Morning Passive - 103/365
Being an artist doesn’t take much, just everything you got. Which means, of course, that as the process is giving you life, it is also bringing you closer to death. But it’s no big deal. They are one in the same and cannot be avoided or denied. So when I totally embrace this process, this life/death, and abandon myself to it, I transcend all this meaningless gibberish and hang out with the gods. It seems to me that that is worth the price of admission.

- Hubert Selby, Jr.

The Colorado Movie Shootings and The American Dream

I wanted to put down a few thoughts on this week’s shooting spree in Colorado at the screening of The Dark Knight Rises. I’ll try to put them down freely, without my usual self-obsessed care. But I’ll fail at that. I’m a self-obsessed man from a self-obsessed culture.

In the wake of this tragedy – ha, we know the drill, don’t we? We reflexively use the requisite sound bites: “in the wake of this tragedy”. The cliches come pouring out. Even the accounts of the victims become cliches: “I heard a popping sound”, “He just started shooting”, “I tried to get behind — “, “I saw someone lying on the ground”. It all paints the same spine-tingling picture, a kind of sentimental poetry of violence. But in the wake of this tragedy, the search for answers begins, the national debate begins, and we’ve heard it all before and done it all before. It’s as if the entire country is on autopilot, moving step by step by step through a predetermined media pseudo-grief drill. Attractive people on television will moderate discussions on gun control, on media violence. They will be moving through the same hypnotized routine, repeating scripts, emphasizing talking points. And each player in this mass, nationwide psychodrama will be using the mass murder to further his or her own agenda. There will be talk of “Why?”, “How did it happen?” But that will all be secondary to the pushing of agendas. Silence would be most appropriate, I guess – not a minute of silence, but days of it, a month of silence – a month of contemplation and grief.

We do this, we Americans. We go on sprees. We go on shopping sprees. We go on dieting sprees. We go on exercise sprees. One of the great inaugural American sprees was the mass murder by Charles Whitman, a student at University Of Texas at Austin, not terribly far from my birthplace. In 1966, Whitman killed 16 and wounded 32 more, with a rifle from the top of the university’s bell tower. “Ladybird” Johnson, wife of Lyndon Johnson, President at the time, graduated from the university, as did former First Lady Laura Bush and Mostafa Chamran, a Defense Minister of Iran.
the tv that wouldn't die

I like violent stories. I write violent stories. I like Macbeth and Clive Barker and the history of medieval torture. I like Lawrence Of Arabia and The Wild Bunch and Dawn Of The Dead and Tom And Jerry. Being immersed in the violent action, then somehow surviving it, surmounting it, analyzing it, seems to give my animal brain a sense of power. And power, or the illusion of power, is what that animal brain craves most of all. To the animal brain, power means all the food, all the sex, and all the years that ever were or could be. The animal brain doesn’t know that these things are impossible to have. The animal brain believes it’s possible to have everything and an infinite supply of everything. The animal brain has faith.

America was founded on this idea that there was an infinite amount of everything and it could all be yours. European settlers arrived in a completely uninhabited land – not a human soul on the whole continent – no, not a single one. The only thing that stood in your way was Mother Nature. And through the power of your own will, vision, courage, faith, you could have anything and everything you wanted. It was all there in front of you in raw form. If you had the talent to shape it, there was nothing that you couldn’t have.

“I can make the world in my own image” is the American Dream. This is the American Tragedy too – the certainty that I am separate from the world. This belief is the prime motivator behind all American civilization. It’s the thing that got Charles Whitman to kill his wife and mother, then head up to the top of the belltower.

This separation of self from the world – the separation of me from nature, separation of me from the spirit, separation of me from my fellow human, separation of me from my self – is what has made America great. You can’t have a world empire without believing that you are separate from the world – superior, or worse maybe, than others. Or that your God is different from other Gods. The American success story is built on two ideas: Glorification of self and objectification of the other.

If I can objectify you, then I can conquer you, I can buy and sell you, I can blow second hand smoke in your face or believe that Likeing your Facebook status is meaningful contact, I can kill, I can ignore science and reason, I can disbelieve my eyes, I can destroy the future of my children, and more with no sense of any consequences. I can believe there is an infinite amount of what I want and that I can have all of it. Any crime becomes possible. And history has shown over and over that objectification of the other goes hand in hand with atrocity whether you’re shooting American Bison from a train, drawing up plans for gas ovens, drone warfare and human enslavemet. Or firing bullets into human-shaped targets in a movie theater.

Japan has for years had a far more violent media culture than the US. Japan brought us “Battle Royale”. In “Battle Royale”, school kids fight to the death on a remote island while the world watches, yet there have been no “Battle Royale” copycat killings. We know that violence in media is not the cause of random acts of senseless violence. We know it’s not the availability of guns either. Truye, Americans own more guns per capita than any other country, but Switzerland and Finland also have a high gun ownership. What Japan, Switzerland and Finland lack is a 300 year old culture celebrating the triumph of the self over its environment. Although this culture, the culture of narcissism, is America’s biggest export and it has begun to deform other cultures, reshaping them  in its image.

I do not own a gun and do not ever plan to. But it just doesn’t stack up that the source of American violence is the number of firearms available. I think it’s rather the other way around. The obsession with the inviolable “Me” and dread of “The Other” stokes the desire for guns – and for money, for food, for entertainment, for guarantees of absolute safety, for immortality, for super-heroes who will kill and die in your name – and the more you cling to security and protection, the more insecure and vulnerable you feel.

Already, various special interests are using this latest Colorado shooting to promote their own agendas – as I am probably doing here. It’s unnerving – the stampede to again find enemies, to again and again point to a problem outside the self, the elimination of which will solve everything. As Einstein famously said, “You cannot solve a problem with the same mindset that created it.”

But there is no desire to solve the problem. The media conversation that will judder on over the coming weeks will resemble that of a confronted narcissist – heavy on self-justification and blame and really slick sounding. Seeking personal humility and self-honesty and striving for the unity of ourselves with our fellow creatures, our world, our own futures would mean an assault on the fabric of American Civilization – of Western Civilization. And this civilization is well-armed and obsessed and will not be stopped.

Orwell, as usual, describes our situation with pinpoint accuracy. From 1984:

“A world of fear and treachery in torment, a world of trampling and being trampled upon, a world which will grow not less but more merciless as it refines itself. Progress in our world will be progress towards more pain. The old civilizations claimed that they were founded on love or justice. Ours is founded upon hatred. In our world there will be no emotions except fear, rage, triumph, and self-abasement. Everything else we shall destroy, everything. Already we are breaking down the habits of thought which have survived from before the Revolution. We have cut the links between child and parent, and between man and man, and between man and woman. “

Psalm To A Giant Caterpillar

Psalm To A Giant Caterpillar

O, Giant Cat, you crush things really well,
so mighty and so strong are you.
You crush things, crush things, crush things.
I like the way you crush things.
Many things are crushable, but not all things are crushable.
But you, you can crush all things.
Even the uncrushable can you crush.

You shall crush all the nations,
You shall crush all the houses.
You shall crush all the not-nations too.
O, how I have a crush on you!
But my crush is as nothing
To your great and unmeasurable crushing.
My heart leaps that you have such a crush as this!
I feel honored!
I blush. Yes. Like a bride.
Like a bride I blush.
For to you – on account of your crushiness –
The mightiest edifice (neat word edifice!)
Is as a huppah in the desert.
And yeah, babe, I want to feel your weight on me –
But not actually.

Your great treads are like the heavy treads of mighty tanks
But no fiery guns need you, no!
Your armor is as the prow of mighty battleships
But no air support need you, no!
You are your own man!
But unlike mere man, you can be serviced cheaply,
And have easily replaceable parts,
Many of which can be shipped overnight from the factory.
You are often yellow,
But you are not afraid.
You are yellow like GOLD.
You are yellow like the MORNING SUN.
You are yellow like HONEY.
You are yellow like other mighty yellow things.
Sometimes though, you are not yellow.
Sometimes you are gray, or khaki.
Sometimes you are olive drab or desert camouflage colored –
Often desert camouflage colored, in fact.
You change color and function according to the time.
You change operator according to the work schedule.
You are purchased by government moneys
And you are purchased by private corporate moneys.
Public and private moneys alike do they purchase you.

You are like a frightening Star Wars machine, but not as collectible.
You are like a Transformer, but with a clearer job description.
You are like a Really Big Animal, if Really Big Animals were made of steel and powered by diesel and had treads instead of legs, and no actual blood or organs.
Great Cat, I shall march behind you always.
I shall walk in step with your ways.
I shall not step in front of you
Because that would be damn foolish.
You shall flatten my enemies.
You shall make of their cities an level place.
You shall make them to scatter to the farthest corners of the earth,
Or at least make them to scatter in random directions, screaming.
Giant Cat, how can I express my love for thee?
Giant Cat, how can I better honor thee?
Shall I put in an order for next year’s up-graded model?
Shall I put in the order even before the sun doth set?
The funding is approved. I only need call.
This is one of the benefits of leasing.
Giant Cat, may your crush on me continue,
And my crush on thee.
But please do not actually crush me.
Crush others, but do not crush me,
For on that day, I would lament my birth.

Some Guys In Girls Underwear

I feel pretty,
Oh, so pretty,
I feel pretty and witty and bright!

And I pity
Any girl who isn’t me tonight.

I feel charming,
Oh, so charming
It’s alarming how charming I feel!
And so pretty
That I hardly can believe I’m real.

See the pretty girl in that mirror there:
Who can that attractive girl be?
Such a pretty face,
Such a pretty dress,
Such a pretty smile,
Such a pretty me!

I feel stunning
And entrancing,
Feel like running and dancing for joy,
For I’m loved
By a pretty wonderful boy!

Have you met my good friend Maria,
The craziest girl on the block?
You’ll know her the minute you see her,
She’s the one who is in an advanced state of shock.

She thinks she’s in love.
She thinks she’s in Spain.
She isn’t in love,
She’s merely insane.

It must be the heat
Or some rare disease,
Or too much to eat
Or maybe it’s fleas.

Keep away from her,
Send for Chino!
This is not the
Maria we know!

Modest and pure,
Polite and refined,
Well-bred and mature
And out of her mind!

I feel pretty,
Oh, so pretty
That the city should give me its key.
A committee
Should be organized to honor me.

La la la la . . .

I feel dizzy,
I feel sunny,
I feel fizzy and funny and fine,
And so pretty,
Miss America can just resign!

La la la la . . .

See the pretty girl in that mirror there:

What mirror where?

Who can that attractive girl be?

Which? What? Where? Whom?

Such a pretty face,
Such a pretty dress,
Such a pretty smile,
Such a pretty me!

Such a pretty me!

I feel stunning
And entrancing,
Feel like running and dancing for joy,
For I’m loved
By a pretty wonderful boy!

Femmes du Jour

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf

Arundhati Roy

Michelle Bachelet

We Don’t Torture

U.S. President G. W. Bush stated yesterday during his Latin American tour:

“We do not torture.”

I wonder: was he using the “royal we” (also called the “pluralis majestis”)?

Famed Admiral Hyman G. Rickover (“Father of the Nuclear Navy”) once told a subordinate who used the pluralis majestis: “Three groups are permitted that usage: pregnant women, royalty, and schizophrenics. Which one are you?”

But I do think it’s important to make it seem like you’re serious about addressing the issue. So what really is “torture”? Well, according to the “United Nations”, torture is:

1. Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.

So there you go.

Or was the President saying that “WE THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES” do not torture? But that can’t be right. I LOVE to torture.

Just pulling your leg, of course. I don’t really love to torture. After all, loving not to torture is what makes this country (naturally, by “this country” I mean the USA) the best of all the countries. We do not torture – and therefore it is clear to all that we are very great indeed.

But even though I do not do torture, thinking about torture and talking about it does get me excited. I flush. My heart beats faster. Questions come to mind. Here are a few of my questions regarding torture (which, remember, is a very bad thing to do to people and even sometimes to animals too) :

– If you shoot a suffering person in the head, does that count as torture?

– Does tickling someone to death count as torture?

– If the person doesn’t think you’re torturing them, is that torture?

– If I throw broken glass at a person to get them to do what I want, is it me who is torturing them – or is it the broken glass that does the actual torturing?

– If torturing people could bring about universal peace on earth, would it be morally okay then?

– Is force-feeding my victim a hundred donuts torture if I really love donuts myself?

– If I pay a someone to spank me is that torture? What if she does it for free?

– If I tell millions of people that they are in danger of annihilation and I know it’s a lie, does that count as torture?

– “If God didn’t intend for us to torture, he wouldn’t have made bad people.” Is that statement ALWAYS true?

– Is it true that when Jesus was tried for torturing the Roman centurion, that he was acquitted for completely technical reasons and not because he was innocent of the crime?

I could go on forever: “Is there a Torturer’s Union?”, et cetera. But those 10 questions are more than enough for the torture experts to chew on.

Hey, you torture experts, enlighten us.

Harriet Miers – Complete Bio

Until now, not much has been known about Harriet Miers, who has been elected to the highest judicial post in the most powerful nation on earth.

But I have done quite a lot of research – using the Internet and other reliable sources – and have been able to cobble together the most thorough biography of Harriet Miers yet written, which I now present to you in full:

Harriet Ellan Miers was born in Dallas on Aug. 10, 1945, making her a Leo. Leos are generous and extroverted. They are ambitious and independent and make strong leaders. Some negative traits that may plague Leos are inflexibility and dogmatism. Napoleon Bonaparte and Mae West were born under the sign of Leo.

Harriet’s last name, “Miers”, should be pronounced “MYE-urrz”.

Harriet Miers received her bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 1967 and JD in 1970 from Southern Methodist University. Upon graduation, she clerked for U.S. District Judge Joe E. Estes from 1970 to 1972. In 1972, Miers became the first woman hired at Dallas’s Lock Lurneel Nobrep Nealy & Neely. It was at this firm that Harriet began to earn the nick-name, “THE SHRIEKER”.

In March 1996, her high-spirited colleagues elected her the first woman president of Rocker, Urnell, Pain & Harlell, at that time a firm of about 2000 lawyers. Despite the colleagues having no recollection of this election the next morning, Harriet became the first woman to lead a Texas firm of that size.

Cloke, Rupnell eventually merged with a Houston firm and became Kecol Lllddie & Paps, LLP, where Miers became co-managing partner of a firm with more than 40,000 lawyers.

Miers had a very distinguished career as a trial litigator, representing such clients as Microsoft, Walt Disney Co., SunGard Data Systems Inc., Barbie Inc., Lee Harvey Oswald, George W. Bush, Union Carbide, the Houston Jaycees, Boo Radley, the crew of the Amistad, Sir Thomas More, and, on more than one occasion, the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise when they were tried for the crimes of all humanity.

Throughout her career, she has been very active in the legal community and has blazed a trail for other women to follow, yada, yada.

* In 1985, Miers was selected as the first woman to become president of the Dallas Bar Association.

* In 1986, she converted to Scientology.

* In 1988, she converted to Islam.

* In 1989, she was elected to a two-year term as an at-large candidate on the Dallas City Council. She chose not to run for re-election when her term expired. She does not know why and claims to have no memory of a place called “Dallas City”.

* In 1990, she shot a man just to watch him die.

* In 1991, while serving time in Folsom Prison, she converted to Christianity. Later that year she escaped with two other inmates, killing four guards and taking one other hostage. The guard and fellow inmates were later found shot execution-style near the Mexico border. From this day onward Miers gained a new nickname, “The Ice Man”.

* In 1992, she turned her life around and became the first woman president of the State Bar of Texas.

Miers was one of two candidates for the number three slot at the ABA Bake Sale Committee, before withdrawing her candidacy to move to Washington to serve in the White House. Miers did however serve as the Chair for the ABA’s Commission on Multijurisdictional Practice. “Sit on me!” she would often whisper to the Commission, “Yeah! Yeah, sit on me!” Thinking she was making an idiotic and disrespectful joke at their expense, the Commission often beat her soundly, leaving Miers in tears lamenting “Why don’t they love me? Why don’t they love me?”

* On numerous occasions, the “National Law Journal” named Miers one of the nation’s 100 most powerful attorneys and also one of the nation’s top 50 women lawyers. “Field and Stream” recommended Miers be caught using a Fossenberger fly, not a regular Blackfeather lure. The Bluebottle Wingless lure was also recommended.

* Miers also has been involved in local and statewide politics in Texas. She learned to walk at age 2. She breathes a mixture of oxygen and nitrogen. She communicates primarily through a series of modulated buzzing sounds made by passing air past taut membranes in her throat. She is primarily bipedal.

* Miers also served as general counsel for the transition team of Governor-elect George W. Bush in 1994. Also in 1994, she converted to Christianity.

* From 1995 until 2000, Miers served as chairwoman of the Texas Lottery Commission, a voluntary public service position she undertook while maintaining her legal practice and other responsibilities. When complimented on her selfless public service, she would invariably reply: “It’s nothing really. It’s nothing … nothing … nothing … nothing … nothingness … the void … god help me … George!!” When then-Governor Bush appointed then-Miers to a six-year term on the then-Texas Lottery Commission, it was mired in then-scandal, and she served as a driving force behind its then-cleanup.

* In 1996, George W. Bush referred to her in a speech as “a pit bull who likes to wear women’s shoes”.

Miers came to Washington, D.C., in 2001:

* Jan. 20, 2001 – Harriet Miers appointed staff secretary and assistant to the president.

* July 2002 – the now famous cat-fight between Miers and Condoleeza Rice, when the uninvited Miers showed up drunk at President Bush’s birthday party. Later in the year, she converted to Christianity.

* In 2003, Miers was promoted to assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff. She was driven to a nervous breakdown in her attempts to locate the office of the deputy chief of staff who never seemed to be around when Miers was looking for him. One day, the president sat her down and said: “Poo Blanket (his pet name for her), YOU are the deputy chief of staff.” At that moment, Miers’ psyche snapped in two and for 10 months she wandered the halls of the White House, wraith-like, while the president played strange and haunting pieces on his guitar. After a treatment of psychotherapy and anti-siezure medications, Miers’ condition improved to the point where she was able to get back to work, though she was almost always seen adopting the stance and gait of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. When asked to address her backlog of work, she was often heard to reply: “Oh, I want to. But I can’t with these tiny little arms of mine. Rrrraarrrghhhh!”

* In 2004, doctors pronounced Miers “right as rain” and recommended she be given greater responsibilities to improve her self esteem. The president let her work behind the pin resetting machine in the White House bowling alley where she helped Ol’ Moses polish the pins for the summer. Miers remember these as “some of my happiest days”.

* Miers has served as counsel to the president since February 2005.

Miers is not married and does not have children.Two brothers and her mother live in Dallas; a third brother lives in Houston.

My thanks to the Washington Post for their invaluable assistance.

Jesus vs. Fission Bomb

I’m not a Christian, but I am a fan of the life, work, example, and thrilling story of Yeshua of Nazareth (aka “Jesus”). The great Roman historian Tacitus mentions Jesus in his description of the scandal and chaos that followed the terrible Fire of Rome (of “Nero fiddled while Rome burned” fame):

“…the blaze came to be believed to be an official act. So, in order to quash the rumour, (Emperor) Nero blamed it on, and applied the cruellest punishments to, those sinners, whom ordinary people call Christians, hating them for their shameful behaviour. The originator of this name, Christus, was sent to execution by Procurator Pontius Pilate, during the reign of Tiberius, but although checked for a moment, the deadly cult erupted again, not just in Judaea, the source of its evil, but even in Rome, where all the sins and scandals of the world gather and are glorified. (“The Annals” xv.44.2–3)

Today is the 60th anniversary of VJ (Victory over Japan) Day, the end of WWII. Following the dropping of a uranium fission bomb named “Little Boy” into the city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 – which killed approximately 140,000 people – then the detonation of a plutonium fission bomb named “Fat Man” over the city of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945 – which killed approximately 70,000 people – the Japanese surrendered, and the war ended.

FUN FACT: If you could regenerate the bodies of all the people killed in the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and lay them end to end, the line of corpses would stretch 200 miles, and their combined weight would near 6000 tons!

“Hiroshima” is a household word. Whenever we look forward to the use of nuclear weapons in the future, we use the name of the Japanese city as short-hand for “13,000 tons of TNT”. We say: “If this XYZ device exploded in the middle of a pre-school in New York City, it would do so with the strength of 10,000 Hiroshimas!” We tend to say it gleefully, as if we were happy that our nuclear weapons have so admirably outdone the quaint Little Boys of our forefathers.

FUN FACT: Today, Hiroshima is the home of the Hiroshima Toyo Carp baseball team, six-time champions of Japan’s central league and winner of 3 of the Japan Series.

Most citizens of the Allied nations are less familiar with the city of Nagasaki. Nagasaki, capital of Nagasaki Prefecture on the island of Kyushu, was the center of European influence in medieval Japan and so was one of the first Japanese cities to be Christianized. In fact, it was Europeans – Portuguese traders who ran aground near the town – who literally put the insignificant little village on the map. In 1945 Nagasaki had the largest Christian population in Japan and was home to Urakami Cathedral, which had been the largest Cathedral in eastern Asia. Nagasaki’s Christian population blossomed still further after World War II.

FUN FACT: The names of both “Hiroshima” and “Nagasaki” have appeared in the titles of French films!

If I’m not mistaken, scientists have proven that the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved many thousands of lives.

Following are some of my favorite lines of dialog from the story of Yeshua of Nazareth (aka Jesus). These are from his biographies. We don’t really know for certain whether the biographies were “authorized biographies” or not, or if they were just fan fiction. But I am a trained writer of movie scripts and have a pretty good ear for language, and it’s interesting to sometimes read lines that sound more like real human speech and less like movie dialog. I tend to like those realistic sounding lines the best. Some of Jesus’s greatest hits are in a collection called “The Sermon On The Mount”, which reads a bit like a college student’s lecture notes, as if one of the Disciples was sitting there scribbling as fast as he could: “Dude. Wait. Can you say that last thing one more time? ‘Ed Meese shall inherit the earth’?? Oh, ‘the MEEK’. Gotcha. Okay. Go on…”

Happy VJ Day!

(his words in GREEN)

1. “…Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God…”

2. “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”

3. Then came Peter to him, and said, “Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?” Jesus saith unto him, “I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.”

4. “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.”

5. Jesus said unto him, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.” But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.

6. “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”

7. “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

8. “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you?”

9. “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”

10. “For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”

Code Kumquat

“Put the ship on Code Orange, lieutenant!”
“Holy Toledo, skipper! Is it that bad?”
“It’s bad enough. And I don’t want you men getting caught with your britches down. If we have to go to Code Red, I want you guys to be good-to-go!”
“We won’t let you down, cap’n! Initiating the Code Orange!”

Klaxons sound throughout the ship. Men pull on helmets and flak jackets as they dash to their posts, hearts pounding.

“All stations are standing ready at Orange Alert, cap’n.”
“Good work. Now all we do is wait.”
“And pray, cap’n?”
“Amen to that, lieutenant. Amen to that.”

Yesterday, in response to subway and bus bombings in London, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff raised the national threat level to orange, or “high risk of terrorist attacks” with regard to the mass transit sector, specifically buses and trains.

If someone were to say to me, “Today there is a high risk at your workplace of being bitten by asps,” I would call in sick (assuming the someone were a credible source–a herpetologist, or zoo official hunting down a missing asp family), or I might call the police and say “There is a crazy person frightening me with threats of asps. Please come and arrest him at once.” In the event of confirmed high asp risk, I would want the building shut down and searched carefully room by room and I would not expect to have to go back to work until the possibity of asps had been ruled out, or until every errant asp had been accounted for.

I use Los Angeles public transport daily. Yesterday, our “second” in the Duel With Terror had been attacked. I was naturally curious, eager even, to see what an Orange Alert on public transport looked like. I realize that there were a few Orange Alerts thrown around in the buildup to the invasion of Iraq, but those weren’t real Orange Alerts. Those were more for dramatic effect–or maybe the result of pantswetting overeagerness at the Dept. of Homeland Security (I mean, what an irresistible temptation it must be to know you can alter the adrenaline levels of millions of people from the comfort of your desk; there’s no way I could resist it). So I took notes on the way home–on my bus ride east on Wilshire Blvd. and then subway trip from Wilshire & Western to Vermont & Sunset.

Here is what a Code Orange looks like on L.A. public transportation:

Carrying a heavy shoulder bag filled with mysteriously bulky items, I board a “Rapid” bus at Wilshire Blvd. & La Cienega Ave. Subdued atmosphere on bus. More seats available than usual. I keep eyes peeled for any signs of Orange Alert–police activity, anything unusual.

Traffic begins to slow as the bus approaches Wilshire & Fairfax Ave.

Reason for traffic slowing is revealed: Across the street from the L.A. County Museum of Art, a motorcycle cop is giving a ticket to a twenty-something man seated in his red economy car.

I observe that no one seems to mind my looking this way and that way, scribbling frantic notes in my little book.

On Wilshire, just west of Highland Ave., a policeman w/police cruiser, is giving a ticket to a twenty-something woman seated in her white economy car.

I transfer from the bus to catch the Union Station-bound train at Vermont & Western subway station:

A police cruiser is parked on the sidewalk plaza near the station entrance. 2 female police officers loiter. Another police cruiser can be seen driving south on Western.

(NOTE: L.A. has an “honor system” with regard to subway ticketing. If you ride the subway, you are expected to have purchased a ticket. Periodically, pairs of deputies or police officers will stop passengers at exits or board train cars and ask to see tickets. If you can’t produce one you are hit with a very heavy fine. Given the circumstances, I prepare to have my ticket checked.)

2 female sherriff’s deputies stand together on the Wilshire & Western platform. I do not see them check any passenger for tickets. I board the train without having to show my own ticket.

From my viewpoint through a window, there is no sign of law enforcement at the next stop, Wilshire & Normandie.

At Wilshire & Vermont Ave. I switch trains. No sign of law enforcement on either of the stations two platforms.

I pass through 2 stations–Vermont & Beverly and Vermont & Santa Monica (no law enforcement officers sighted on the platforms of either of these stations)–before reaching my destination.

I disembark at the Vermont & Sunset station. No law enforcement officers inside the station. I spot one Transport Authority employee in ORANGE vest talking on a station phone.

Outside the station, a cruiser is parked at the curb on Vermont Ave. 2 male police officers stand talking near the station entrance. 1 male, 1 female police officer stand near a hotdog stand.

Walked several blocks to my home–no law enforcement presence spotted.

Los Angeles is a great big ol’ giant flat screen tv of a city, and policing it is like sending a shoebox full of plastic army men to monitor a football field. However, the public transport system is still–famously–in a “growth period”, with nothing like the thousands of miles of subway track and bus route in other megalopolises. My trip home yesterday did not feel orange–it felt blue.

The lowest possible level of the Dept. of Homeland Security’s 5-color threat scale is Code Green which indicates a “low risk of terrorist attacks”. There is no color designation to indicate “no risk of terrorist attacks”. Prominent sources repeatedly tell me that we will win the War On Terror. When we do, how will I know it?


Being a cheerful sort, I am often heard to exclaim “Boy, am I having a blast!”. Or “This is going to be a blast”. Or maybe I’ll say to friends going on a holiday “I hope you two have a blast.” But, when you think about it, there is really nothing fun about a blast.
This morning there were four blasts in my beloved London. At this writing, is reporting a death toll of 37.

Already several prominent world leaders have spoken, briefly but admirably, about the four blasts, underscoring how the blasts make clear the evil of THEM and the bravery and courage and strength of US.

Nothing like a vicious blasting to boost the collective self-esteem.

Almost makes me want to become a full-time victim of blasting. Maybe…just maybe…I could begin to manufacture my own blastings, which would make clear just how brave and courageous and strong I am on an ongoing basis. This would also continue to build a case for how evil are those who are not me, which is no less important. It’s straightforward logic: If those who are not me are evil, then I, who am me, am not evil. Right? This may, I understand, cause those who are not me some temporary grief. But the important thing is to build my self-esteem, first, I think. Yes. Then once I gather the proper inspiration, direction, purpose, and will, I can really go about solving some of these terrible pressing problems of mine, which, I think we can all agree, will be a help to everyone, to all of us. Even a help–in the long run–to those who are not me. After all, it’s a known fact among students of psychology that one cannot help others until one helps oneself. On a crashing plane I have to put my own mask on before being able to help the little boy or girl beside me with his or hers. Yes. That’s the ticket.

To recap: What is the best hope for a happy and prosperous you? A happy and prosperous me!

Let’s get blasting.

10 Best Movies About "America"

Here is the list of the 10 BEST MOVIES ABOUT “AMERICA”, films that could be put in a time capsule to give the generations many centuries from now an accurate picture of what the USA was really like:

Citizen Kane (1941)
The Deer Hunter (1978)
Do The Right Thing (1989)
Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)
Forrest Gump (1994)
The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
JFK (1991)
On The Waterfront (1954)
Red River (1948)
Sunset Blvd. (1950)

Note that this is the definitive list. Entirely correct. The only list worth considering. All other lists are illegitimate.

Now start fighting!