Archive for August, 2009

Two Books

Posted in people, things you should know on August 26, 2009 by wfon

These two books are moving to the top of my reading list. Can’t help thinking that one of them may answer rhetorical questions posed in the other… (blurbs below are introductions found on Amazon)

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In The Healing of America, New York Times bestselling author T. R. Reid shows how all the other industrialized democracies have achieved something the United States can’t seem to do: provide health care for everybody at a reasonable cost.

In his global quest to find a possible prescription, Reid visits wealthy, free market, industrialized democracies like our own-including France, Germany, Japan, the U.K., and Canada-where he finds inspiration in example. Reid shares evidence from doctors, government officials, health care experts, and patients the world over, finding that foreign health care systems give everybody quality care at an affordable cost. And that dreaded monster “socialized medicine” turns out to be a myth. Many developed countries provide universal coverage with private doctors, private hospitals, and private insurance.

In addition to long-established systems, Reid also studies countries that have carried out major health care reform. The first question facing these countries-and the United States, for that matter-is an ethical issue: Is health care a human right? Most countries have already answered with a resolute yes, leaving the United States in the murky moral backwater with nations we typically think of as far less just than our own.

The Healing of America lays bare the moral question at the heart of our troubled system, dissecting the misleading rhetoric surrounding the health care debate. Reid sees problems elsewhere, too: He finds poorly paid doctors in Japan, endless lines in Canada, mistreated patients in Britain, spartan facilities in France. Still, all the other rich countries operate at a lower cost, produce better health statistics, and cover everybody. In the end, The Healing of America is a good news book: It finds models around the world that Americans can borrow to guarantee health care for everybody who needs it.

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Christless Christianity – The Alternative Gospel of the American Church – Is it possible that we have left Christ out of Christianity? Is the faith and practice of American Christians today more American than Christian? These are the provocative questions Michael Horton addresses in this thoughtful, insightful book. He argues that while we invoke the name of Christ, too often Christ and the Christ-centered gospel are pushed aside. The result is a message and a faith that are, in Horton’s words, “trivial, sentimental, affirming, and irrelevant.” This alternative “gospel” is a message of moralism, personal comfort, self-help, self-improvement, and individualistic religion. It trivializes God, making him a means to our selfish ends.

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Thank you, GOP!

Posted in daily musings, rants on August 25, 2009 by wfon

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While listening to some Bob Marley this morning, I was struck by a lyric: “Only the fittest of the fittest will survive.” Now, unless I’m totally out of my mind that sounds a lot like Darwinism, the notion that over time (i.e. evolution) species adapt and change in order to further survive and multiply. Without too much of a reach, it seemed possible to apply this language to the current left/right battle over health care and all things concerning America’s further growth and maturation into a great nation that will continue to survive rather than one that, by way of its own inability to look beyond ideologies, is precariously close to extinction. I may be overstating but…

Propaganda is best used when the recipient of such an attack finds themselves being beaten by their own rhetoric. This is not the case at the moment. Shouting down an elected official with bleats of “Liar! Liar! You’re a LIIIIAAAARRRR!” sounds a lot like grade school bullshit. When the “leaders” of your movement are people like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity or Glen Beck you have a case of the Wizard of Oz: little, tiny men with loudspeakers, hiding behind a curtain and pushing levers. Conservatives must fall to their knees each night praying for the return of Karl Rove who, devilish as he was, was a master of the game. The current crop are a bunch of bully pulpit blowhards playing to the simplest, inarticulate fears of their base: whites as a minority, Socialism, “I want my country back!”. Please.

However, an amazing opportunity is upon those of us who think progressively and aren’t afraid of our shadows or people who resemble them (… think about it…). By fighting universal health care and going to bat for corporate insurance interests, for-profit healthcare and the continued chipping away at America’s Constitutional standards, Republicans, Libertarians and their ilk are making a case for Darwinism which flies right in the face of their Evangelical, “the world is only 6000 years old” hogwash. See, if they get their way, the insurance companies will continue to withhold care for pre-existing conditions, continue to decide if a patient should have a life-saving procedure and continue to void policies for people who get sick and will need further care in the future. Thus only the “fittest of the fittest” will survive: those who manage to avoid getting sick, who have healthy diets and don’t live under great stress… in other words, Europeans! I know a few conservatives: McDonald’s is on speed dial in their homes; they’re in debt up to their eyeballs and growing unnaturally old in the process; they’re angry at their own, self-imposed, imprisonment in a Void of Ideas. Unfortunately, if they continue to live and believe as they do, they won’t survive and they will have gone a long way to proving the Theory of Evolution. So, thanks for that, but we will miss you… well, some of you.

New Music Tuesday!

Posted in people, things you should know on August 25, 2009 by wfon
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Kitty (far right), Daisy and Lewis

Just read about this new group from England called Kitty, Daisy and Lewis. They were featured in an LA Times article this morning having recently played the LA area when they opened for Coldplay at the Home Depot Center last month (to which I asked, “Coldplay was here?”… no reviews, no press… hmmm). Kitty, Daisy and Lewis are siblings with a taste for an older style of music, somewhere in the roadhouse blues/rock-a-billy milieu. After reading about them this morning, I ventured over to YouTube to check it out:

The three of them range in age from 16-21, I’m assuming Kitty is the youngest with Lewis the oldest. They recorded the album at home on all vintage gear that they pieced together from a collector in Long Island. Today marks the official release of their debut CD although it’s been available for sometime as a digital download. I’m going to make a point of picking this up. I’m sure the desire to embrace this sound comes from having parents who are musicians and played a lot of this sort of thing around the house, but also no doubt they were influenced by the Mark Ronson-Amy Winehouse/Lily Allen sound that is still making waves in the UK. There’s certainly a kitschy element to this whole thing, sort of reminds me of the “re-re-birth of swing” in the mid-late 90’s (remember the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies and Squirrel Nut Zippers anyone?). Actually I’ll remove the Squirrel Nut Zippers from the ‘lesser-than’ list because they were a bunch of music students who had focused on the revival of an old sound… but a lot of those 90’s swingers were formerly rock bands, grunge bands, metal bands that jumped on a bandwagon and quickly took the integrity right out of it. Now as far as Kitty, Daisy and Lewis go, it seems as if they’re truly inspired by and driven to make this kind of music, so let’s have at it.

UPDATE TO POST: After searching my local Best Buy (which had the CD in their catalog but at no local LA area stores) and CD Trader over in Tarzana (also in their computer but not on their buy list), I retreated to the virtual record store at I-Tunes and am now listening with great delight to the music. So… Brick and Mortar? Fail! Sign of the times.

read the LA TIMES article here

Keep your ears open, my friends!

where in the world is Rachael Yamagata?

Posted in people, things you should know on August 22, 2009 by wfon

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I’ve had a bad case of Yamagata since I first stumbled across Rachael’s EP at Tower Records (RIP) in Marina Del Rey, immediately drawn by her voice and songwriting prowess. A few months later I took in my first (the first of many, ask Paul!) RY show and was smitten for good… who was this spectacular creature? 5’1″ if she’s lucky, with a massive mane of black hair usually in her face, a voice that easily shifts from seductive purr to Joplinesque rage, songs of such broken-hearted despair that even the worst cynic is usually won over and the most intriguing light green eyes set against Japanese features… wow, sign me up! I’ve dragged everyone to see Rachael at one time or another and have had the great pleasure of meeting her on more than four or five occasions. I even had a great picture of us (much better than the one over on the “about me” page) but in my haste forgot to save it. I was in Virginia with my folks last September when of all great coincidences we arrived in Alexandria on Rachael’s birthday and she happened to be playing to her hometown crowd. Her aunt took the picture of us. So, point is… I don’t know, what’s the point? Oh, right… Over the last five years now, I’ve travelled far and wide, high and low, always in support of this amazing woman and fantastic artist but I fear that she’s going to be lost in the great fuck-up that is the current state of the music business. And the reason? Where’s the big single? Where’s the big tune that Apple can sell it’s new OS with? Lesser-than artists like Sarah Barellies have flown right past Rachael with just such singles. I had hope that on her last record, the great song “Faster” would have been the break-out for her. What better way to present Apple OS Cheetah (or some such nonsense) than with a lyric like “I’m going faster, you’re going backwards, you’re going to miss me when I’m gone?” Take that PC! But no: Warner Bros. (see the Lindsay Pagano post below for more proof) apparently wouldn’t know what to do with an artist these days if they came with a “how to” manual.

So, I ask the question: where in the world is Rachael Yamagata? Last I heard she was going back to the woods to write and record. I gather her publishing contracts (music supervisors have been quite good to her with film placements) are keeping the bills paid and I will certainly be the first to get whatever she releases next and buy tickets for the show… but last night I had a dream. I don’t usually dream of these sorts of things. I was directing Rachael in a music video and we were setting up a shot with the camera beneath the open lid of a grand piano, moving toward her while she sang and played. It was simple, it was beautiful… and that’s the thing that, perhaps, requires perspective. Rachael Yamagata, when I first started going to her shows, could tear your head off with a turn of phrase and bring tears to your eyes, along with her own, over a haunting melody. Someone, somewhere, however, decided that she needed to be a magazine pin-up, a teen pop star and when that didn’t work, a big sister to the younger women who relate to her heartbreaking honesty. In doing so, however, they piled too much shit on top of what was Rachael’s pure beauty and integrity. Put the girl at the piano, hair in her face, heart on her sleeve and let her make out with you with her music. Nothing else needed. And when you do that (big corporate music label) watch her walk right over the cutesy little half-wits who’ll make you money this quarter and cost you money next.

(note: after finding the following video, I wonder if this is where my dream imagery came from? Damn, I thought I was being inspired!)

One Particular Harbor

Posted in notes, places on August 21, 2009 by wfon

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This is the view from my place at the bar of the Kona Inn, located on Alii Drive in downtown Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. Five short hours flight from LAX and easily world’s away. You can sit there and sip what is simply the best Mai Tai anywhere on earth, watch the waves lap against the sea wall, have a fish sandwich and breathe. Sometimes the feeling that comes from your time at the bar here will last with you long after your return to wherever you come from. That’s not been the case for me this year and I’m finding myself burnt, crispy, two short weeks after my return. Obviously there’s plenty to be concerned about: money’s tight, gigs have been few and far between all year, idiots keep getting in the way of progress blathering on like blood thirsty hyenas and making just about as much sense and summer is slipping away into fall. If you know me… oy, that last one is like the scene in “Airplane” when the stewardess is going on about all the problems the aircraft is facing to a non-plussed reaction from the passengers until she mentions they’re out of coffee and then all hell breaks loose. Come to think of it, that might be “Airplane 2.” Whichever, you get my point.

So, on this Friday afternoon, while I watch these strange moisture-filled pillows roll into the West Valley, I’m going to ignore the fact that no one is returning emails or calls today, that the neighbors are off on their fifth vacation of the summer, that I’m low on tequila, that I can’t use my sprinklers except on Monday and Thursday and I’m going to start Happy Hour… right now. Hey, it is 5:00 Central time. And it’s past Happy Hour in New York… don’t get me started on Europe… it might actually be coming around to Happy Hour all over again at the Date Line… one way or the other, the office is now closed, the bar is open. Drink up me hearties, yo ho!

And for our soundtrack this afternoon:

“she was just seventeen…”

Posted in people, things you should know on August 20, 2009 by wfon

Apologies to John and Paul for the lift of their lyric but today Disney Channel star Demi Lovato turns 17! Yes, I am arguably older than the majority of her fan base but I refuse to discriminate against beauty and talent. I’m a fan. Demi is rocking the Patriot Center in Fairfax, VA tonight, not a bad way to celebrate one’s birthday… I think back to where I was and what I was doing when I turned 17, I’m pretty sure her life at this point is a lot more exciting than mine was but I’ll wager that at times she’s just as lonely and confused as any other teenager… and, unlike where I would have been, I bet she gets homesick, too. Well, all I can say is Happy Birthday, Demi… Mazeltov.

Here’s her latest video for your enjoyment:

sad but probably true…

Posted in daily musings, places on August 20, 2009 by wfon

found this in today’s paper! Keep learning, kids…

Bizarro