Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Thanks, Obama

Obama holds a koala.

I know he's going to keep working for the greater good because that's in his DNA.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Charlie Watts Is Not Into It

Though I deeply appreciate Keith Richards' stellar rhythm-guitar stylings and Mick Jagger's commitment to prancing frontmanism, I believe at heart I'm a Charlie Watts gal. Out of all the Rolling Stones, he's the one who seems the most decent and forthright as a person and a drummer. The way he calmly and competently holds that left stick, like a groovin' jazz cat that's been accidentally time-traveled into a rock band—how does he do it? He's like a MAGICIAN! Plus he's been married to his wife for close to 150 years, he raises horses and he's always had killer style.

Part of that style is his psychological remove from whatever's going on within the Stones, and a lot has gone on within the Stones (read Rich Cohen's The Sun & The Moon & The Rolling Stones for an excellent take on that). Watts' intelligence seems tuned to a wavelength set to "healthy distance," and he's calibrated that distance with wit and reasoning skills in order to survive the ongoing juggernaut that is his band. Richards and Jagger were smart to hang onto Charlie Watts because he's just Not Into It and that's probably saved them all on more than one occasion. Witness his skill-set in these fabulous Charlie Watts clips.

An in-depth 1966 interview with Mr. Watts ends with a whimper when the off-screen questioner wants to know Charlie's take on how sex affects a band's sound and psychological impact. "You could sing about sexual intercourse all night," says Charlie, noting it wouldn't matter to anyone unless you happen to be very attractive. Then he admits that the whole thing is a bit shallow and nauseating. That's because Charlie Watts, even at the dawn of The Rolling Stones, Is Not Into It.

In Jean-Luc Godard's "Sympathy for the Devil" footage from his movie of the same name you see everyone contributing their sonic "Whoo whoos" except for one man. Slightly obscured by the microphone, crossing his arms, with lips resolutely sealed, Charlie Watts stands in solidarity but refuses to sing—resigned while they whoo whoo more than 30 times That's Charlie Watts and He's Not Into It.

Rolling Stones - Sympathy for the Devil - 1968 - by jc-shaffino

When grim-faced, small-handed bassist Bill Wyman married his 18-year-old girlfriend Mandy Smith after dating her for five years (do the math, then immediately shudder), Charlie Watts was asked for a comment at the wedding reception. Whereupon he said honestly, "I don't see it as a good match," before wishing his bandmate happiness and disavowing any knowledge of the entire affair ("I don't know anything about it.") It's clear to me that Charlie Watts Is Not Into It. Stick around for a classic Keith Richards exchange, punctuated by phlegm-filled laughter that says much about the day's events.

TOP 10 CHARLIE WATTS INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS screams this YouTube clip I added the screaming element, so blame me for that). But all you need to know is Interview Highlight #3. Asked if after 25 years of touring, he still enjoys playing with the Rolling Stones, this is what he had to say.

Dryyyyyy wit and Not Into It.

Keith Richards and Mick Jagger are rock 'n roll's legendary glimmer-twin frenemy duo. Their on-again off-again partnership was truly off in the early 80s. An excerpt from Keith's audiobook, "Life," tells the story of that time when impeccably dressed Charlie Watts threw his "drummer's punch" at Mick. At five in the morning, Mick had drunkenly demanded, "Where's my drummer?" Charlie Watts Was Not Into It.

No, he was not.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Political-Action Time! (links)

Hi everyone in the USA. It's time to get political. I know modern living is not easy. Wages have not kept up with inflation and cost-of-living expenses, including housing, utilities, food and education. We have a generation of college grads mired in horrible debt. We have a huge population and not enough industry to keep us gainfully employed. Our coastal cities are slowly going underwater as ocean levels rise. And I haven't even mentioned the lunatic that was stupidly and probably illegally voted into office as our leader.

I will get to him in a moment.

Meanwhile, it's time to call your elected officials and tell them how our laws and regulations affect you and your loved ones and communities. I know, it's kind of a pain to squeeze this into your schedule, but it only takes a few moments and it's so satisfying. Sometimes calls can't get through on hot-button issues; voicemail boxes get full, people go out to lunch. Keep trying. Phone calls will be tallied by office staffers and those tallies go directly to our elected officials. They are counted. They do count. Your experiences and opinions will be counted.

Handwritten letters are also tallied. Get out your favorite pen and lovely stationery and write your missive. It's good penmanship practice for when the apocalypse comes and we're living in a dystopia where communications consist of string tied to two tin cans. Emails tend to get lost, but are better than nothing. I also use twitter and Facebook for messages of a personal nature. But phone calls to political offices are golden.

Links for political action:

Find and contact your Senators

Find and contact your House Representatives

Are you out and about? This Medium article tells you how to use nonpartisan POPVOX's simple phone app to contact your Senators during the Senate confirmation hearings for Trump's proposed cabinet. Hearings started this week, with Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump's pick for Attorney General. Here is my nonpartisan response to that: *GAG* It's not political—it's just a reflex I'm having.

Stay informed:

C-SPAN - Live broadcasts of Federal-government dealings, no commercials!

BBC News - Answers the journalistic questions: Who? What? Where? Why? with nice accents

Al Jazeeza World News - It's not all about us

NPR - News, plus streaming alternative music—still a decent combination

"19 Activists Who Are Changing America" - from The Huffington Post

"How Trump’s cabinet picks compare to Obama and Bush’s nominees" - from The Los Angeles Times

Help support organizations doing good work:

Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence - There are 100,000 victims of gun violence in the U.S. every year - inhumane and unacceptable

Planned Parenthood Action Fund - Healthcare equity for all

Sierra Club - Protect our planet, the only one we have

Southern Poverty Law Center - Fight hate

American Civil Liberties Union - Protect our civil liberties

Médecins Sans Frontières - Doctors Without Borders care for people in the most desperate need throughout the world; this is holy work

(Thank you to my friend Audrey Ng for this list of good organizations)

You can do it! Don't bey shy. Use your voice - you're democracy in action!

On another note, I noticed whenever I post about Trump I seem to receive hundreds of views from Russia. Coincidence? Perhaps. But whenever I don't post about Trump, I receive zero views from Russia. That's a difference of hundreds vs. zero. So here's an experiment. Let's see what happens when I type this:

The majority of American voters do not want Trump as President, spawning the title #NotMyPresident. Some people won't even say his name with the title of "President" attached. What if we call him by his own self-described criteria? Some sample titles, based on his own words: "Pussy Grabber Trump," "Higher IQ Than You Trump," "Potential Shooter Trump," "Groveler Not Mocker Trump."

Any more? Russia, do you want to weigh in on this one?

Saturday, December 24, 2016

A walk to the Mitchell Canyon Park Visitor Center

I was walking to the Mitchell Canyon Park Visitor Center in Clayton, California, when I thought of doing a a photo-document of this journey. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera, so I used my camera phone, which could barely handle the task. But one thing I learned this year after drawing a lot is: work with what you got. Because it's better than fretting over what you haven't got. And sometimes mistakes and bad lighting can be evocative.

So take a walk with me as 2016 comes to a close. And what a year it's been. I was walking just before dusk and these photos imply that and also my mood. I'm working with what I got—low light with a bad lens. It is what it is and you are with me on this journey.

This ranch-style house near my parents' street has kindly supplied the public-at-large with a drinking fountain and pet water station. I was thirsty and so I drank. Thank you, handy household.

This house features miniature ponies in their front yard but unfortunately they weren't out this day, probably because the gardeners were blowing leaves around. I liked their decor. There's a lovely garden at street level in front of the gates and in the spring it bursts into hundreds of flowers.

This is the last undeveloped lot on Mitchell Canyon Road. There used to be an orchard here and we climbed the trees when we were kids. And found someone's abandoned Playboy Magazine in the dirt. Memories.

I always hope the goats will be out and about when I pass by this property, and they were. This little goat was perched on a log. Goats are so charming when they perch on things. He or she bleated at me in a friendly manner.

The view of Mt. Diablo from the road. I saw plenty of horses on this walk but sorry, no photos. I didn't want my flash to frighten them. And one handsome beast had his back to me, so I avoided the dreaded "horse's ass" shot.

Getting closer to the park and the mountain.

I was trying to be mindful during my stroll, but passing by this quarry my thoughts turned to the concept of, "What fucking shit are they doing to the land now?" The sign assures us: "Slide Stabilization Complete - Historical Slope Contouring and Revegetation in progress." Which only made me more suspicious of their 50-year-plus mining operations that have carved away half of Mt. Zion, making it resemble tremendous tooth decay on a massive scale. The ranger filled me in on my way home, telling me that half this slope slid toward the road this year and the quarry is shoring it back up while revegetating it as the sign politely informs us. As always, GREAT JOB, CEMEX QUARRY.

Back to mindfulness. The creek, she is running!

Another day, when there's time and I'm feeling action-oriented, I'll do the hike to Eagle Peak. It starts like this and gets very steep very early in the walk. There's also a walk straight up the mountain alongside the creek and when it's running, which is only for part of the year, that is a worthy hike.

What will 2017 bring? I'm not sure I want to know. I like nature. Nature has its own time-table and it has nothing to do with our concerns. Nature is its own presence and we should honor that, always.

Wishing you joy and peace for the coming new year.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Get it together, U.S.

Obviously slightly less than half the voting public here did not read their Harry Potter because they just elected he who will not be named as our 45th president. As we all know, Potter and his friends are staunch democrats with humanitarian values who value intelligence, bravery, respect and loyalty. So keep an eye out for those kids because I think they might be on to something. Get with the times, Death Eaters. The world is bigger than your rigid little minds. And hands.


Monday, November 07, 2016

Movies You May Have Missed - "Boy" directed by Taika Waititi (2010)

Set in 1984 on the coast of New Zealand, Taika Waititi's Boy is a semi-autobiographical story of childhood that touches on the emotional aches, miseries, confusion, awkwardness and best of all, humor, that children depend on to survive while under duress. How Waititi managed to keep an absurd light touch throughout what could have been a dark tale of loss and neglect is just one of his special talents.

You might have seen Waititi as the foppish vampire Viago in his satire What We Do in the Shadows (co-directed with Jermaine Clement and released in 2015 after a successful Kickstarter campaign). If so, you know he's a proponent of character-driven storytelling. Here, his remarkable cast of mostly children are all distinct people with their own life philosophies, needs and desires. They live in poverty, surrounded by natural beauty, and rely on each other. Yet they let each other down in so many ways, because they're children and children make many mistakes as they grow, as do their guardians and would-be guardians.

Children suffer and endure and children are hilarious. At least these children are. If you have exquisitely torturous but beautiful memories of Francois Truffaut's The 400 Blows and Lasse Hallström's My Life as a Dog, you're going to be in a good place watching Boy.

Welcome to Waihau Bay, New Zealand, where 11-year-old Alamein (a remarkably expressive James Rolleston, cast from a pool of extras a couple days before production) is known as "Boy" by his Maori family and friends. He lives with his grandmother Nan (Mavis Paenga), little brother Rocky (Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu) and multiple tiny cousins, headed up by his age-equivalent cousin Kelly (an eye-rolling observer of male behavior and my personal style icon, Cherilee Martin).

"Welcome to my interesting world!" announces Boy during a school report—indeed

Boy has a small group of friends but he's a fantasist in a population of realists, and he's not going to win any popularity contests, even at his tiny country school. Mostly he dreams about Michael Jackson and his killer dance moves, the pretty girl in his class, Chardonnay (RickyLee Waipuka-Russel), who barely acknowledges him, and his namesake and father (Waititi), who's serving jail time but in Boy's mind, is an incredible dancer, combat veteran and all-around action hero. Rolleston has that remarkable star quality of behaving as if the camera isn't there, yet he innately and honestly knows how to play to the camera.

Boy's incomparable cousin Kelly makes the most of domestic goddess role-playing while barely uttering a word.

It's beautiful in New Zealand and if the kids are having a tough time, no one's complaining. There's a social network in place and no one has money to lord over anyone else—just various Michael Jackson accoutrements and maybe some height to lord over the smaller kids. Maybe some underhanded drug dealing. Boy's rich fantasies of a hero father help make up for the loss of his mother, whose demise is deftly and tragically shown through slivers of flashbacks, much like dimly remembered childhood memories.

Boy's brother Rocky is even more socially isolated, spending his time drawing, honing his super powers, which spill out of his mind and onto his crayon-colored notebook pages (the use of animation for Rocky's imaginings is in keeping with a visually attuned child), and talking to his mother's grave. 

When Grandma Nan travels for a couple of weeks to a far-away funeral service, leaving Boy in charge of the household, trouble arrives in the form of his father and two dimwitted jail cohorts—a would-be biker gang without any bikes. Or sense. Or morals.

His father's multiple failed money-making schemes and slim grasp on reality does nothing to damper Boy's rapturous worship of this dunderheaded anti-parent. Even as his father continuously disappoints everyone around him, Boy simply forms new fantasies to top the old.

Waititi's foolish Alemein rarely if ever admits to his mistakes and therefore learns little or nothing. This is actually refreshing in a movie about growing up. And how realistic in scope. Those of us disappointed by failed authority figures were bright enough to know that some adults were messed up, unable to change, and were just not going to be there for you in any capacity. The kids in this film know that too. These kids are hyper-bright but Boy's intelligence is trumped by his need for a parent. That's real too.

Alamein Sr. is not completely devoid of charm. Some mostly inappropriate gifts are passed out from the trunk of his car, including sparklers, roller skates and some fine lady's garments. The kids grasp these new items like magical totems, as kids will do. Pop culture of the 1980s inspires some memorable names among Boy's friends, including brother and sister Dallas and Dynasty, who have their own struggles as they watch Boy struggle, shaking their heads at his cluelessness.

Boy plans to join his dad's gang and only after multiple and escalating disappointments is he able to see his dad as the flawed person he is. This is a sad trajectory which leaves reverberations throughout the household and small community. Reality is a slap in the face, a reckoning, a conversation at a grave-site.

How do kids survive this harsh world?—with help from reliable people. They don't even have to be all that outwardly loving either—just there for you when you need them. Also, Michael Jackson dance moves help. Boy learns to face his reality with openness and honesty. That can hurt. Thank God cousin Kelly is walking around the homestead in that fur jacket and cocktail dress, because that helps too. At least, it helps me.

Be sure to stay for the closing credits. This film is a joy from start to finish. I love the kids so much. Their lilting speech patterns delivered in perfectly flat deadpan is my favorite music at the moment. Hail!


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Hang in there, Hillary

Meryl Streep (seen here in Postcards from the Edge) will be voting for Clinton

Election Day's coming!

Whether you're nasty or a bad hombre (I'm both), every vote counts! So ¡VOTO, HOMBRES, VOTO!