation marks. “Terrorism” she said, again making the quotation marks, “ceased to exist when President Obama was inaugurated. Even cases of man-caused-disasters,” she continued, “have declined dramatically since the President apologized for American imperialism and made it clear that he wants to have good relationships with everyone.”
Secretary Napolitano made it clear that the real threat to homeland security was right-wing Christian extremists and Civil War re-enactors. “Those people, with their fanatical insistence on home-schooling their children and their outmoded interpretations of the Bill of Rights – they are the ones about whom we are rightfully concerned, and I renew my vow to the American people that they will not prevail. Not on my watch.”
When members of the press continued asking about Abdulmutallib, Napolitano initially tried to laugh off their questions. “What,” she said, “Do all of you work for Fox News?” Columnist David Brooks took offense at this, and reminded the secretary of his behind-the scenes work for Obama’s Information Czar. By way of mea culpa, the Secretary agreed to answer “serious” questions on the matter. Mr. Brooks responded with, “What kind of pants was Mr. Abdulmutallib wearing? And if I could follow up on that, were the legs creased?”
After a series of questions concerning Abdulmutallib’s manner of dress, a reporter asked Secretary Napolitano how, if Abdulmutallib wasn’t attempting to blow up the aircraft, the Department of Homeland Security could explain passengers’ accounts of him bursting into flame.
“Spontaneous Human Combustion,” Napolitano said, “is a mysterious affliction, which modern science is only now beginning to understand. Previously thought to be a myth, SHC was recently proven to be real by scientists at the Department of Homeland Security. While we have gone a long way toward figuring it out, many questions still remain. We still don’t know, for instance, why 99% of documented cases involved young Muslim men, and why the other 1% consists solely of Buddhist monks. Rest assured though, that while our agents are working day and night to protect you from Christian extremists, our scientists are struggling to bring these answers to light.”
Friday, December 25, 2009
Zach texted me the other day, saying, "Please call. Sweetie is dead." I called home and everyone was in tears. Sweetie had been hit by a car and was gone.
If you have been lucky enough to have a dog like Sweetie (and I hope you have) then maybe you know what it's like to lose her. She was a faithful companion, a constant presence, and a member of the family.
When we moved back to Georgia, she loved the pool. She would open the gate for herself and take a little swim whenever the urge caught her.
And though she may have preferred Zach's bed, she was also happy to share her own with Zoe.
She was easy to please. Whatever you were doing was fine, as long as she could be there with you. Watching TV,
Or going for a ride in the truck.
You were a good dog, Sweetie, and you are sorely missed. But if it's true that dogs go to heaven (and I have to believe it is) we will see you again.
Monday, December 21, 2009
Sunday, December 13, 2009
What has not been announced officially, but was released exclusively to yours truly, is that the three will speak jointly, using the universal language of gangsta rap. Fans of global-political gansta rap will recall that the three have not shared a microphone since their breakup in 2006, when Ahmadinejad (Mo-jad) stormed off stage during a live performance of their breakout piece, “White Man Infidel Ruined Da World.”
Since that time, each has put out a number of albums, but as solo acts, none of them achieved the acclaim they had enjoyed working together as Kronic Mo-Go. Hugo Chavez (Go-vez) came closest with “Hegemony.” (“You will remember me ‘cause I will dismember thee, as I expand my hegemony, over your periphery.”) Mugabe (Kronic) enjoyed a brief comeback with “Mugabenomics,” after U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters (Democrat, California) admitted to plagiarizing his lyrics for a speech she made in favor of the Obama economic recovery plan, but Mo-jad’s “I like my biatches in burkhas” was a complete non-starter.
I was privileged to receive an invitation (after proving that I am not Jewish) to attend last night’s rehearsal of the trio’s latest song, which will be made public for the first time in Copenhagen. While I can reveal only those few lines of lyrics that were cleared for early release (“…wi global warmin dey be fryin us, ‘cause dey be Zionusts…”) I can say without equivocation that Kronic Mo-Go is back, and conference attendees are in for a treat.
Previously, Mo-jad’s obvious difficulties with English, and his penchant for going off-script during songs were the group’s Achilles’ heel. He has clearly been working with a coach, however, and now his riffing is disciplined, and his delivery is crisp. He seems also to have improved his sense of rhythm, famously maligned after the breakup by Kronic, who said that, “Underneath dat tan, da mother be seriously white.” Dressed in his trademark nondescript, slightly-too-small suit, wearing a nuclear-symbol medallion hanging from a heavy gold chain, Mo-jad was a force to be reckoned with.
And he was in good company. Go-vez, sporting his familiar Che Guevara T-shirt beneath his Mao jacket, was spot-on, delivering his message with the AK-47 staccato delivery that made him famous all those years ago, and stepping back when he was through, to lay down a onomatopoeia beatbox that sent a thrill down the leg of everyone at the venue.
Hugo "Go-vez" Chavez, from the "Flip the Bird" tour
Of the three though, nobody came close to Kronic (“They call me Kronic, say I’m demonic, ‘cause I do you harm, destroy your farm, I’ll kill your kid, tha’s wha I did, take your economy, your goods upona me, cause you frustration, inflict inflation, destroy the nation, take a vacation, when I come back, renew my attack, ya think I done, I just begun…”) who began the show dressed in much the same fashion as Mo-jad, but by the end, through four rapid costume changes, finished in an outfit that resembled a Zulu warrior auditioning for the Blue Man Group. His performance featured his familiar frenzied delivery, (Being in his 90’s hasn’t slowed him down a bit. Is it true that he’ll live forever?) for which crunking is no longer an apt description. He positively vibrated on the stage, until at one point, when he paused for a quick breather, his manager rushed to his side with a long cape, resplendent with the feathers of gorgeous endangered species of birds, which he threw over Kronic’s shoulder in a master showman’s reference to the Godfather of Soul himself, James Brown.
Lest you think I have lost the keen critic’s senses that got me where I am today, lest you think I am awestruck, and just babbling, let me tell you that I was not the only person in that small and privileged audience who was moved by the power, the savagery, represented by these three artists. None other than the President of the United States was in attendance, and so moved was he by the spectacle, that at its conclusion, he bowed repeatedly to the figures on the stage.
Yes, of all the entertainment scheduled for the conference in Copenhagen, (and I mean ALL of it – comedians, clowns, illusionists - ) I predict that none will capture the attention and imagination of Ahmadinejad, Chavez, and Mugabe. Kronic Mo-Go is more than back, more than a band, more than a movement. They are the symbol of the future.
Sunday, December 06, 2009
This was the sunrise the following morning. Morning, Evening, middle of the night, the sky was spectacular. The moon was full while we were out, and so bright it cast sharp shadows. After it set though, the stars came out in that profusion that I've seen only in deep deserts. I awoke, once, to head for the designated potty dune, and was rewarded by a couple shooting stars that left dazzling streaks across the the sparkling sky. I'd forgotten, living as I do in a land where the night sky is diminished by artificial light, that absent that man-made illumination, the stars actually do twinkle, and appear in a variety of colors. The rediscovery was well worth whatever price I paid in loss of sleep.
I meant to smile. I thought I was smiling. I was having a great time. Really.
I think I was concentrating on aiming the camera. That's a look of concentration, not a scowl. No wonder people sometimes think I'm angry with them when I'm not. I'll have to work on that.
Saturday, December 05, 2009
Friday, December 04, 2009
As you can see, this is a reworking of the photo of two men at the hawk souk, which I posted below. I've taken the men out of the souk and put them in the desert, where they are preparing for a hunt, and I've taken the cell phone from the man on the left and given him a bird instead. I still have some work to do on the faces, but I'm nearly there.
Before I go, here's one more desert photo:
Friday, November 27, 2009
Friday, November 06, 2009
Thursday, November 05, 2009
After tea and arguments, the men go outside to a small gravel area under the shade of some acacia trees. Here they stake the birds' perches where prospective buyers can circle them and make their offers.
As the new city encroaches, the romantic, mysterious, exotic souks that I love to explore are becoming a thing of the past. I'm glad I got the chance to see this while it was still here, and I'm glad I can share it with you.
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
Sunday, November 01, 2009
Not long ago, the dates ripened and were harvested from the trees. That's what inspired this particular painting.
Monday, October 12, 2009
The point I made is that Biden’s celebrated tendency to blurt out the truth might actually be a clever ruse, as opposed to a simple case of Tourette syndrome.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
I took a quick photo safari today. This is a shot from the edge of the plateau upon which Riyadh is located. You're looking southeast, and you can just make out the village of Dira in the distance.
Doctors, nurses, and hospital administrators across the country were caught off guard by the announcement, which was made, as is customary, at midnight during the annual JAMA pig roast. One attendee, neurologist Doctor Arty Feipfer, was so surprised that he dropped his cigar into his brandy snifter. No one was injured in the resulting conflagration, but the announcement had to be paused while the flames were subdued.
After the fire department personnel had departed the banquet hall, JAMA prize committee spokesman, Dr. Neil Matterhorn explained, “It has always been difficult for us to pick a winner. Year after year there are so many great American surgeons who contribute so much to helping people through advancing the medical arts that it becomes almost impossible to pick one above the others. But this year we are inspired by the approach of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, which bestowed this year’s award on President Obama based on his vision for world peace.” After a brief round of applause, Dr. Matterhorn went on to say, “We are pleased to follow suit, and to present this prestigious award to a woman who dares to not only envision a world free of disease and suffering, but through her poetry, to share that vision with others.”
Matterhorn did not mention it in the official announcement, but during an interview at the after-party, he explained that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was another nominee who had been closely considered by the committee. “Her tremendous efforts to almost pass health care reform did not go unnoticed,” he said, “but ultimately it came down to Ms. Buttlemilk’s ability to find rhymes for words like psoriasis and myocardial infarction.”
Doctor Jerome Bladwort, pioneer of a revolutionary technique for pediatric heart valve surgeries, and widely considered the favorite to win this year’s award, was on vacation and could not be reached for comment. According to his office, he spends every October in Benin, working at a free clinic for terminally ill children.
Friday, October 09, 2009
Noted satirical newspaper, The Onion (www.theonion.com) announced today that it is suing the Nobel Peace Prize Committee for plagiarism and theft of intellectual property.
At issue is yesterday’s announcement by the Committee of its selection of U.S. President Barack Obama as this year’s recipient of the coveted Peace Prize and 1.4 million dollar award. According to Vernon Coldwater, a spokesman from The Onion legal department, his employer can prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that the idea of awarding Obama the Peace Prize is the intellectual property of staff writers from The Onion political satire department, and that it was stolen by spies from Oslo.
“They did this to us before,” Coldwater said, under the condition that he remain anonymous. “Where else do you think they came up with Jimmy Carter as a recipient? Fool us once, shame on you,” Coldwater quoted, “but fool us twice and we’ll sue your skinny European butts.”
Coldwater said that The Onion legal staff are still preparing their case, but when they are finished, they will be able to prove that the Prize Committee plagiarized the idea for a series of satirical pieces on Jimmy Carter as a Peace Prize nominee, and then stole The Onion’s thunder by nominating Carter for the prize. The Onion was unable to prove the original theft, but, expecting a repeat, the writers carefully documented every step of their creative process as they reworked the story with Obama as the nominee.
In addition to time-stamping all their drafts, they surgically implanted a tracking chip in the shoulder of Anrid, the Norwegian intern, after a night of heavy aquavit drinking. Data from the tracking chip, according to Coldwater, will reveal that Anrid was a mole, stealing The Onion’s best material, and spiriting it back to Oslo.
But why would the Prize committee be interesting in pilfering satirical material? Coldwater said, “The Committee has been moving into the satire business for years. Bestowing prizes is decent work, but world economic conditions have caused the committee members to look for alternative sources of income, and satire has always been big in Norway.” The counselor added, “Satire has an even stronger appeal the closer you get to the Arctic Circle, so the demand is pretty strong, year-round in Norway. The thing that really bothers us,” Coldwater said, “is that they’re quite good at it already, without stealing our material. I mean, Yassir Arafat as a prize nominee? I wish we could say they stole that one too, but that was all theirs.”
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
The call was hosted by the NEA, the White House Office of Public Engagement, and United We Serve, and was intended to include “a group of artists, producers, promoters, organizers, influencers, marketers, taste-makers, leaders or just plain cool people to join together and work together to promote a more civically engaged America and celebrate how the arts can be used for a positive change!” (Their exclamation point, not mine.)
Despite being referred to almost daily as an "artist, influencer, taste-maker," and most certainly "just plain cool" I was not invited to join this conference call.
Are my feelings hurt? Let me assure you they are not. I learned years ago that one of the burdens of taste-makerness and just-plain-coolness is that one often finds oneself ahead of the pack, blazing new trails upon which the common man will not feel comfortable until long after one has moved on to greater things. I was wearing a Member's Only jacket in 1979, for crying out loud, but by the time Martha Quinn and company were making their appearances on MTV, I was had shed it for a red leather jacket with a multitude of zippers. Where do you think Michael Jackson got the idea?
Anyway, even were I not so leading-edge as to be passed over by these poseurs (really - United We Serve? They are SO passe.) I would have had to send my regrets. Don't these people know that the age of patronage is behind us? What self-respecting forward-leaning progressive art dissident would willingly align themselves with a government movement? Since when have artists needed to collude with The Man to decide how to do their work?
That was a rhetorical question, but now that I've asked it, it seems worth answering. Not since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Originally considered a faux pas by his colleagues on both sides of the aisle, the unexpected financial effect of Representative Wilson’s brush with tourette syndrome has earned it a second look. As campaign contributions from his small, lower-middle class district top one million dollars, members of Congress are considering shifting to a campaign strategy they would never have considered just a week before. From the prominent to the obscure, elected representatives are meeting with their campaign managers and discussing the unheard-of possibility that occasional truth-telling, under carefully controlled circumstances, might actually work to their benefit.
Legendary democratic strategist James Carville, on his way to his crypt before dawn today, acknowledged at least the slim possibility that the truth might actually work in some cases. “Yeah, well, thas a poss bility, ahthough, in ah ‘sperience, ah candidates haven’t ‘zacly represented constit encies that we considered suscep able to that sort of puh suasion.”
Now many have come to reevaluate what they had previously considered the Vice President’s Achilles heel – his frequent tendency to blurt out statements that were disastrously off-topic, and even more disturbingly, true. In the light of Joe Wilson’s truth strategy, should we question whether Joe Biden is more Machiavelli than Rain Man? Could his truth-blurting be, not a series of entertaining gaffs, but instead, a cleverly laid plot to ingratiate himself with the electorate while the President sinks lower and lower in the polls? The prescience required for such a master plan boggles the mind, but there it is: We must consider the possibility that the Vice President, hiding behind a façade of vacuity, concealed beneath a camouflage of hair plugs, recognized before anyone, a growing truth-bias among the electorate, and not only recognized it, but put into action a subtle program to benefit from it by gradually, imperceptibly, insinuating himself into the growing undercurrent of the truth counterculture.
Now that the cat’s out of the bag, legislators are seeking to understand this newest voting demographic. A survey of the most prominent Washington-area consultants who specialize in public opinion data shows that prior to last week, the vast majority of them were concentrating their efforts on finding the most palatable way to present healthcare reform for illegal immigrants. Since Representative Wilson’s truth outbreak, however, each of them has shifted their attention to identifying the truth demographic, and finding the best ways to secure its loyalty for their clients.
But the Truth Strategy is not for everyone. While Representative Barney Frank’s (D-Massachusetts) early numbers show some success for his first forays into Truth (He has begun experimenting on focus groups by interrupting his own speeches with cries of “Hideouth!, Tweacherouth,” and “Dethpicabew!”) some legislators are finding that they are physically incapable of using Truth, even in its simplest forms.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, (D-California) for one, has discovered what appears to be an allergic reaction to Truth. In recent sessions with her consultants, she slipped into anaphylactic shock and narrowly avoided assuming a permanent vegetative state when, for test purposes, she tried to say, “The stimulus package may not have been entirely successful.”
“It was awful,” said an eyewitness. “Her face just kind of froze, and she sat there, immobile.”
A colleague said, “At first we just thought it was another botox treatment, but then we realized she wasn’t breathing. It took nearly 20 minutes to find someone to administer CPR.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) acknowledges a similar affliction, although his reaction seemed to be less extreme. When he tried to say, “Government is sometimes not as efficient as the free market,” he suffered a severe asthma attack, which required administration of a corticosteroid inhaler from the Congressional Free Medical Clinic. Although he turned a lovely shade of blue, the senator said that the Truth experiment was not something he was willing to repeat in the future. “Much too dangerous,” he cautioned. “In fact,” he said, suddenly looking better than he had all day, “Truth is so dangerous that in the near future I will be proposing legislation to regulate it.”
Other members of Congress have been less precipitous in their attempts to benefit from Truth, and so sustained reactions that were much less severe. Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota) developed a case of hives when he whispered, “The Founding Fathers meant what they said and said what they meant,” while Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California) suffered a nose bleed.
While these and many other legislators were dismayed to discover their inability to profit from the Truth Strategy, they have, at least, discovered a silver lining in their dark cloud. Senator Olympia Snowe, (R-Maine) proudly waved her newly-minted handicapped parking placard. “This represents a major blow against the injustices suffered by the less-enabled,” she said, as she spoke in glowing terms of the government benefits that would now be extended to truth-impaired members of Congress.
Friday, September 11, 2009
After posting this for the first time a couple of years ago, I was privileged to exchange correspondence a few times with Michael's mother, Pat. I can tell you that even with the passage of years, she and her family still missed her son terribly. These 2,996 are gone, but they left behind families and loved ones. It's as much for them - those still suffering from their loss - as much as for the 2,996, that we take this day to remember what happened nine years ago.
On 11 September, 2001 I was in Amman, Jordan. I was the senior member of a small American military detachment getting a refresher course in Arabic at the Royal Jordanian Military Language Institute. At the time of the attacks, I was just signing onto my email account at an internet cafe in central Amman. I saw a news banner announcing that two planes had crashed into the towers of the World Trade Center. I was certain that I was looking at an advertisement for a movie. Within two minutes, my embassy cell phone rang. "Get all your people to the embassy right away." I was told. That's when I knew it was no movie ad.
As I was scrambling to get my colleagues together, 26 year-old Michael Kiefer was breathing his last in New York City. Michael was one of the 2,996 innocents who lost their lives in Al Qaeda's most successful attack on our nation. Maybe you remember it? In case you've forgotten, let me remind you by telling you about Michael, because Michael Kiefer is a shining example of what our nation lost in that attack.
To say Michael was a fireman does not do justice to the drive and the passion he brought to his work. Some people have a job they do and others have jobs that they are; by all accounts, Michael was one of the latter. From his early years he knew that he wanted to be a fireman. Childhood photos show him wearing a fireman costume, and people tell of how, as a boy, he was so accomplished at mimicking the sound of a siren that he once convinced his school bus driver to pull aside for a firetruck that wasn't there. Michael earned perfect scores on his physical and written entrance exams and began training to become a fireman in October, 2000. He graduated in December of the same year. He drew one of the busiest assignments, engine Company 280/ladder Company 132 Firehouse of Crown Heights Brooklyn. In achieving his lifelong dream, we could say that Michael Kiefer accomplished more in his short life than will many men who live to see a century, but that would be only half his story.
In addition to being a fireman, Michael was a committed Christian, beloved son to Pat and Bud, and older brother to Kerri and Lauren. He was saving his money to buy a ring for his girlfriend, Jamie Huggler. Son, brother, boyfriend. He was the kind of guy who dedicated himself to a job that would put his life at risk in order to save others. He was just one of 2,996, but in him was a reflection of all the strength, the selflessness, the goodness, that we love about America. On this anniversary of our nation's loss, take a moment to remember Michael. Say a prayer for the peace of mind of those who knew him, and give thanks that our nation is still the home of men like him.
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
Sunday, September 06, 2009
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
As I was scrambling to get my colleagues together, 26 year-old Michael Kiefer was breathing his last in New York City. Michael was one of the 2,996 innocents who lost their lives in Al Qaeda's most successful attack on our nation. Maybe you remember it? In case you've forgotten, let me remind you by telling you about Michael, because Michael Kiefer is a shining example of what our nation lost in that attack. To say Michael was a fireman does not do justice to the drive and the passion he brought to his work. Some people have a job they do and others have jobs that they are; by all accounts, Michael was one of the latter. From his early years he knew that he wanted to be a fireman. Childhood photos show him wearing a fireman costume, and people tell of how, as a boy, he was so accomplished at mimicking the sound of a siren that he convinced his school bus driver to pull aside for a firetruck that wasn't there. Michael earned perfect scores on his physical and written entrance exams and began training to become a fireman in October, 2000. He graduated in December of the same year. He drew one of the busiest assignments, engine Company 280/ladder Company 132 Firehouse of Crown Heights Brooklyn.
In achieving his lifelong dream, we could say that Michael Kiefer accomplished more in his short life than will many men who live to see a century, but that would be only half his story. In addition to being a fireman, Michael was a committed Christian, beloved son to Pat and Bud, and older brother to Kerri and Lauren. He was saving his money to buy a ring for his girlfriend, Jamie Huggler. Son, brother, boyfriend. He was the kind of guy who dedicated himself to a job that would put his life at risk in order to save others. He just one of 2,996, but in him, was a reflection of all the strength, the selflessness, the goodness that we love about America. On this anniversary of our nation's loss, take a moment to remember Michael. Say a prayer for the peace of mind of those who knew him, and give thanks that our nation is still the home of men like him.