Monday, October 31, 2005

Last Weekend in La-La Land

Nicole and Hollywood Sign
Nicole and Hollywood Sign,
originally uploaded by nicdthomas.
All the furniture is gone. I’m sitting on the floor listing to Josh Rouse and later I will sleep on the floor. Last night in this apartment I have lived in for eight years. Final moments of my last weekend in this city that I love and hate.

Now that all the big projects are done, I am starting to enjoy the prospect of leaving more than I have.

Friday night my friend Ben’s band, Soul Traffic had a gig and the wearing of costumes was encouraged. I didn’t want to deal with a real costume so I decided to be a Hollywood vampire. Crimped my hair, wore more makeup than I did at my wedding, painted bite marks on my neck, wore a shirt that said “bite me” and the ubiquitous leather jacket.

Luckily Jolie was the voice of reason that evening because with the assistance of three margaritas and two beers, I hit one of my “I can stay up all night! I don’t care that I have things to do and that my parents are arriving this evening!” patches. She got me in bed by 12:30 which was good because my parents arrived at 3:00 AM.

Saturday we donated everything they were not keeping to Goodwill, drank some beer, went to Dia De Muertos at the cemetery, then Mexican food at Lucy’s El Adobe where I discovered that the feeling of not being able to breathe when I drink margaritas probably means that I am allergic to tequila.

I have no intention of giving up tequila. I don’t do it that often and so what that my face turns bright red and I feel like I am asphyxiating when I drink it. I can work through it. . .

Sunday after the parents left with my furniture, I hung out with Doug, Jamie and Amelia and in preparation for the big move we had fish and chips at a great little place, Malibu Seafood- out on the PCH just past Pepperdine, On the way home we swung by the Hollywood Reservoir were you can see the Hollywood sign up close.

There are so many places that I wanted to go to in LA before I left and I let the time just get away from me. I am so happy and excited to finally be back with S but I am a little sad to be leaving.

I know I will get over it.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Hee Hee Hee!

It's beginning to look a lot like Fitzmas! So nice that something that has been one of my standard soap box bitches about the current evil doers in American government finally is getting some air time. Poor Irvie. On crutches and indicted on five (five!) felony charges. Thats gotta suck.

tracking

I like to glance at my tracking every so often and see what corners of the world my traffic has come from. Other bloggers I read have noted the weird things people search on when the stumble upon their ramblings. Mine have been fairly innocuous although when I posted about my tit top there were some interesting searches. Today I got a hit from a search on 'photo young girl naked "third world" tribes'. It took him to my post of the Zinn article on the genocide Columbus perpetrated on the Arawak Indians that the US wraps up in a pretty red bow and calls "discovery". The individual doing the search for young naked third world girls lived in El Paso, Texas. I wonder if he learned anything? My guess is no since he only stayed on for, oh let's see- zero seconds. I have no issues with porn. Not one of those women that freaks out about it. (Stop reading Mom.) I actually enjoy watching it once in a while as long as the cast does not include Ron Jeremy-- but someone wanting a picture of a naked third world girl is a wee bit disturbing. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe he doesn't want a picture of young girls for porn. Maybe he is working on an anthropology project and he needs the visual aid. Yeah, right. . . not so much. . .

Friday, October 28, 2005

Stuff On My Cat

I am sad that I don't have my cats anymore because if I did, I would start putting stuff on my cat. What is it about doing evil things to cats that is just so funny?

By By Beetle

Sold my car. I am sad, yet relieved that it is done and I didn't get in an accident before I handed the keys in. I kept having visions of a ten car pile up with me at the bottom. The dealer and Carmax both offered my 13K so I had to come up with the difference for the loan, which sucks- but what can you do. . . at least it’s done. Janelle's father took this photo not long after I got the car. Janelle was in town for the first time since she moved to London and had a gathering at what I think is my favorite Mexican restaurant, El Conquistador. When Janelle went to London, her father gave me her car - cute little early 90's Nissan. I had been living in LA for six years at this point and had been getting around on public transportation. (Yes. Really.) I think some people at work thought I had a DUI and had my license revoked. Who would choose to take the bus??? When I lived in Seattle there was no need for a car and when I moved here I was a broke graduate student and the American Film Institute was a ten-minute walk from my apartment. Then the grown-up persons job I somehow managed to trick them into giving me was just a 45-minute bus ride away and by the point I was actually making enough money to buy a car, I had a really healthy phobia about driving in LA built up. I liked public transportation because it gave me time to read. On average, I read a book a week. (One Hundred Years of Solitude tripped me up. That one took two weeks.) I liked saving money ($42.00 verses paying for insurance, car payment and gas). Sadly the money I saved went into my sushi budget and not into my savings. I never had to be the designated driver so I could get as drunk as I wanted and not worry about killing others or myself. The crazy people were fabulous for anecdotes. What is interesting about the bus and subway in LA is you do not see many young professionals using it. You see poor people. That is why more people in LA don't use the bus. It has nothing to do with it being inconvenient because there are a lot of routes that are easy breezy Cover Girl. It does have to do with Angelinos not wanting to be near or associating with poor people. Add to that that a high percentage of folks on the bus are brown people-- well forgetaboutit. Public transportation sucked when I needed to go to the doctor. Instead of taking a few hours off from work I would need to take the entire day. It sucked when there was a party and I had to beg for a ride. I wasn't able to do a lot of errands in different spots in town because there would simply not be time. The bus really sucked when there was a strike. It was during the second strike since I have been living here that Janelle's dad gave me her car. Once I broke my phobia, I decided I wanted something new so that February I got my baby. And it has now been sold. . . I still have a couple of the parking tickets- but the car no more. . .

Thursday, October 27, 2005

We've Been Here Before

Anna Quindlen's essay in the October 31 Newsweek We've Been Here Before What was the cause, the point, the strategy? Suddenly many Americans started to realize that there was no good answer. By Anna Quindlen Newsweek Oct. 31, 2005 issue - The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is a tapering wall of black granite cut into the grass of Constitution Gardens. Maya Lin envisioned a scar when she designed it, a scar on this land, which is exactly right. Maybe someday his security detail could drive George W. Bush over to take a look. He'll be able to see himself in the reflective surface. The list of names etched into the wall begins with a soldier who died in 1959 and ends with one who died in 1975. Nearly 60,000 dead are commemorated here. It is the most personal of war memorials. You can touch the cold names with your warm fingers. The president never wanted the war in Iraq to be personal. His people forbade photographs of coffins arriving home. They refused to keep track of how many Iraqis had been killed and wounded. When "Nightline" devoted a show to the faces of soldiers who had died, one conservative broadcast outlet even pulled the program from its lineup. The president wanted this to be about policy, not about people. Even that did not go well. The policy became a moving target. First there were weapons of mass destruction that were not there and direct links to the terrorists who attacked on September 11 that didn't exist. The removal of Saddam Hussein was given as the greatest good; it has been done. Then it became the amorphous goal of bringing freedom to the Iraqi people, as though liberty were flowers and we were FTD. The elections, the constitution, the rubble, the dead. Once again we were destroying the village in order to save it. This all took an unfortunate turn for the administration during the president's vacation in August, when Cindy Sheehan showed up at his ranch. Say what you would about her politics or tactics, there was no doubt that she was a mother whose soldier son was now dead, and who wanted to know why. What was the cause, the point, the strategy? And suddenly many Americans started to realize that there was no good answer. The Vietnam Memorial stands, in part, as a monument to blind incrementalism, to men who refused to stop, not because of wisdom but because of ego, because of the fear of looking weak. Not enough troops, not enough planning, no real understanding of the people or the power of the insurgency, dwindling public support. The war in Iraq is a disaster in the image and likeness of its predecessor. During each election cycle, we ponder the question of whether character matters. Of course it does. Does anyone doubt that the continued prosecution of this war has to do with the personality of the commander in chief, a man who is stubborn and calls it strength, who wears blinders and calls it vision? When he vowed to invade Iraq, the advisers he heeded were those who, like him, had never seen combat. The one who had was marginalized and is now gone. The investigation of who leaked what to whom, of what the reporter knew and how she knew it, may be about national security and journalistic ethics, but at its base it is about something more important: the Nixonian lengths to which these people will go to shore up a bankrupt policy and destroy those who cross them on it. The most unattractive trait of the American empire is American arrogance, which the president embodies and which this war elevated. It is not simply that we have a good system. It is the system everyone else should have. It is the best system, and we are the best people. We can mend rivalries so ancient that they not only predate our nation but the birth of Christ. We will install the leaders we like in a country we scarcely understand, leaders who will either be seen as puppets by their people or who will eventually turn against us. We have been here before. "In Vietnam we didn't have the lessons of Vietnam to guide us," says David Halberstam, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of that war. "In Iraq we did have those lessons. The tragedy is that we didn't pay attention to them." Or maybe only our leaders did not. The polls show the American people have turned on this war much more quickly than they did on the war in Vietnam. Of course, they are the ones who pay the price. Perhaps the leaders of the Democratic Party should take time off from their fund-raisers and visit the Vietnam Memorial, too. They should remember one of the most powerful men the party ever produced, Lyndon B. Johnson, and how he was destroyed by opposition to the war in Vietnam and bested by those brave enough to speak against it. At least Johnson had the good sense to be heartbroken by the body bags. Bush appears merely peevish at being criticized. Someone with a trumpet should play taps outside the White House for the edification of a president who has not attended a single funeral for the Iraqi war dead. As I am writing this, the number of American soldiers killed is 1, 992. By the time you read it, it may have topped 2,000. Will I be writing these same things when the number is 3,000, 5,000, 10,000? If we are such a great nation, why are we utterly incapable of learning from our mistakes? America's sons and daughters are dying to protect the egos of those whose own children are safe at home. Again. © 2005 Newsweek, Inc.

Phone Conversation

You know that one picture of you? On the beach? The one where my breasts look enormous? That’s my favorite picture of you. Oh God. It’s my wallpaper on my computer. Oh God! When I lock the computer the gray box covers your head and it looks like porn. Oh God. . . I told you I am not a nice person. I was bored and I photo shopped it. Now you’re naked. Not your real breasts of course. Of course. Ones that I found online. Yours are much nicer. Thank you. You haven’t put that photo as your wallpaper? No! You muppet. (laughs) Well. . . Everything is falling into place. I’m getting excited about coming. I should hope so. And if you’re not-- it doesn’t matter, because I am waiting for you.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Sex Ed

Artegall (who is actually often rather clever, don't judge him by this post) recently blogged about a certain lack of skill, interest and "oral incompetence" with the women that he hangs out with. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more, say no more. I mention it only because Mel's Diner posted a funny little blurb about a Brazilian woman who is suing her lover because he is selfish in bed. A 31-year-old woman from Brazil is asserting her right for satisfaction during sex by resorting to Justice. According to the newspaper Terra Noticias Populares, the disgruntled woman filed a complaint against her partner at Chacar Urbana Police station in Jundiai, claiming that her 38-year-old lover was very selfish in bed. Specifically, the 31-year-old complained that her partner simply stopped sexual intercourse as soon as he reached orgasm, without paying any attention to her needs. "We will look into it, we will treat it as an ordinary complaint and let the judge decide," declared Police chief Jose Roberto Ferraz, answering to all those who laughed their hearts out when they found out about the complaint. Now, why didn't I think of that? Talk about litigious. If we all start suing because our lovers suck (or don't), lawyers will get no rest. It would be a whole new type of law, Intercourse Relational Quality And Disbursement. Maybe it would be better for people to have classes. Adult Continuing Education if you will. How To Give A Blowjob Without Drawing Blood, How To Do Foreplay Properly-Yes You Have To Do It- No That Isn't Good Enough and Spanking 101. Advanced Classes might be- What Do You Do When Your Lover Pulls a M Butterfly or What Do You Do When Your Lover Likes To Wear Big Furry Stuffed Animal Suits And Have Sex With Other People Wearing Big Furry Stuffed Animal Suits.

Lookie Who Told Scooter About Plame

This is a bit more serious that surreptitious BJs and games with cigars. Ah, (singing) "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!" I think I will start referring to Scooter by his given name, Irv. I think we all should. It is a sin for a grown man to walk around with a name like Scooter. From the NY Times October 25, 2005 Cheney Told Aide of C.I.A. Officer, Lawyers Report By DAVID JOHNSTON, RICHARD W. STEVENSON and DOUGLAS JEHL WASHINGTON, Oct. 24 - I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, first learned about the C.I.A. officer at the heart of the leak investigation in a conversation with Mr. Cheney weeks before her identity became public in 2003, lawyers involved in the case said Monday. Notes of the previously undisclosed conversation between Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney on June 12, 2003, appear to differ from Mr. Libby's testimony to a federal grand jury that he initially learned about the C.I.A. officer, Valerie Wilson, from journalists, the lawyers said. The notes, taken by Mr. Libby during the conversation, for the first time place Mr. Cheney in the middle of an effort by the White House to learn about Ms. Wilson's husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, who was questioning the administration's handling of intelligence about Iraq's nuclear program to justify the war. Lawyers involved in the case, who described the notes to The New York Times, said they showed that Mr. Cheney knew that Ms. Wilson worked at the C.I.A. more than a month before her identity was made public and her undercover status was disclosed in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak on July 14, 2003. Mr. Libby's notes indicate that Mr. Cheney had gotten his information about Ms. Wilson from George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, in response to questions from the vice president about Mr. Wilson. But they contain no suggestion that either Mr. Cheney or Mr. Libby knew at the time of Ms. Wilson's undercover status or that her identity was classified. Disclosing a covert agent's identity can be a crime, but only if the person who discloses it knows the agent's undercover status. It would not be illegal for either Mr. Cheney or Mr. Libby, both of whom are presumably cleared to know the government's deepest secrets, to discuss a C.I.A. officer or her link to a critic of the administration. But any effort by Mr. Libby to steer investigators away from his conversation with Mr. Cheney could be considered by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special counsel in the case, to be an illegal effort to impede the inquiry. White House officials did not respond to requests for comment, and Mr. Libby's lawyer, Joseph Tate, would not comment on Mr. Libby's legal status. Randall Samborn, a spokesman for Mr. Fitzgerald, declined to comment on the case. Mr. Fitzgerald is expected to decide whether to bring charges in the case by Friday, when the term of the grand jury expires. Mr. Libby and Karl Rove, President Bush's senior adviser, both face the possibility of indictment, lawyers involved in the case have said. It is not publicly known whether other officials also face indictment. The notes help explain the legal difficulties facing Mr. Libby. Lawyers in the case said Mr. Libby testified to the grand jury that he had first heard from journalists that Ms. Wilson may have had a role in dispatching her husband on a C.I.A.-sponsored mission to Africa in 2002 in search of evidence that Iraq had acquired nuclear material there for its weapons program. But the notes, now in Mr. Fitzgerald's possession, also indicate that Mr. Libby first heard about Ms. Wilson - who is also known by her maiden name, Valerie Plame - from Mr. Cheney. That apparent discrepancy in his testimony suggests why prosecutors are weighing false statement charges against him in what they interpret as an effort by Mr. Libby to protect Mr. Cheney from scrutiny, the lawyers said. It is not clear why Mr. Libby would have suggested to the grand jury that he might have learned about Ms. Wilson from journalists if he was aware that Mr. Fitzgerald had obtained the notes of the conversation with Mr. Cheney or might do so. At the beginning of the investigation, Mr. Bush pledged the White House's full cooperation and instructed aides to provide Mr. Fitzgerald with any information he sought. The notes do not show that Mr. Cheney knew the name of Mr. Wilson's wife. But they do show that Mr. Cheney did know and told Mr. Libby that Ms. Wilson was employed by the Central Intelligence Agency and that she may have helped arrange her husband's trip. Some lawyers in the case have said Mr. Fitzgerald may face obstacles in bringing a false-statement charge against Mr. Libby. They said it could be difficult to prove that he intentionally sought to mislead the grand jury. Lawyers involved in the case said they had no indication that Mr. Fitzgerald was considering charging Mr. Cheney with wrongdoing. Mr. Cheney was interviewed under oath by Mr. Fitzgerald last year. It is not known what the vice president told Mr. Fitzgerald about the conversation with Mr. Libby or when Mr. Fitzgerald first learned of it. But the evidence of Mr. Cheney's direct involvement in the effort to learn more about Mr. Wilson is sure to intensify the political pressure on the White House in a week of high anxiety among Republicans about the potential for the case to deal a sharp blow to Mr. Bush's presidency. Mr. Tenet was not available for comment Monday night. But another former senior intelligence official said Mr. Tenet had been interviewed by the special prosecutor and his staff in early 2004, and never appeared before the grand jury. Mr. Tenet has not talked since then to the prosecutors, the former official said. The former official said he strongly doubted that the White House learned about Ms. Wilson from Mr. Tenet. On Monday, Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby both attended a cabinet meeting with Mr. Bush as the White House continued trying to portray business as usual. But the assumption among White House officials is that anyone who is indicted will step aside. On June 12, 2003, the day of the conversation between Mr. Cheney and Mr. Libby, The Washington Post published a front-page article reporting that the C.I.A. had sent a retired American diplomat to Niger in February 2002 to investigate claims that Iraq had been seeking to buy uranium there. The article did not name the diplomat, who turned out to be Mr. Wilson, but it reported that his mission had not corroborated a claim about Iraq's pursuit of nuclear material that the White House had subsequently used in Mr. Bush's 2003 State of the Union address. An earlier anonymous reference to Mr. Wilson and his mission to Africa had appeared in a column by Nicholas D. Kristof in The New York Times on May 6, 2003. Mr. Wilson went public with his conclusion that the White House had "twisted" the intelligence about Iraq's pursuit of nuclear material on July 6, 2003, in an Op-Ed article in The New York Times. The note written by Mr. Libby will be a crucial piece of evidence in a false-statement case against him if Mr. Fitzgerald decides to pursue it, lawyers in the case said. It also explains why Mr. Fitzgerald waged a long legal battle to obtain the testimony of reporters who were known to have talked to Mr. Libby. The reporters involved have said that they did not supply Mr. Libby with details about Mr. Wilson and his wife. Matthew Cooper of Time magazine, in his account of a deposition on the subject, wrote that he asked Mr. Libby whether he had even heard that Ms. Wilson had a role in sending her husband to Africa. Mr. Cooper said that Mr. Libby did not use Ms. Wilson's name but replied, "Yeah, I've heard that too." In her testimony to the grand jury, Judith Miller, a reporter for The New York Times, said Mr. Libby sought from the start of her three conversations with him to "insulate his boss from Mr. Wilson's charges." Mr. Fitzgerald asked questions about Mr. Cheney, Ms. Miller said. "He asked, for example, if Mr. Libby ever indicated whether Mr. Cheney had approved of his interview with me or was aware of them," Ms. Miller said. "The answer was no." In addition to Mr. Cooper and Ms. Miller, Mr. Fitzgerald is known to have interviewed three other journalists who spoke to Mr. Libby during June and July 2003. They were Walter Pincus and Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post and Tim Russert of NBC News. Mr. Pincus and Mr. Kessler have said that Mr. Libby did not discuss Mr. Wilson's wife with them in their conversations during the period. Mr. Russert, in a statement, declined to say exactly what he discussed with Mr. Libby, but said he first learned the identity of Mr. Wilson's wife in the column by Mr. Novak.

Movies

I saw Good Night, And Good Luck a few weeks ago and I wasn't disappointed. So nice when a movie you are excited to see doesn't suck ass. Go see it. Great performances. Music is lovely. Important story. One of my favorite places here in LA is the revival movie house, The New Beverly Cinema. Seven dollars for a double feature. Sometimes the theme is the director. Today they are showing 2001 and Clockwork Orange. Sometimes it is the actress (Sabrina and Breakfast at Tiffany's). Sometimes it is theme- earlier this month they showed Somewhere in Time and Time After Time. (Former is pure le formage, but a guilty pleasure. The latter is one of my favorite movies when I was a kid. Do you find yourself not watching films you liked as a child because you are afraid you won't like them anymore?) Anyway- I think The New Beverly should show Good Night, And Good Luck with Network. Saw Capote yesterday. Zowie. What a performance. What a script. They capture his charisma and inate solipsism. There is this moment where the killers are about to be hung and Capote is crying and Perry Smith, the killer that he formed the bond with is consoling him. . . Some reviewers have said that Catherine Keener's performance as Harper Lee is lackluster, but I think they are completely off track. Okay, yes. She is one of my favorite actresses, so maybe I am biased- but she does her job. No, she isn't as flashy as Capote- she shouldn't be. But if you watch her eyes, there is all the subtext in the world in them. There is a moment at the screening of the film adaptation of To Kill A Mockingbird and she goes over to Capote, her childhood friend and he can't even offer the smallest of congratulations. So go see that too. They had a preview for the next movie I am excited about, the adaptation of Jarhead. (Is it wrong that I am excited that the film will make my signed first edition that much more valuable?) Was a smart preview- Didn't give anything away. (Thank God. I fucking hate previews that give me every plot point in every act. Why do I need to see the movie then??) Fantasic cast- Jake Gyllenhaal, Peter Sarsgaard (another favorite actor), Jamie Foxx, Chris Cooper. Directed by Sam Mendes. Shot by Roger Deakins (O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Big Lebowski, Fargo, The Hudsucker Proxy, Barton Fink, Shawshank Redemption. . . among others) so it will look really, really pretty. Well, as pretty as Desert Storm could have looked. It is not going to suck unless they really screw it up and I don't see that happening. Jake (Is it wrong to think someone who is ten years younger than I am is so dreamy) is also in my favorite directors next flick, the adaptation of E. Annie Proulx's novel Brokeback Mountain (The Gay Cowboy Movie). Ah, I love the fall. Good movies all crammed into a few months.

My Parents Rule

Of all of my furniture I am selling or giving away, I have been rather blue about losing my bed. I used to work for a furniture store in Seattle and we made log Douglas Fir furniture. The logs were steamed and the bark peeled so that it was at the cambium layer of the wood, mortise and tenon joints- quality stuff. They let us buy the furniture wholesale and in installments so I had a rather substantial furniture 401K set up. I worked hard for this bed and the other stuff that I got from that store. I haven't been happy about selling it, but what are you going to do. Talking to mom today- not sure if she offered or if I asked but she and Gary are going to drive in this weekend with their truck, help me schlep the stuff I have left off to Goodwill, then we'll go to one of my favorite things in Los Angeles, the yearly Dia De Muertos (Day of the Dead) Festival at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. I'll probably drag them off to Mexican food after because I will not have it available to me rather soon. Then Sunday they will drive back to Vegas with my bedroom set. We will be able to decide what to do with it when I know for sure what part of the world we are going to land in. Such a huge relief they will be helping.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Been AWOL

Sorry that I have been AWOL from updating this. Been a crazy week and I am looking at another one. Furniture: Posted my furniture on Craig's List and I've sold a few things. No more TV. We are sad. Someone is coming to look at the sofa and one of the shelves today and I am hoping that I have some nibbles for the armoire and the bed frame. Hoping I sell all this- especially the heavy things. I am having visions of trying to fling heavy things into dumpsters under the coverage of darkness. Going to put my bed on Ebay. Hoping I get a response there. So depressing. I spent thousands of dollars on this stuff and I am selling it for so little. However the name of the game is called getting it out so I don't have to deal with it. Car: Need to take it to CarMax and the deller to see what they offer me for it. Visa: Have it! I did screw up slightly however. The appointment was Wednesday and I brought the copy of the marriage certificate that I needed to mail to the registrar because the paperwork they gave me said it took 30 days to get a certified copy back. Not good enough. Need the certified copy. While I did have all that stuff going on, (wedding, crazy family) it was still no excuse for messing that up. Call Nevada Records and I find out it that I could a certified copy really easily so I flew back to Vegas and then flew back the next day. Rather annoying. I could have FedExed it to my Mom, and she could have sent it back, but that would have meant that I wouldn't have gotten the certified copy until next week and I was chomping at the bit to get the visa. So that is all done. I just need to get rid of the last of my junk and I can get on a jet plane. Then I need to find a job. . .

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Becoming a Republican

This phrase has been one on the gags on Prairie Home Companion the last few years- Premise being sad and depressed? Become a Republican! Found this fantastic bit posted at Library Bitch's blog and it is fanfuckingtastic.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Really Upset

Just had a fight with someone. Stupid. Must learn to not discuss anything beyond the weather with certain people when they are drinking. Especially when I am sober. I move too slow when I am sober. IMing after said discussion of drunken evilness with anther friend and they kept going on about their own drama. I finally interrupted them. I was getting exhausted playing Lucy the psychologist to their Charlie Brown so I finally pulled away the football. ME: Just had major fight. can we talk about something fun please????? FRIEND : Two words for you FRIEND : FLYING MIDGETS FRIEND : think about that ME: that's fun FRIEND : it really is ME: can't go wrong with a flying midget I suppose that isn't PC. I should say, Flying Little Person. Flying Little People are very fun. Unless you are a little person being flung and then I suppose it must be rather disturbing. Anyway. . . Must think happy thoughts. Want to curl into tiny ball and cry. Will perhaps do that later. After I have lots of sushi. And chocolate. And red wine. Maybe some animal crackers dipped in milk.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Best Wedding Present EVER!

Bush's job rating continues to drop Imagine, if you will, Nelson from The Simpson's. "HAA-HAA!"

So That's Done

My friend Jolie took the photo. Still exhausted. It was a really fun party and everyone seemed like they had a great time. I barely ate. I talked to people the whole time and there are so many people that I missed and should have spent more time with. Getting married and then moving far, far away makes it that much more emotional. Will talk more about the details later when I can compose complex sentences and not the simplistic "See Dick and Jane get married." that I am only able to do right now. Next step. . . the visa.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Countdown part deux

Outside the Las Vegas Marriage Bureau where you get your marriage license, guys hang out trying to lure you to their wedding chapel. It felt like Brick Lane but different. Earlier in the day we met with the wedding dude at the Unitarian Church and he went over everything that he is going to say. He seems really nice and kept stressing how Unitarian's are all about being inclusive- irregardless or race, gender or sexuality. Stu's family, my sister and my ten-year-old nephew Grey arrive this evening. Mom told me that Grey insisted that his father buy him a new suit which may be the sweetest thing ever. Got my nails done- simple French manicure so I am typing this very, very carefully. Mom is cooking up a storm. I guess this is happening, isn't it?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Countdown

Been running around with Stu and Ollie the last few days in Los Angeles and we drove to Las Vegas today. Day before yesterday, we drove up PCH a bit past Pepperdine and then walked around on the beach throwing seaweed at each other. Later we went to the Santa Monica Pier and did the Ferris Wheel which I have ALWAYS wanted to do so I was happy. This afternoon we have been sitting getting progressively drunk with my mom. Pizza has been ordered. I take that back. Domino's has been ordered, which isn't even a distant relative to pizza. It's just dough with crap on top. But it has been ordered and I will be happy to consume it. At one point today we were talking about places to go eat. Stu always forces me to take him to Denny's at some point. He asked my Mom if she or my Stepfather could take him and she said, "But Denny's is shit!" Ollie covered his mouth to stop from laughing out loud. The house looks sparkly with all the lights in the trees. Mom has also made tablecloths from the cloth and bows from the ribbon we bought when I was here in early September. The whole thing feels remarkably surreal. We meet with Rev. Paul tomorrow morning and will get the marriage license later in the day. I guess this is happening isn't it?

Monday, October 10, 2005

Columbus Day

Let's all raise our glass and celebrate National Genocide Day! By Howard Zinn Columbus and Western Civilization George Orwell, who was a very wise man, wrote: "Who controls the past controls the future. And who controls the present controls the past." In other words, those who dominate our society are in a position to write our histories. And if they can do that, they can decide our futures. That is why the telling of the Columbus story is important. Let me make a confession. I knew very little about Columbus until about 12 years ago, when I began writing my book A People's History of the United States of America. I had a Ph.D. in history from Columbia University--that is, I had the proper training of a historian, and what I knew about Columbus was pretty much what I had learned in elementary school. But when I began to write my People's History, I decided I must learn about Columbus. I had already concluded that I did not want to write just another overview of American history-- I knew my point of view would be different. I was going to write about the United States from the point of view of those people who had been largely neglected in the history books: the indigenous Americans, the black slaves, the women, the working people, whether native or immigrant. I wanted to tell the story of the nation's industrial progress from the standpoint, not of Rochefeller and Carnegie and Vanderbilt, but of the people who worked in their mines, their oil fields, who lost their limbs or their lives building the railroads. I wanted to tell the story of wars, not from the standpoint of generals and presidents, not from the standpoint of those military heroes whose statues you see all over this country, but through the eyes of the GIs, or through the eyes of "the enemy". Yes, why not look at the Mexican War, that great military triumph of the United States, from the viewpoint of the Mexicans? And so, how must I tell the story of Columbus? I concluded, I must see him through the eyes of people who were here when he arrived, the people he called "Indians" because he thought he was in Asia. Well, they left no memoirs, no histories. Their culture was an oral culture, not a written one. Besides, they had been wiped out in a few decades after Columbus' arrival. So I was compelled to turn to the next best thing: The Spaniards who were on the scene at the time. First, Columbus himself. He had kept a journal. His journal was revealing. He described the people who greeted him when landed in the Bahamas--they were Arawak Indians, some times called Tainos--and told how they waded out into the sea to greet him and his men, who must have looked and sounded like people from another world, and brought them gifts of various kinds. He described them as peaceable, gentle, and said: "They do not bear arms, and do not know for I showed them a sword--they took it by the edge and cut themselves." Throughout his journal, over the next months, Columbus spoke of the native Americans with what seemed like admiring awe: "They are the best people in the world and above all the gentlest--without knowledge of what is evil--nor do they murder or steal...they love their neighbors as themselves and they have the sweetest talk in the world...always laughing." And in a letter he wrote to one of his Spanish patrons, Columbus said: "They are very simple and honest and exceedingly liberal with all they have, none of them, in the midst of all this, in his journal, Columbus writes: "They would make fine servants. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want." Yes, this was how Columbus saw the Indians--not as hospitable hosts, but "servants," to "do whatever we want." And what did Columbus want? This is not hard to determine. In the first two weeks of journal entries, there is one word that recurs seventy-five times: GOLD. In the standard accounts of Columbus what is emphasized again and again is his religious feeling, his desire to convert the natives to Christianity, his reverence for the Bible. Yes, he was concerned about God. But more about Gold. Just one additional letter. His was a limited alphabet. Yes, all over the islands of Hispaniola, where he, his brothers, his men, spent most of their time, he erected crosses. But also, all over the island, they built gallows--340 of them by the year 1500. Crosses and gallows--that deadly historic juxtaposition. In his quest for gold, Columbus, seeing bits of gold among the Indians, concluded there were huge amounts of it. He ordered the natives to find a certain amount of gold within a certain period of time. And if they did not meet their quota, their arms were hacked off. The others were to learn from this and deliver the gold. Samuel Eliot Morison, the Harvard historian who was Columbus' admiring biographer, acknowledged this. He wrote: "Whoever thought up this ghastly system, Columbus was responsible for it, as the only means of producing gold for export.... Those who fled to the mountains were hunted with hounds, and those who escaped, starvation and disease took toll, while thousands of poor creatures in desperation took cassava poison to end their miseries." Morison continues: "So the policy and acts of Columbus for which he alone was responsible began the depopulation of the terrestrial paradise that was Hispaniola in 1492. Of the original natives, estimated by modern ethnologist at 300,000 in number, one-third were killed off between 1494 and 1496. By 1508, an enumeration showed only 60,000 alive...in 1548 Oviedo (Morison is referring to Fernandex de Oviedo, the official Spanish historian of conquest) doubted whether 500 Indians remained. But Columbus could not obtain enough gold to send home to impress the King and Queen and his Spanish financiers, so he decided to send back to Spain another kind of loot: slaves. They rounded up about 1200 natives, selected 500, and these were sent, jammed together, on the voyage across the Atlantic. Two hundred died on the way, of cold, of sickness. In Columbus' journal, an entry of September 1498 reads: "From here one might send, in the name of Holy Trinity, as many slaves as could be sold..." What the Spaniards did to the Indians is told in horrifying detail by Bartolome de las Casas, whose writing give the most thorough account of the Spanish-Indian encounter. Las Casas was a Dominican priest who came to the New World a few years after Columbus, spent forty years on Hispaniola and nearby islands, and became the leading advocate in Spain for the rights of the natives. Las Casas, in his book The Devastation of the Indies, writes of Arawaks: "...of all the infinite universe of humanity, these people are the most guileless, the most devoid of wickedness and duplicity...yet into this sheepfold...there came some Spaniards who immediately behaved like ravening beasts.... Their reason for killing and destroying... is that Christian's have an ultimate aim which is to acquire gold..." The cruelties multiplied. Las Casas saw soldier stabbing Indians for sport, dashing babies' heads on rocks. And when the Indians resisted, the Spaniards hunted them down, equipped for killings with horses, armor plate, lances, pikes, rifles, crossbows, and vicious dogs. Indians who took things belonging to Spaniards--they were not accustomed to the concept of private ownership and gave freely of their own possessions--were beheaded, or burned at the stake. Las Casas' testimony was corroborated by other eyewitnesses. A group of Dominican friars, addressing the Spanish monarchy in 1519, hoping for the Spanish government to intercede, told about unspeakable atrocities, children thrown to dogs to be devoured, new-born babies born to women prisoners flung into the jungle to die. Forced labor in the mines and on the land led to much sickness and death. Many children died because their mothers, overworked and starved, had no milk for them. Las Casas, in Cuba, estimated that 7000 children died in three months. The greatest toll was taken by sickness, because the Europeans brought with them disease against which the native had no immunity: typhoid, typhus, diphtheria, smallpox. As in any military conquest, women came in for especially brutal treatment. One Italian nobleman named Cuneo recorder an early sexual encounter. The "Admiral" he refers to is Columbus, who, as part of his agreement with Spanish monarchy, insisted he be made an Admiral. Cueno wrote: "...I captured a very beautiful Carib women, whom the said Lord Admiral gave to me and with whom...I conceived desire to take pleasure. I wanted to put my desire into execution but she did not want it and treated me with her finger nails in such manner that I wished I had never begun. But seeing that, I took a rope and thrashed her well.... Finally we came to an agreement." There is other evidence which adds up to a picture of widespread rape of native women. Samuel Eliot Morison: "In the Bahamas, Cuba and Hispaniola they found young beautiful women, who everywhere were naked, in most places accessible, and presumably complaisant." Who presumes this? Morison, and so many others. Morison saw the conquest as so many writers after him have done, as one of the great romantic adventures of world history. He seemed to get carries away by what appeared to him a masculine conquest. He wrote: "Never again may mortal men hope to recapture the amazement, the wonder, the delight of those October days in 1492, when the new world gracefully yielded her virginity to the conquering Castilians." The language of Cueno ("we came to an agreement"), and of Morison ("gracefully yield") written almost five hundred years apart, surely suggests how persistent through modern history has been the mythology that rationalizes sexual brutality but seeing it as "complaisant." So, I read Columbus' journal, I read Las Casas. I also read Hans Koning's pioneering work of our time--Columbus: His Enterprise, which, at the time I wrote my People's History was the only contemporary account I could find which departed from the standard treatment. When my book appeared, I began to get letters from all over the country about it. Here was a book of 600 pages, starting with Columbus, about one subject: Columbus. I could have interpreted this to mean, that since this was the very beginning of the book, that's all these people had read. But no, it seemed that the Columbus story was simply the part of my book that readers found most startling. Because ever American, from elementary school on, learns the Columbus story, and learns it the same way: "In Fourteen Hundred and Ninety Two, Columbus Sailed the Ocean Blue. How many of you have heard of Tigard, Oregon? Well, I didn't until, about seven years ago, I began receiving, every semester, a bunch of letters, twenty or thirty, from students at one high school in Tigard, Oregon. It seems that their teacher was having them (knowing high schools, I almost said "forcing them") read my People's History. He was photocopying a number of the chapters and giving them to the students. And then he had them write letters to me, with comments and questions. Roughly half of them thanked me for giving them data which they had never seen before. The others were angry, or wondered how I got such information, and how I had arrived at such outrageous conclusions. One high school student named Bethany wrote: "Out of all the articles that I've read of yours I found 'Columbus, The Indians, and Human Progress' the most shocking." Another student named Brian, seventeen years old, wrote: "An example of the confusion I feel after reading your article concerns Columbus coming to America.... According to you, it seems he came for women, slaves, and gold. You've said you have gained a lot of this information from Columbus' own journal. I am wondering if there is such a journal, and if so, why isn't it part of our history. Why isn't any of what you say in my history book, or in history books people have access to each day." I pondered this letter, It could be interpreted to mean that the writer was indignant that no other history books had told him what I did. Or, as more likely, he was saying: "I don't believe a word of what you wrote! You made this up!" I am not surprised at such reactions. It tells something about the claims of pluralism and diversity in American culture, the pride in our "free society," that generation after generation has learned exactly the same set of facts about Columbus, and finished their education with the same glaring omissions. A school teacher in Portland, Oregon named Bill Bigelow has undertaken a crusade to change the way the Columbus story is taught all over America. He tells of how he sometimes starts a new class. He goes over to a girls in the front row, and takes her purse. She says: "You took my purse!" Bigelow responds: "No, I discovered it." Bill Bigelow did a study of recent children's books on Columbus. He found them remarkably alike in their repetition of the traditional point of view. A typical fifth grade biography of Columbus begins: "There once was a boy who loved the salty sea." Well! I can imagine a children's biography of Attila the Hun beginning with the sentence "There once was a boy who loved horses." Another children's book in Bigelow's study, this time for second graders: "The King and queen looked at the gold and the Indians. They listened in wonder to Columbus' stories of adventure. Then they all went to church to pray and sing. Tears of joy filled Columbus' eyes." I once spoke about Columbus to a workshop of school teachers, and one of them suggested that school children were to young to hear of the horrors recounted by Las Casas and others. Other disagreed, said children's stories include plenty of violence, but the perpetrators are witches and monsters and "bad people," not national heroes who have holidays named after them. Some of the teachers made suggestions on how the truth could be told in a way that would not frighten children unnecessarily, but that would avoid the falsification of history taking place. The arguments about children "not being ready to heard the truth does not account for the fact that in American society, when the children grow up, they still are not told the truth. As I said earlier, right up through graduate school I was not presented with the information that would counter the myths told to me in the early grades. And it is clear that my experience is typical, judging from the shocked reactions to my book that I have from readers of all ages. If you look in an adult book, the Columbus Encyclopedia (my edition was put together in 1950, but all the relevant information was available then, including Morison's biography), there is a long entry on Columbus (about 1,000 words) but you find no mention of the atrocities committed by him and his men. In the 1986 edition of the Columbia History of the World, there are several mentions of Columbus, but nothing about what he did to the natives. Several pages are devoted to "Spain and Portugal in America," in which the treatment of the native population is presented as a matter of controversy, among the theologians at the time, and among historians today. You can get the flavor of this "balanced approach," containing a nugget of reality, by following passage from that History. "The determination of the Crown and the Church to Christianize the Indians, the need for labor to exploit the new lands, and the attempts of some Spaniards to protect the Indians, resulted in a very remarkable complex of customs, laws, and institutions which even today leads historians to contradictory conclusions about Spanish rule in America.... Academic disputes flourish on this debatable and in a sense insoluble question, but there is no doubt that cruelty, overwork and disease resulted in an appalling depopulation. There were, according to recent estimates, about 25 million Indians in Mexico in 1519, slightly more than 1 million in 1605." Despite this scholarly language---"contradictory conclusions...academic disputed...insoluble question"---there is no real dispute about the facts of enslavement, forced labor, rape, murder, the taking of hostages, the ravages of disease carried from Europe, and the wiping out of huge numbers of native people. The only dispute is over how much emphasis is to be placed on these facts, and how they carry over into the issue of our time. For instance, Samuel Eliot Morison does spend some time detailing the treatment of the natives by Columbus and his men, and uses the word "genocide" to describe the overall effect of the "discovery." But he buries this in a midst of long, admiring treatment of Columbus, and sums up his view in the concluding paragraphs of his popular book Christopher Columbus, Mariner, as follows: "He had hid faults and his defects, but they were largely the defects of the qualities that made him great-- his indomitable will, his superb faith in God and in his own mission as the Christ-bearer to lands beyond the seas, his stubborn persistence despite neglect, poverty and discouragement. But there was no flaw, no dark side to the most outstanding and essential of all his qualities-- his seamanship." Yes, his seamanship! Let me make myself clear. I am not interested in either denouncing or exalting Columbus. It is too late for that. We are not writing a letter of recommendation for him to decide his qualification for undertaking another voyage to another part of the universe. To me, the Columbus story is important for what it tells us about ourselves, about our time, about the decisions we make for our country, for the next century. Why this great controversy today about Columbus and the celebration of the quincentennial? Why the indignation of native Americans and others about the glorification of that conqueror? Why the heated defense of Columbus by others? The intensity of the debate can only be because it is not about 1492, it is about 1992. We can get a clue to this if we look back a hundred years to 1892, the year of the quadricentennial. There were great celebrations in Chicago and New York. In New York there were five days of parades, fireworks, military marches, naval pageants, a million visitors to the city, a memorial statue unveiled at a corner of Central Park, now to be known as Columbus Circle. A celebratory meeting took place at Carnegie Hall, addressed by Chauncey DePew. You might not know the name of Chauncey DePew, unless you recently looked at Gustavus Myers' classic work, A History of the Great American Fortune. In that book, Chauncey DePew is described as the front man for Cornelius Vanderbilt and his New York Central railroad. DePew traveled to Albany, the capital of New York State, which satchels of money and free railroad passes for members of the New York Sate Legislature, and came away with subsidies and land grants for the New York Central. DePew saw the Columbus festivities as a celebration of wealth and prosperity--you might say "marks the wealth and the civilization of a great people...it marks the things that belong to their comfort and their ease, their pleasure and their luxuries...and their power." We might know that at that time he said this, there was much suffering among the working poor of America, huddled in the city slums, their children sick and undernourished. The plight of people who worked on the land--which at this time was a considerable part of the population--was desperate, leading to the anger of the Farmers' Alliances and the rise of the People's (Populist) Party. And the following year, 1893 was a year of economic crisis and widespread misery. DePew must have sensed, as he stood on the platform at Carnegie Hall, some murmurings of discontent at the smugness that accompanied that spirit of historical inquiry which doubts everything; that modern spirit which destroys all the illusions and all the heroes which have been the inspirations of patriotism through all the centuries. So, to celebrate Columbus was to be patriotic. To doubt was to be unpatriotic. And what did "patriotism" mean to DePew? It meant the glorification of expansion and conquest--which Columbus represented and which America represented. It was just six years after his speech that the United States, expelling Spain from Cuba, began its own long occupation (sporadically military, continuously political and economic) of Cuba, took Puerto Rico and Hawaii, and began its bloody war against the Filipinos to take over their country. That "patriotism" which was tied to the celebration of Columbus and the celebration of conquest, was reinforced in the Second World War by the emergence of the United States as the superpower, all the old European empires now in decline. At that time, Henry Luce, the powerful president-maker and multimillionaire, owner of Time, Life, and Fortune (not just the publication, but the things!) wrote that the twentieth century was turning into "American Century," in which the United States would have its way in the world. George Bush, accepting the presidential nomination in 1988, said: "This has been called the American Century because in it we were the dominant force of good in the world.... Now we are on the verge of a new century, and what country's name will it bear? I say it will be another American Century." What arrogance! That the twenty-first century, when we should be getting away from the murderous jingoism of the century, should already be anticipated as an American century, or as any one nation's century. Bush must think of himself as a new Columbus, "discovering" and planting his nation's flag on new world, because he called for a U.S. colony on the moon early in the next century. And forecast a mission to Mars in the year 2019. The "patriotism" that Chauncey DePew invoked in celebrating Columbus was profoundly tied to the notion of inferiority of the conquered peoples. Columbus' attacks on the Indians were justified by the status as sub-humans. The taking of Texas and much of Mexico by the United States just before the civil War was done with the same racist rationale. Sam Houston, the first governor of Texas, proclaimed: "The Anglo-Saxon race must pervade the whole southern extremity of the whole southern extremity of this vast continent. The Mexicans are no better than the Indians and I see no reasons why we should not take their land." At the start of the twentieth century, the violence of the new American expansionism into the Caribbean and the Pacific was accepted because we were dealing with lesser beings. In the year 1990, Chauncey DePew, now a U.S. Senator, spoke again in Carnegie Hall, this time to support Theodore Roosevelt's candidacy for vice-president. Celebrating the conquest of the Philippines as a beginning of the American penetration of China and more, he proclaimed: "The guns of Dewery in Manila Bay were heard across Asia and Africa, they echoed through the palace at Peking and brought to the Oriental mind a new potent force among western nations. We, in common with the countries of Europe, are striving to enter the limitless markets of the east.... These people respect nothing but power. I believe the Philippines will be enormous markets and sources of wealth." Theodore Roosevelt, who appears endlessly on lists of our "great presidents," and whose face is one of the four colossal sculptures of American presidents (along with Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln) carved into Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, was "a crime against white civilization." In his book The strenuous Live, Roosevelt wrote: "Of course our whole national history has been one of expansion...that the barbarians recede or are conquered...is due solely to the power of the mighty civilized races which have not lost the fighting instinct." An army officer in the Philippines put it even more bluntly: "There is no use mincing words... We exterminated the American Indians and I guess most of us are proud of it...and we must have no scruples about extermination this other race standing in the way of progress and enlightenment, if it is necessary..." The official historian of the Indies in the early sixteenth century, Fernandes de Oviedo, did not deny what was done to natives by the conquistadors. He described "innumerable cruel deaths as countless as the stars." But this was acceptable, because "to use gunpowder against pagans is to offer incense to the Lord." (One is reminded of President McKinley's decision to send the army and navy to take the Philippines, saying it was the duty of the United States to "Christianize and civilize" the Filipinos.) Against las Casas' please for mercy to the Indians, the theologian Juan Gines de Sepulveda declared: "How can we doubt that these people, so uncivilized, so barbaric, so contaminated with so many sins and obscenities, have been justly conquered." Sepulveda in the year 1531 visited his former college in Spain and was outraged by seeing the students there protesting Spain's war against Turkey. The students were saying: "All war...is contrast to the Catholic religion." This led him to write philosophical defense of the Spanish treatment of the Indians. He quoted Aristotle, who wrote in his Politics that some people were "slaves by nature," who "would be hunted down like wild beasts in order to bring them to the correct way of life." Las Casas responded: "Let us send Aristotle packing, for we have in our favor the command of Christ: Thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself." The dehumanization of the "enemy" has been a necessary accompaniment to wars conquest. It is easier to explain atrocities if they are committed against infidels, or people of an inferior race. Slavery and racial segregation in the United States, and European imperialism in Asia and Africa, were justified in this way. The bombings in Vietnamese villages by the United States, the search and destroy missions, the My Lau massacre, were all made palatable to their perpetrators by the idea that the victims were not human. They were "gooks" or "Communists," and deserved what they received. In the Gulf War, the dehumanization of the Iraqis consisted of not recognizing their existence. We were not bombing women, children, not bombing and shelling ordinary Iraqi young men in the act of flight and surrender. We were acting against a Hitler-like monster, Saddam Hussein, although the people we were killing were the Iraqi victims of this monster. When General Colin Powell asked about Iraqi causalities he said that was "really not a matter I am terribly interested in." The American people were led to accept the violence of the war in Iraq because the Iraqis were made invisible--because the United States only used "smart bombs." The major media ignored the enormous death toll in Iraq, ignored the report of the Harvard medical team that visited Iraq shortly after the war and found that tens of thousands of Iraqi children were dying because of the bombing of the water supply and the resultant epidemic of disease. The celebrations of Columbus are declared to be celebrations not just of his maritime exploits but of "progress," of his arrival in the Bahamas as the beginning of that much-praised five hundred years of "Western civilization." But those concepts need to be re-examined. When Gandhi was once asked what he though about Western civilization, he replied: "It's a good idea." The point is not to deny the benefits of "progress" and "civilization"--advances in technology, knowledge, science, health, education, and standards of living. But there is a question to be asked: progress yes, but at what human cost? Is progress simply to be measured in the statistics of industrial and technological change, without regard to the consequences of that "progress" for human beings? Would we accept a Russian justification of Stalin's rule, including enormous toll in human suffering, on the ground that he made Russian a great industrial power? I recall that in my high school classes in American history when we came to the period after the Civil War, roughly the years between that War and World War I, it was looked on as the Gilded Age, the period of the great Industrial Revolution, when the United States became an economic giant. I remember how thrilled we were to learn of the dramatic growth of the steel and oil industries, of the building of the great fortunes, of the criss-crossing of the country by the railroads. We were not told of the human cost of this great industrial progress: how the huge production of cotton came from the labor of black slaves; how the textile industry was built up by the labor of young girls who went into the mills at twelve and died at twenty-five; how the railroads were constructed by Irish and Chinese immigrants who were literally worked to death, in the heat of summer and cold of winter; how working people, immigrants and native born, had to go out on strike and win the eight-hour day; how the children of the working-class, in the slums of the city, had to drink polluted water, and how they died early of malnutrition and disease. All this in the name of "progress." And yes, there are huge benefits from industrialization, science, technology, medicine. But so far, in these five hundred years of Western civilization, of Western domination of the rest of the world, most of those benefits have gone to a small part of the human race. For billions of people in the Third World, they still face starvation, homelessness, disease, the early deaths of their children. Did the Columbus expedition mark the transition from savagery to civilization? What of the Indian civilizations which had been build up over thousands of years before Columbus came? Las Casas and others marveled at the spirit of sharing and generosity which marked the Indians societies, the communal building in which they lived , their aesthetic sensibilities, the egalitarianism among men and women. The British colonist in North America were startled at the democracy of the Iroquois--the tribes who occupied much of New York and Pennsylvania. The American historian Gary Nash described Iroquois culture: "No laws and ordinances, sheriffs and constables, judges and juries, or courts or jails--the apparatus of authority in European societies--were to be found in the northeast woodlands prior to European arrival. Yet boundaries of acceptable behavior were firmly set. Through priding themselves on the autonomous individual, the Iroquois maintained a strict sense of right and wrong..." In the course of westward expansion, the new nation, the United States, stole the Indians' land, killed them when they resisted, destroyed their sources of food and shelter, pushed them into smaller and smaller sections of the country, went about the systematic destruction of Indian society. At the time of the Black Hawk War in the 1830s--one of hundreds of wars waged against the Indians of North America--Lewis Cas, the governor of the Michigan territory, referred to his taking of millions of acres from the Indians as "the progress of civilization." He said: "A barbarous people cannot live in contact with a civilized community." We get the sense of how "barbarous" these Indians were when, in the 1880s, Congress prepared legislation to break up the communal lands in which Indians still lived, into small private possessions, what today some people would call admiringly, "privatization." Senator Henry Dawes, author of this legislation, "visited the Cherokee Nation, and described what he found: "...there was not a family in the whole nation that had not a home of it's own. There was not a pauper in the nation, and the nation did not owe a dollar...it built its own schools and its hospitals. Yet they defect of the system was apparent. They have got as far as they can go, because they own their land in common...there is not enterprise to make you home any better than that of your neighbors. There is no selfishness, which is at the bottom of civilization." That selfishness at the bottom of "civilization" is connected with what drove Columbus on, and what is much-praised today, as American political leaders and the media speak about how the West will do great favor to the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe by introducing "the profit motive" Granted, there may be certain ways in which the incentive of profit may be helpful in economic development, but that incentive, in the history of the "free market" in the West, has had horrendous consequences. It led, throughout the centuries of "Western Civilization," to a ruthless imperialism. In Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness, written in the 1890s, after some time spent in the Upper Congo of Africa, he describes the work done by black men in chains on behalf of white men who were interested only in ivory. He writes: "The word 'ivory' rang in the air, was whispered, was sighed. You would think they were praying to it... To tear treasure out of the bowels of the land was their desire, with no more moral purpose at the back of it than there is in burglars breaking into a safe." The uncontrolled drive for profit has led to enormous human suffering, exploitation, slavery, cruelty in the workplace, dangerous working conditions, child labor, the destruction of land and forests, the poisoning of the air we breath, the water we drink, the food we eat. In his 1933 autobiography, Chief Luther Standing Bear wrote: "True the white man brought great change. But the varied fruits of his civilization, though highly colored and inviting, are sickening and deadening. And if it be the part of civilization to maim, rob, and thwart, then what is progress? I am going to venture that the man who sat on the ground in his tipi meditating on life and its meaning, accepting the kinship of all creatures, and acknowledging unity with the universe of things, was infusing into his being the true essence of civilization." The present threats to the environment have caused a reconsideration among scientists and other scholars of the value of "progress" as it has been so far defined. In December in 1991, there was a two-day conference at MIT, in which fifty scientists and historians discussed the idea of progress in Western thought. Here is part of the report on that conference in the Boston Globe. "In a world where resources are being squandered and the environment poisoned, participants in a MIT conference said yesterday, it is time for people to start thinking in terms of sustainability and stability rather than growth and progress... Verbal fireworks and heated exchanges that sometimes grew into shouting matched punctuated the discussions among scholars of economics, religion, medicine, history and the sciences." One of the participants, historian Leo Marx, said the working toward a more harmonious coexistence with nature is itself is itself a kind of progress, but different than the traditional one in which people try to overpower nature. So, to look back at Columbus in a critical way is to raise all these question about progress, civilization, our relations with one another, our relationship to the natural world. You probably have heard--as I have, quite often--that it is wrong for us to treat Columbus story the way we do. What they say is: "You are taking Columbus out of context, looking at him with the eyes of the twentieth century. You must not superimpose the values of our time on events that took place 500 years ago. That is ahistorical." I find this argument strange. Does it mean that cruelty, exploitation, greed, enslavement, violence against helpless people, are values peculiar to the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries? And that we in the twentieth century, are beyond that? Are there not certain human values which are common to the age of Columbus and to our own? Proof of this is that both in his time and in ours there were enslavers and exploiters; in both his time and ours there were those who protested against this, on behalf of human rights. It is encouraging that, in this year of the quincentennial, there is a wave of protest, unprecedented in all the years of celebration of Columbus, all over the United States, and throughout the Americas. Much of this protest is being led by Indians, who are organizing conferences and meetings, who are engaging in acts of civil disobedience, who are trying to educated the American public about what really happened five hundred years ago, and what it tells us about the issues of our time. There is a new generation of teachers in out schools, and many of them are insisting that the Columbus story be told from the point of view of view of the native Americans. In the fall of 1990 I was telephoned from Los Angeles by a talk-show host who wanted to discuss Columbus. Also on the line was a high school student in that city, named Blake Lindsey, who had insisted on addressing the Los Angeles City council to oppose the traditional Columbus Day celebrations. She told them of the genocide committed by the Spaniards against the Arawak Indians. The city council did not respond. Someone called in on that talk show, introducing herself as a women who had emigrated from Haiti. She said: "That girl is right--we have no Indians left--in our last uprising against government the people knocked down the statue of Columbus and now it is in the basement of the city hall in Por-au-Prince." The caller finished by saying: "Why don't we build statues for the aborigines?" Despite the textbooks still in use, more teachers are questioning, more students are questioning. Bill Begelow reports on the reactions of his students after he introduces them to reading material which contradicts the traditional histories. One student wrote: "In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.... That story is about as complete as Swiss cheese." Another wrote a critique of her American history textbook to the publisher, Allyn and Bacon, pointing to many important omissions in that text. She said: "I'll just pick one topic to keep it simple. How about Columbus?" Another student: "It seemed to me as if the publishers had just printed up some glory story that was supposed to make us feel more patriotic about our country.... They want us to look at our country as great and powerful and forever right.... We're being fed lies." When students discover that in the very fist history they learn--the story of Columbus--they have not been told the whole truth, it leads to a healthy skepticism about all of their historical education. One of Begelow's students, named Rebecca, wrote: "What does it matter who discovered America, really?... But the thought that I've been lied to all my life about this, and who knows what else, really makes me angry." This new critical thinking in the schools and in the colleges seems to frighten those who have glorified what is called "Western civilization." Reagan's Secretary of Education, William Bennett, in his 1984 "Report on the Humanities in Higher Education," writes of Western civilization as "our common culture...its highest ideas and aspirations." One of the most ferocious defenders of Western civilization is philosopher Allan Bloom, who wrote The Closing of the American Mind in the spirit of panic at what the social movements of the Sixties had done to change the educational atmosphere of American universities. He was frightened by the students demonstrations he saw at Cornell, which he saw as a terrible interference with education. Bloom's idea of education was a small group of very smart students, in an elite university, studying Plato and Aristotle, and refusing to be disturbed in their contemplation by the noise outside their windows of students rallying against racism or protesting against the war in Vietnam. As I read him, I was reminded of some of my colleagues, when I was teaching in a black college in Atlanta, George at a time of the civil rights movement, who shook their heads in disapproval when our students left their classes to sit-in, to be arrested, in protest against racial segregation. These students were neglecting their education, they said. In fact, these students were learning more in a few weeks of participation in social struggle than they could learn in a year of going to class. What a narrow, stunted understanding of education! It corresponds perfectly to the view of history which insists that Western civilization is the summit of human achievement. As Bloom wrote in his book: "...only in the Western nations, i.e. those influenced by Greek philosophy, is there some willingness to doubt the identification of the good with one's own way." Well, if this willingness to doubt the hallmark of Greek philosophy, then Bloom and his fellow idolizers of Western civilization are ignorant of that philosophy. If Western civilization is considered the high point of human progress, the United States is the best representative of this civilization. Here is Allen Bloom again: "This is the American moment in the world history.... America tells one story: the unbroken, ineluctable progress of freedom and equality. From its first settlers and its political foundings on, there has been no dispute that freedom and equality are the essence of justice for us..." Yes, tell black people and native Americans and the homeless and those without health insurance, and all the victims abroad of American foreign policy that America "tells one story...freedom and equality." Western civilization is complex. It represents many things, some decent, some horrifying. We would have to pause before celebrating it uncritically when we note that David Duke, the Louisiana Ku Klux Klan member and ex-Nazi says that people have got him wrong. "The common strain in my thinking," he told a reporter, "is my love for Western civilization." We who insist on looking critically at the Columbus story, and indeed at everything in our traditional histories, are often accused of insisting on Political Correctness, to the detriment of free speech. I find this odd. It is the guardian of the old stories, the orthodox histories, who refuse to widen the spectrum of ideas, to take in new books, new approaches, new information, new views of history. They, who claim to believe in "free markets" do not believe in a free marketplace of ideas, any more than they believe in a free marketplace of goods and services. In both material goods and in ideas, they want the market dominated by those who have always held power and wealth. They worry that if new ideas enter the marketplace, people may begin to rethink the social arrangements that have given us so much sufferings, so much violence, so much war these last five hundred years of "civilization." Of course we had all that before Columbus arrived in this hemisphere, but resources were puny, people were isolated from one another, and the possibilities were narrow. In recent centuries, however, the world has become amazingly small, our possibilities for creating a decent society have enormously magnified, and so the excuses for hunger, ignorance, violence, racism, no longer exist. In rethinking our history, we are not just looking at the past, but at the present, and trying to look at it from a point of view of those who have been left out of the benefits of so-called civilizations. It is a simple but profoundly important thing we are trying to accomplish, to look at the world from other points of view. We need to do that, as we come into the next century, if we want this coming century to be different, if we want it to be, not an American century, or a Western century, or a white century, or a male century, or any nation's, any group's century, but a century for the human race.

Shut Out on Healthcare After Storm

This blew my mind. Prime example of why there needs to be some sort of universal health care in the US. I think this is grade A shameful that this is happening in my country. From The LA Times. A LONG ROAD TO RECOVERY Shut Out on Healthcare After Storm Many hurricane victims don't qualify for aid if their insurance coverage vanished with their jobs. By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar Times Staff Writer October 9, 2005 WASHINGTON— Like most of those whose lives were upended by Hurricane Katrina, 52-year-old school bus driver Emanuel Wilson can thank the federal government for the fact that he has money to pay rent. He's also been given food stamps to make sure he can buy groceries. And if he had young children, the government would almost certainly be helping them get back to school. But what Wilson needs is chemotherapy, and that is something the government seems unable to help him with. Wilson was being treated with monthly chemo injections for his intestinal cancer before the hurricane. He has been denied assistance largely because, before the storm, he had what the government says it wants every American to have: health insurance. The New Orleans man's plight illustrates one of the most perplexing twists in the still-faltering federal effort to help Gulf Coast hurricane victims: a seemingly inconsistent approach to victims' healthcare needs that appears to punish those who had taken the most responsibility for their own care. Under the present rules for Katrina victims, if you are destitute, the government will pay your medical bills. Ditto if you are severely disabled or have children. But if you're an adult who had a job that included health benefits and you lost that job because of the storm, the government can't seem to help. That's true even if, as with Wilson, there is every prospect that you can get your old job back as soon as things begin returning to normal. "I went to Medicaid, and the lady I talked to let me know that Medicaid is mostly if you're disabled or pregnant," said Wilson, who fled New Orleans to Baton Rouge, La. "I don't want to become disabled, and I don't think I can become pregnant, so that leaves me out in the cold." Wilson can't reinstate his health insurance— which expires at the end of this month— because the storm wiped out his job. The government says he doesn't fall into any of the rigid eligibility categories for federally sponsored Medicaid. He's not alone. Of 6,322 displaced households that had applied for Medicaid through Sept. 23 in Louisiana, more than half, 3,456, were not eligible under current rules, according to the state. In the Senate, a bipartisan bill would open Medicaid — the federal program created to serve the needy — for tens of thousands of displaced people like Wilson for up to 10 months. The Bush administration opposes that, saying it would create a major new entitlement. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) said Wilson's predicament illustrated deeper problems with health coverage in America. The administration, he said, is missing an opportunity to use the disaster as a laboratory for reforms. But he also disagrees with the approach proposed in the Senate. "We ought to give these people vouchers to buy private health insurance," Gingrich said. "There is no reason you can't help everybody who is displaced. If you voucherize everyone in this displaced group, that could be a major step toward a better healthcare system." While Washington debates, Wilson's chances of getting the chemotherapy he needs from local medical providers may be slim, because much of the private and public financing for Louisiana's healthcare system is drying up. Businesses shut down by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita don't generate income to pay for employee health plans or state tax revenue to support public programs. Not only patients, but healthcare providers, face a precarious future. The administration has taken some steps. Paperwork requirements for getting Medicaid have significantly eased, but benefits remain restricted mainly to welfare families, severely disabled people, and low-income children and their parents. For adults with no children at home, there is only a federal promise to help hospitals and clinics cover the cost of treating charity cases. That might encourage a local provider to pick up Wilson's treatment, except that the administration has not asked Congress for any money for that purpose. In the Senate, a $9-billion bill with bipartisan support would help cover costs of healthcare in Louisiana, Mississippi and parts of Alabama. Childless adults with low incomes — like Wilson — could get Medicaid. Subsidies would help others maintain private coverage. Hospitals and other facilities could tap into an $800-million fund for hurricane costs. But opposition by the administration has stalled the legislation. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said it would establish "a massive new federal program" and "a new Medicaid entitlement." "We have a massive disruption in public services for healthcare," said the chief executive of the Louisiana Assn. of Nonprofit Organizations, Melissa S. Flournoy. "If we're not getting assistance at the federal level, the state of Louisiana will not be able to address the critical needs of our citizens on our own." State officials say they expect things to get worse. Louisiana may have to cut healthcare benefits for the poor and disabled, not expand them to help others, said Charles F. Castille, undersecretary of the state Department of Health and Hospitals, which oversees Medicaid. Already one of the nation's poorest states, Louisiana expects state revenues to plummet as a result of damage to the New Orleans economy. "Katrina just blew a hole in our state budget," Castille said. "We do not anticipate that we will be able to generate anywhere near the state match necessary to support [the current Medicaid] program." Federal matching funds pay about 70% of the cost, but Castille estimated that Louisiana's share still exceeded $1 billion. The expected hurricane-related shortfall in state revenues may lead to a cut of as much as 40% in Louisiana's share of Medicaid, he said. The Senate bill calls for Washington to cover 100% of the Medicaid program in the disaster areas through 2006. But the Bush administration says that would require federal taxpayers to pick up expenses not directly related to the hurricanes. In Louisiana, state caseworkers who deal directly with evacuees say they are troubled by having to deny medical coverage to people whose lives have been upended and who are clearly in need. "I feel we are neglecting some of our population," Sue Fremin, director of the St. Martin Parish Medicaid office, wrote in an e-mail to her superiors in Baton Rouge. "These are people who maybe were hurt during or after the storm, and now have no income." St. Martin Parish is west of New Orleans. In an interview, Fremin said the case that prompted her e-mail involved a 32-year-old man who tore his Achilles' tendon while helping to unload relief supplies. He now has trouble walking. He had worked at a hospital before Katrina. "Trying to help the victims, he became a victim himself," Fremin said. At Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, the caseload has jumped since Rita and Katrina, and the share of patients who are uninsured has increased by two-thirds, to 10%. "When does it bring us to our knees?" asked the hospital's chief executive, Robert C. Davidge. "The guy adrift in the ocean knows he can't make it ashore, but he'll swim as long as he can." Wilson, the school bus driver with intestinal cancer, was diagnosed last year and had surgeries in December and June. His monthly chemotherapy costs more than $900. Other medications he takes cost about $300 a month. "All I want is temporary assistance, because I know the schools can't stay closed forever," he said.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Cameron Crowe Interview

My friend Doug interviewed Cameron Crowe for Artist Direct. Is a fun interview!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Visa, bad teeth, Tijuana, TV and too many damn donuts

For you American expats in the UK, I found a forum with lots of good info. UK-Yankee Forum. The best part about finding the Web site was finding this post Garry posted in February. "For people concerned about their fiancé or spousal visas, it's interesting to take note of last year's statistics. On the North American desk, which includes the 3 US consulates and the consulate on Canada, there were a total of 42 refusals for settlement out of 4,771 applications. It means the odds of success are 99.2% in your favour. The best odds in the whole world! Chicago has the highest percentage of refusals (1%), followed by NYC, and Ottawa. There were a paltry 2 refusals in LA for the whole year. On the downside, the North American desk has a solid track record for upholding appeals - among the highest. It means that they do not issue refusals very often, but when they do, it tends to stick. The British Consulate in Accra gets the hard-nosed award with a staggering 53% refusal rate for settlement applications." Those odds make me happy. I have been having nervous attacks that they will reject my application. Ophelia asked me if they are going to ask me what kind of toothpaste Stuart uses, like that scene in Green Card where they ask Gérard Depardieu the brand of face cream Andie MacDowell uses. I have no flippen clue what brand of toothpaste Stuart uses. He brushes them and they are very nice teeth for which I am grateful. May I ask what is it with teeth in the UK? I am often terrible with mine. . . I don't floss and will let years go between visits but if I feel any pain I am right in there. I had braces as a kid and my bottom teeth have shifted on my slightly and I will probably do the clear braces thing soon. But when I was in London it shocked me how often you would often see a very attractive person and then they opened their mouth and they looked like Sloth from The Goonies. This is of course an exaggeration. But there were enough bad teeth that you notice it. Are kids just not tortured with braces? Stuart and Ollie arrive tomorrow so I have been cleaning my apartment because it is rather dusty and I haven't mopped in months. I used to have a cleaning service come in and it was great because it forced me to keep my apartment clean. I would always have to clean before the maid came because I couldn't let them see the squalor that I would allow myself to live in if given half a chance. Trying to think of fun cheap things to do with them. It might be nice to drive to San Diego so Stuart can meet my Nana but given how close Tijuana is, I am reluctant to do that. Nothing good could come from Stuart and Ollie being in Tijuana at the same time. I am certain a Mexican jail would be in our future. I finally watched the last three episodes of the first season of Lost. Flippen love that show. What sucks now is I thought I had been DVRing the 2nd season but something went wrong so I need to borrow it from someone before I read or see something that I shouldn't. Do they broadcast Gilmore girls over there? I may need to set up a black market for my TV shows. We ordered the Krispy Kremes today for the wedding. 19 dozen. I figured approximately 75 people give or take. . .so 75 * 3 = 19 dz. That's a hell of a lot of donuts.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Right now God is saying, "Get off my side."

George Bush: 'God told me to end the tyranny in Iraq' From The Guardian.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Love Actually

Watching Love Actually. It isn't a very good movie- too many stories but it hits a soft spot for me. My favorite bit is when the Prime Minister side swipes the President of the US. Wish that would really happen. My second favorite bit is when Bill Nighy says, "Kids don't buy drugs. Become a pop star and they will give them to you for free. . ." My third is when Emma Thompson pulls herself together when she realizes her husband is cheating on her. Fourth is when the beautiful man that Laura Linney has a crush on takes off his shirt. Fifth is the little boy in the octopus costume.

Cat Free Zone

Drove Gordon up to San Francisco yesterday and I came back home today. My apartment is rather lonely with no cats. They were also my alarm system. When I opened the door, if they greeted me, I knew that I was alone. If they didn't greet me, I knew there was a serial killer hiding behind the shower curtain waiting to chop me up into tiny bits. I was a bit weepy driving away from Ophelia and Peter's house. Ophelia was concerned that we couldn't find him to say goodbye, but hunting around for him would have made it worse for me. He will be really happy with them. The drive was really easy. I don't know why I thought it was a longer stretch. That part of the 5 is rolling yellow hills - a quilt of groves and ranches. Very Steinbeck. There is one spot that nearly turned me into a vegetarian. You smell it before you see it. Cows Thousands of cows. As far as you can see - a sea of cow. And the stench of cow farts is enough to make you faint. Anyway- In other cat news: George the little bastard has been peeing on things at my Mother's house. He went through a phase doing that when he was a kitten, but he hasn't done that to me for ages. Mom thinks he was punishing her for trying to teach him how to use the cat door. Garbo is doing really well although they discovered that one of her hiding spots is behind the stove. In order to get behind the stove she needs to jump up on top of the stove and then jump down behind it. I have a vision of her setting herself on fire at some point. In health news: I had the cyro surgery a week ago Monday, so that is done. Right up there on the list of things I never want to do ever again. Back when I had bronchitis in July, my doc took blood and when the results came back she wanted me to redo a test cause some results looked wonky. I have been putting it off but got in there last week. She called today and said my white blood count was low so I have to do another test, but she needs to get permission from the Insurance first (I love HMO's). I am certain it is nothing. If it was something serious, I would have lost weight. :) Glad that I gamed the system so I have health insurance for all of October. In wedding news: It is happening soon. Eleven days. Gulp.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Life is funny

I have been meaning to buy the first season of Lost so I can catch up. I DVR'd the shows I was addicted to when I was in London but it filled up so I am rather behind. I was going to buy it but I have been broke so I put it off , , ,then I got a box of goodies that Stuart ordered from Amazon and I was excited to see that he ordered Season One. He wasn't pleased when I asked him if I could use it. I think he is more concerned about my getting my paws on his DVD collection than about our getting married, which is really funny when you consider that his taste is crap for the most part and he wouldn't know Truffaut's 400 Blows from a porn flick. I did get my way at the end of the conversation- but was instructed to not get my fingerprints all over it. Like I am some sort of a gavone. . . In other news. . . last night I posted my CV on a number of sites- today I got an e-mail from Yahoo asking if I was looking to transfer to the UK office. It would be cool. They are groovy people over there. We shall see. . . Wonder if I will get my stock options back or if I will just be screwed?

Monday, October 03, 2005

Bush Joke

Bush is getting briefed about the situation in Iraq. Suicide bombings, Dead servicemen, Kidnappings, that pesky mother that won't go away. The litany of things going wrong ends with, "And Mr. President. Five Brazilians were killed." This seems to upset Bush more than the other news. He puts his head in his hands. All of his staff watching him surprised by the extreme emotion. Suddenly Bush looks up. "Wait." "Yes, Mr. President?" "How much is a Brazilan?"

Okay. This sucks.

Reading the NY Times online and they just posted that August Wilson passed away today. I want to cry. (Oh, hell, I am crying as I type this. I am such a sap.) I know he was ill and it was to be expected, but it still really sucks. He was far too young. I met him at a reading in Seattle at The Elliot Bay Book Company in 1996 and he was so gracious. His work was some of the first plays I read when I got the theatre bug. We have lost a wonderful artist and man. October 2, 2005 August Wilson, Playwright, Dies at 60 By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Filed at 10:27 p.m. ET NEW YORK (AP) -- Playwright August Wilson, whose epic 10-play cycle chronicling the black experience in 20th-century America included such landmark dramas as ''Fences'' and ''Ma Rainey's Black Bottom,'' died Sunday of liver cancer, a family spokeswoman said. He was 60. Wilson died at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, surrounded by his family, said Dena Levitin, Wilson's personal assistant. The playwright had disclosed in late August that his illness was inoperable and he had only a few months to live. ''We've lost a great writer, I think the greatest writer that our generation has seen and I've lost a dear, dear friend and collaborator,'' said Kenny Leon, who directed the Broadway production of ''Gem of the Ocean'' as well as Wilson's most recent play, ''Radio Golf,'' which just concluded a run in Los Angeles. Leon said Wilson's work, ''encompasses all the strength and power that theater has to offer.'' ''I feel an incredible sense of responsibility on walking how he would want us to walk and delivering his work.'' Wilson's plays were big, often sprawling and poetic, dealing primarily with the effects of slavery on succeeding generations of black Americans: from turn-of-century characters who could remember the Civil War to a prosperous middle class at the end of the century who had forgotten the past. The playwright's astonishing creation, which took more than 20 years to complete, was remarkable not only for his commitment to a certain structure -- one play for each decade -- but for the quality of the writing. It was a unique achievement in American drama. Not even Eugene O'Neill, who authored the masterpiece ''Long Day's Journey Into Night,'' accomplished such a monumental effort. During that time, Wilson received the best-play Tony Award for ''Fences,'' plus best-play Tony nominations for six of his other plays, the Pulitzer Prize for both ''Fences'' and ''The Piano Lesson,'' and a record seven New York Drama Critics' Circle prizes. ''The goal was to get them down on paper,'' he told The Associated Press during an April 2005 interview as he was completing ''Radio Golf,'' the last play in the cycle. ''It was fortunate when I looked up and found I had the two bookends to go. I didn't plan it that way. I was able to connect the two plays.'' Wilson was referring to ''Gem of the Ocean,'' chronologically the first play in the cycle, although the ninth to be written. It takes place in 1904 and is set in Pittsburgh's Hill District at 1839 Wylie Ave., a specific address that figures prominently, nearly 100 years later, in the last work, ''Radio Golf,'' which premiered in April at the Yale Repertory Theatre. Pittsburgh, Wilson's birthplace, is the setting for nine of the 10 plays in the cycle (''Ma Rainey's Black Bottom'' is set in a Chicago recording studio). Although he lived in Seattle, the playwright had a great deal of affection for his hometown, especially ''the Hill,'' a dilapidated area of the city where he spent much of his youth. Wilson, a bulky, affable man who always had a story to tell, usually returned to Pittsburgh once a year to visit his mother's grave, but he said he couldn't live there: ''Too many ghosts. But I love it. That's what gave birth to me.'' Born Frederick August Kittel on April 27, 1945, he was one of six children of Frederick Kittel, a baker who had emigrated from Germany at the age of 10, and Daisy Wilson. A high school dropout, Wilson enlisted in the Army but left after a year, finding employment as a porter, short-order cook and dishwasher, among other jobs. When his father died in 1965, he changed his name to August Wilson. Wilson was largely self-educated. The public library was his university and the recordings of such iconic singers and musicians as Bessie Smith and Jelly Roll Morton, and the paintings of such artists as Romare Bearden his inspiration. He started writing in 1965, when he acquired a used typewriter. His initial works were poems, but in 1968, Wilson co-founded Pittsburgh's Black Horizon Theater. Among those early efforts was a play called ''Jitney,'' which he revised more than two decades later as part of his 10-play cycle. In 1978, he moved to Minnesota, writing for the Science Museum in St. Paul and later landing a fellowship at the Minneapolis Playwrights Center. In 1982, his play, ''Ma Rainey's Black Bottom,'' was accepted by the National Playwrights Conference at the O'Neill Theater Center in Connecticut. It was there that Wilson met Lloyd Richards, who also ran the Yale School of Drama. Their relationship proved fruitful, and Richards directed six of Wilson's plays on Broadway. The first was ''Ma Rainey,'' which opened on Broadway in 1984. Wilson's reputation was cemented in 1987 by the father-son drama ''Fences,'' his biggest commercial success. The play, which featured a Tony-winning performance by James Earl Jones, ran for more than a year. It was followed in New York by ''Joe Turner's Come and Gone'' (1988), ''The Piano Lesson'' (1990), ''Two Trains Running'' (1992), ''Seven Guitars'' (1996), ''Jitney'' (2000), ''King Hedley II'' (2001) and ''Gem of the Ocean'' (2004). Wilson's plays gave steady employment to black actors, not only in New York but in regional theaters, where most of his plays tried out before coming to Broadway. Besides Jones, such well-known actors as Laurence Fishburne, Phylicia Rashad, Angela Bassett, Charles S. Dutton, Brian Stokes Mitchell, S. Epatha Merkerson, Roscoe Lee Browne and Leslie Uggams appeared in his plays on Broadway. ''August's work is like reading a rich novel,'' says Anthony Chisholm, a veteran Wilson performer in such plays as ''Gem of the Ocean'' and ''Radio Golf.'' ''It conjures up vivid images in the mind, and it makes the actor's job easier because you have something to draw upon to build your character.'' Later this month, a Broadway theater, the Virginia, will be renamed for Wilson, a rare honor also bestowed on such theater greats as Eugene O'Neill, Richard Rodgers, George Gershwin, Helen Hayes and Al Hirschfeld. Wilson, who was married three times, is survived by his wife, costume designer Constanza Romero; their daughter Azula Carmen, and another daughter, Sakina Ansari, from his first marriage.