Monday: 22.November.2004


Saw Ray yesterday. Hadn't planned on it. Was driving by the theater & decided to stop & see what was playing. A spur-of-the-moment thing. Ray was the only show starting at the time we arrived. I was surprised to see the theater packed for a Sunday matinee.

Excellent film. Well made. I feel comfortable putting it on my official Recommended list. Longer than most movies: 2˝ hours, but it never dragged. From the opening scene, it started strong and held my attention 'til the very end. It moved along with no noticeable dead spots.

After the movie was over, as the credits started rolling, I overheard one of the girls sitting behind us say, "That was *so* good." I could tell from the way she emphasized the word 'so' that she felt the same way we did.

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This film has been out for over 3 weeks. I'd read all the reviews, and noted how much everybody liked it. But the storyline never grabbed me. And the idea of Jamie Foxx playing Ray Charles never sat right with me.

Well, I can see now, that it's not so much the storyline, but rather the production values that make this film shine. It's obvious that a lot of love was poured into it. You can sense the respect the filmmakers have for the man. And his music doesn't hurt. =)

Jamie Foxx, the actor, never gets in the way of Ray Charles, the legend. Quite a feat, really. He just took a giant step forward in my book. Foxx succeeded where Will Smith did not in Ali: you were always conscious it was Will Smith acting as Muhammad Ali. It never occurred to me before that, as a pure actor, Foxx eclipses Smith. (Will Smith still has more charisma, tho.)

Again, this is a well-made movie. I don't know if Foxx will get an Oscar, but I'd be surprised if he doesn't get nominated. Either way, his career will never be the same.

Ray Charles used to play every summer down at Humphreys-by-the-Bay in San Diego. I never saw him cuz he was always the most expen$ive ticket. But everybody always told me he put on a great show. They'd say, "Dude, you gotta see Ray Charles. Unbelievable show." Now that he's dead, I regret not catching one.

Friday: 19.November.2004

Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" voted Greatest Song of All Time

Rolling Stone magazine voted Bob Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone the Greatest Song of all Time. You think the song's title, being so similar to name of the magazine, might've had anything to do with their selection? They deny any subliminal bias.

I went thru a Dylan phase back in my rebellious youth. I like that tune. Heck, I know every word by heart. ("When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose.") Who doesn't have a snooty old love they'd like to ask that famous question, "How does it feel?" [To be on your own, With no direction home, Like a complete unknown, Like a rolling stone?]

It was the first song that broke the iron law that a hit single should not run more than 3 minutes. Dylan shattered that by making "Like a Rolling Stone" 6 minutes. The magazine editors had this to say about their top selection:

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>>> "No other pop song has so thoroughly challenged and transformed the commercial laws
>>> and artistic conventions of its time, for all time."

I've been in clubs where old Dylan tunes were being performed. Whenever they do Like a Rolling Stone, the crowds shout "How does it feel?". Cracks me up every time I hear how much emotion they put into those words. (Especially after they've had a few brewskis to loosen up their vocal cords.)

Dylan doesn't seem as popular here on the West Coast. I think he's more of a New York/East Coast artist. He's written about a million songs. Other Dylan classics that are favorites of mine:

Blowin' in the Wind (Yes, 'n' how many times must the cannon balls fly, Before they're forever banned?)

The Times They Are A-Changin' (Come mothers and fathers, Throughout the land, And don't criticize, What you can't understand. Your sons and your daughters, Are beyond your command. Your old road is Rapidly agin'. Please get out of the new one, If you can't lend your hand. For the times they are a-changin'.)

••• Shelter From the Storm (Suddenly I turned around and she was standin' there. With silver bracelets on her wrists and flowers in her hair. She walked up to me so gracefully and took my crown of thorns. "Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm.")

Tangled Up in Blue (Then she opened up a book of poems. And handed it to me. Written by an Italian poet From the thirteenth century. And every one of them words rang true, And glowed like burnin' coal, Pourin' off of every page, Like it was written in my soul from me to you, Tangled up in blue.)

I Shall Be Released (I see my light come shining, From the west unto the east. Any day now, any day now, I shall be released.) And my two favorites:

Don't Think Twice; It's All Right (I once loved a woman, a child I'm told. I gave her my heart, but she wanted my soul. But don't think twice, it's all right.) and

It Ain't Me Babe (Here's another song people sing at the top of their lungs: You say you're looking for someone, Who'll pick you up each time you fall, To gather flowers constantly, An' to come each time you call, A lover for your life an' nothing more, But it ain't me, babe, No, no, no, it ain't me, babe, It ain't me you're lookin' for, babe.) Oh, and can't forget:

Knockin' On Heaven's Door (Mama, put my guns in the ground. I can't shoot them any more. That long black cloud is comin' down, I feel like I'm knockin' on heaven's door.)

• And maybe his most mind-blowing: My Back Pages:

A self-ordained professor's tongue
Too serious to fool
Spouted out that liberty
Is just equality in school
"Equality," I spoke the word
As if a wedding vow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now.

Let the revolution begin.

I was walking thru Heisler Park yesterday at sunset and there was a guy there playing some Dylan tunes on his guitar in the gazebo. I sat down and listened to a few while watching the sun set. Very cool. Relaxing. The shape of the gazebo actually made for decent acoustics. I dropped a buck in his basket.

Bob Dylan reportedly took his surname from the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. Have you noticed how many poets end up committing suicide? I saw the movie Sylvia last night (Sylvia Plath, played by Gweneth Paltrow). She off'ed herself, too.

A friend of mine has a theory which says the only truly-rational people are some of those we consider "crazy", cuz (the theory goes) they see the world as it truly is: unable (or unwilling) to filter the ugliness and horrors most "sane" people do. The rest of us are merely in denial. They use the prevalence of mental instability among many of the great poets and artists to support their theory.

I also heard that when you go crazy (full-blown psychoses), it's as if you pass thru a gelatin wall. And on the other side is peace & tranquility.

Thursday: 18.November.2004

Battman's World Tour Update #2

Here I share a few experiences / highlights: From drugging con-men stories to misty mountains…


I visited Barcelona for several days. The following story will give you the feel...

Remember the word “Gawdy”? meaning outrageous or outlandish… well it must have been coined to reflect the artist by the same name but different spelling… His work is a primary draw to Barcelona, Spain where I spoke to a Japanese adventurer. This young Japanese gentleman had a very “polite” mugger/scammer/con-artist invite him for lunch in a park. This scam artist laced the Japanese fellow's drink, so that he woke up a few hours later minus his cash and camera.

The con man left his credit cards, watch, and passport untouched. He even put a bus ticket to get to the Airport in the Japanese fellows pocket! How polite of him, yes? Well… perhaps it was just to encourage the tourist to leave town and not spot the con “working” the next guy the next day…

The other Artist with recognizable work in Barcelona is Antonio Gaudi (whom has passed from this world). Some photos can be found here: Barcelona is an outstanding city, safe and entertaining, regardless of my little story above. Later in the week I hiked the Andalucian Coast of Spain, and then headed for France!

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Perhaps France gets a bad and undeserved rap… as I have heard and been guilty of calling them very snobbish. My visit to Paris for a week convinced me they just need to see a little sincerity to bridge the culture gap (mostly mine I’m sure… "culture gap" that is).

I stayed with my friend Haru Uno whom was a gracious host. From her comfortable little apartment I rambled for three days in one of the western world’s finest museums, the Luvre. Two of the three days in the Mesopotamian Exhibit halls.

Other stand-outs events were walks on the River Seine, the Eiffel Tower, and the other multitude of sights norm for Paris visitors. Here are a few photos: I stayed a week. This is a longer stay than any city visit to date. Go to Paris if you get a chance!


I then took the overnight rail connection south and entered the domain of the world’s greatest tourist dollar drainers, the Italians! Ever milked a cow? You have to really squeeze and pull... just as the Italians do to get every last Euro from tourist! Italy has been filling milk pails from tourist for many years now. They excel at it.

Here are a few photo links to see some of the sights I enjoyed in Italy while trying to keep the Italians from milking my treasury dry: Venice, Italy: Best to learn to swin if you live in Venice…

Rome, Italy: Rome… Yesterdays empire. Guess which country is empire building these days… Let’s not forget Rome’s lesson! Pompeii, Italy: Volcanos have a way of reminding us Mother Nature always wins…


From Italy I have been into Slovenia, through Greece, and over to Turkey. I've been in Turkey for 10 days now... The experienced and sights seem to just get better and better. I'll catch you up on a few of these in the next email travel update!

Thursday: 04.November.2004

Bush / Cheney & Moral Issues

Yesterday's exit polls revealed the #1 reason people stated for voting was "moral issues", and that 80% of these people voted for President Bush/Dick Cheney.

"Morals" by definition are subjective. For example, I am much more offended by the unnecessary deaths of our soldiers in Iraq, than I am by Janet Jackson flashing her boob on national TV (the Super Bowl). But many people who claim to be motivated by moral issues appently have no qualms with the administration's (false) assertion that Iraq definitely possessed WMDs as its justification to invade Iraq.

••• continued •••

500 years ago, Erasmus said, "War is delightful to those who have no experience of it." Seems this still applies today to George W Bush, who chose to avoid serving his country in Viet Nam when he had the chance to go there and learn what its like to have bullets wizing by your head. This shouldn't surprise anybody, because he's always been a fortunate son of privilege.

Here in California, there is/was an initiative on the ballot (Proposition 68/70) in which Indians sought more-fair tax treatment. Some might claim I was voting for (immoral) gambling, but I voted FOR the Indians (the measure was defeated anyway) because I feel we (our country) have treated the Indians so badly (the early US government nearly wiped their entire race from the face of the planet) .. that no Indian should ever have to pay another penny in tax the longest day they live. They should be able to attend the university of their choosing .. for free. I did this because I felt it was the "moral" thing to do. If you're interested, I discuss more about this HERE (Did the Native American Indian get Screwed?) and HERE (The Last Samurai & Native American Indians)

My point is that true "morality" is not always simple (gambling vs Indians) .. or at least not as simple as some would like to believe. To be a truly moral being, you need to have all the facts. And this is where I feel some fall short. They seem to have a pre-determined mind set about certain issues, and fail to seek a deeper understanding. And it's this superficial understanding of the issues that leads them to take positions they truly believe are moral, but which, in fact, are not.

I was much more offended by the administration sending our boys to Iraq without the proper equipment (un-armored Humvees, lack of body-armor, night goggles, etc.) than I was if every gay couple in the country were to get married. No soldier has ever died as a result of a gay couple marrying. Even if every gay couple in the entire country were to marry, this still wouldn't cause even a single soldier to shed a single drop blood.

My point is that morality is subjective. I don't think of the Bush administration as moral. Oh contraire. But it is obvious that their brand of "morality" resonates with voters .. (especially with those in "red states", or so it would seem, or at last some of them).

I think some Americans foget (because it's been so long), or would *like* to foget, that Iraq never attacked us (that was Osama bin Laden). Our "war" with Iraq was deemed "preemptive", which means "we're gonna attack you before you attack us". Everyone should be able to see the moral danger in this rational. And the administration rationalized this war by claiming Iraq possessed WMDs (which they didn't). What about the immorality of attacking a nation that didn't attack us? Most people call that aggression. Bush calls it "just".

The Republican right does not have a corner on the "moral" market, altho they obviously think they do. I think that their brand of morality is a false morality, because there are issues far more weighty than Madonna kissing Britney Spears. People are dying every day in Iraq because of lies told by the administration (more lies). If you do the research, you'll find that the administration knew the Iraq-9/11 link never existed, and that they also knew it was unlikely that Iraq possessed WMDs.

Cheney rode that (false) horse all the way up to his debate with Edwards, where he finally dismounted and admitted (on national TV) that there never was any Iraq-9/11 link, and denied he ever took that position. But we have footage of him stating that very point, repeatedly. Polls however, still show that most people (62%) believe there is in fact a link between Iraq and 9/11. Why? Because it's easier for them to believe that disinformation than the (horrifying) notion that their Pres/VP lied to them (so they would be more apt to buy their "reasons" for war).

The adminsitration also knew that Iraq likely possessed no WMDs. However, they "massaged" the data until it looked as if "might/possibly" became "definitely so". I call that lying. And most people feel that lying is immoral .. especially when people die as a result of that lie. People here think the President is (quite frankly) a bold-faced liar. So maybe you can understand our sense of disbelief when voters exited the polling booths and stated their #1 reason for voting for President Bush & Dick Cheney was "moral issues". Seems hypocritical.

So the question we're left with is: Do these self-proclaimed "moral" voters really not know? (un-informed) or simply not care? (support Bush/Cheney despite lies & distortions). Neither alternative seems very attractive. And much of the rest of the world seems to have similar questions.

I can accept just about any reason for voting for President Bush: Kerry was a flip-flopper (he was), or you know where the President stands on the issues (you do). But when I hear "moral issues" as the #1 reason given for voting for George Bush, I feel that these people must be living in a parallel universe, or define morality much differently than I do, because it's difficult for me to fathom how they can view the President and his administration as truly moral.

UPDATE: I have CLOSED the "Comments" section to prevent blog spamming. You will not be able to enter any more comments.

Wednesday: 03.November.2004

Bush Re-elected: Blue-state Blues

Weeping & gnashing of teeth. As mentioned yesterday, this is the first time I've voted for a president who lost. As everyone expected, it was close (elected by the narrowist margin for a sitting president since 1916), but now I got a bad case of the blue-state blues. This election has given new meaning to the phrase shock & awe.

First off, I don't feel comfortable with electronic voting machines. Anyone who knows anything about hacking, knows they can be programmed to generate any results you want. No verifiable paper-trail exists. And the code is secret. What kind of krap is that?

••• continued •••

Next, I feel concerned .. concerned the President doesn't have the sophistication & insight necessary to deal effectively with the complex state of affairs in the world today. And if you ask the rest of the world, you'll find they have the same concerns .. that the President's destabilization of the middle east has made the world less-safe, not more.

One of his mantras during the election that rang most true for me was: "You may not agree with me, but you know where I stand." Every time I heard him say this, I said, "Yes." This is true for the Pres, and was one of Kerry's undoings, who was often unclear, especially on his stand on Iraq, in which he kept shifting political sails in an attempt to catch the prevailing popular winds. I agreed with Bush/Cheney that Kerry was guilty of this, but saw George's vices as worse (much worse).

But the flip-side to the President's simplicity is a lack of sophistication. Exit polls revealed that a surprising number people claimed to vote primarily for "moral" reasons ("guns, God & gays"), but the marriage of a gay couple, no matter how you feel about it morally, will not lead to the end of the world. I mean, gay people are going to live their lives the way they want, whether or not they're "married".

The Kerry campaign would've done well to send some its people into parts of the country they lost (red), and learned how these people think, and how strongly they feel strongly about moral issues such as gay marriage and abortion. It is relatively easy to address their concerns (which Dems failed to do). I've lived all around the country, so I have insights as to how people think in different parts of the country and what is most important to them.

So, it's clear Dems do not understand the psychology of the "moral" voter (or do not care). What concerns me however, is that the person who votes primarily for moral reasons does not understand the level of sophistication necessary to operate politically in the world today, and the magnitude of the dangers involved.

Granted, the president understands the straightforward simplicity of moral issues (either you're for gay marriage or you're not), but the flip-side is that he does not understand the complexity involved in other parts of the world. And we see evidence of his provincial mindset when we look at the mess in Iraq, where he obviously did not have the foresight to anticipate the situation there (remember when he stood on the USS Abraham Lincoln under the banner that declared Mission Accomplished? How many of our soldiers have died since?). This is why Colin Powell asked the President, "Dude, are you sure you know WTF you're getting the nation into?" (the Rad translation)

You also see more evidence of this in the way he has alienated much of the world with his "My way or the highway" attitude. This is how a bully acts, not a leader. And this is why many nations refuse to follow him (many of the same nations who gladly followed his father into battle in Kuwait). If you look closely, you even see evidence of it on 9-11, when the administration didn't have a clue this was coming.

So, my concerns today is that his provincial, ideological mind set, which appeals so much to the moral voter, is poorly suited to dealing with the sophisticated complexities around the world. Moreover, I am concerned that he does not know how to admit a mistake and adjust his course accordingly. Granted, it's not easy to admit a mistake, but what is the flip-side of continuing hell-bent down the wrong road? (anyone remember how high the bodies of our American boys piled up in Viet Nam?).

500 years ago, Erasmus said: "War is delightful to those who have no experience of it." Seems this still applies today to George W Bush, who chose to avoid serving his country in Viet Nam when he had the chance to go there and learn what its like to have bullets wizing by your head. This shouldn't surprise anybody, because he's always been a fortunate son of privilege.

In short, I think it was his plain-talking provincial simplicity that got him re-elected, but this will also be his un-doing. As with most things, strengths and weakness are just flip-sides of the same coin.

For example, we now know that North Korea has nukes. Iran will soon join them. I'm concerned that (without the necessary insight/foresight previously mentioned) this administration will do something that will have grave results. I hope I'm wrong, but I think the writing is already on the wall, characterized by an inability to deal with people who have a different mind set.

And this is precisely where Kerry excels. In a chess game, you need to be able to think ahead. The president has demonstrated a lack of foresight, and our nation is paying for it in both dollars & lives. We also paid on September 11th.

The optimist in me wants to give the President the benefit of the doubt. But the realist in me says: "He has already demonstrated what he is capable of. Give the President enough political rope and he will hang the entire nation". Let's hope I'm just being a sore loser. But I truly believe, I'll soon be saying, "Told ya."

Like never before, I sense a genuine unsettledness about the direction our nation (and the world) is headed under the auspices of President Bush. His inclination to seek a military solution to every foreign problem is disturbing. Or maybe it's his inability to produce a political solution. I'm not sure, but there's actually a sense of dread about 4 more years of Bush. And I've never seen that before. Visit some of the politically-oriented blogs around the 'Net and you'll see I'm not alone. I mean, people (not me) actually want to MOVE to other countries, such as Canada, Australia & New Zealand.

After considering the map of red/blue states, and comments from our neighbors around the globe, it seems that America has never been so divided at home -- at least not in my lifetime -- and so alienated from the rest of the world. I'm not sure what omens these developments portend, but it appears the man responsible is none other than George W. Bush, who in the 2000 election claimed he wanted to be a uniter, not a divider. Some civilizations had leaders such as Alexander the Great. Some had Vlad the Impaler. We happen to have George the Divider. =/

After considering the effects of decisions made by this administration, and the widening rich/poor gap, with more Americans falling into poverty, and our military stretched too thin, such that we need to expand stop-loss measures, and seeing the way Iraq is beginning to look like Viet Nam (we're getting bogged down), and the biggest federal deficit in history ... does anyone else see similarities with the Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire?

Hey, but at least we won't have any gays getting married .. gays who pay taxes, obey the law, employ people, and even served their country in combat, something the President chose to avoid doing. Give the President 4 more years and he'll make Kerry look like a godsend.

I would vote for Kerry again. He just needs to spend a little time with Evangelical ministers, and dialogue with them, because they tell their congregations how to vote (even tho they're not supposed to do that).