Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Completely Off Target ...

Perhaps you know, or perhaps you don't, that Target recently contributed $150,000 to a PAC that supports Minnesota gubernatorial anti-gay, Republican candidate Tom Emmer. (You may know of him from the recent mess he created for himself when he announced that many servers in restaurants make more than $100,000 a year and as such would see their wages cut if he were elected.)

Target's statement on diversity can be found here.

It's brief. Here's what it says:

"At Target, diversity is much more than a goal or campaign. It’s a core value we integrate into every area of our business — from our suppliers, to our teams, to the shopping experience in our stores. We foster an inclusive culture that allows our high-performing and diverse team to drive innovation."

Well, that doesn't square, does it? Why would a company that prides itself on social issues contribute to an anti-gay candidate?

Surely there must be more to the story. At the very least, we should give Target a change to explain, right?

Well, that's just what Abe Sauer did.

And here's what Target had to say (emphasis mine):

"Target is proud to call Minnesota and communities across the country home. To ensure economic growth in those communities it is critically important to be able to provide jobs, serve guests, support communities and deliver on our commitment to shareholders.

Target supports causes and candidates based strictly on issues that affect our retail and business interests. In fact, Target’s Federal PAC contributions year-to-date are very balanced between Republicans and Democrats, and we work collaboratively with legislators and officials at all points on the political spectrum.

Target fosters civic engagement through a wide variety of nonpartisan efforts aimed at enhancing team member and citizen participation in the political process. We encourage team members and citizens to engage in civic activities in the ways that are most meaningful to them, as we believe that engaged communities are healthier and stronger communities.

Target is proud of the diversity of its team, and we greatly value the wide range of perspectives offered by all of our team members. It is this diversity that creates our unique and inclusive corporate culture while helping our company remain relevant and competitive."

Well, sure. We expect a business that's grown as large as Target to keep its bottom line in mind.

But you know what else affects business interests, Target?

Bad PR.

And you know what else affects business interests, Target?

Customers who cease to shop in Target stores.

Here it is in handy graphic form:

Bad PR --> Customers who cease to shop in Target stores

Uh oh.

When I first heard about this story, I was saddened, but as a recovering journalist, I wanted to look into the matter further. As we all know, all too well, it's far too easy to push one side of a story. Some people really do care about being fair and balanced.

So I went to Target's Pressroom, hoping to see a statement. The most recent press release is from July 22 and titled "Target to Open First Manhattan Store in East Harlem this July." Not a word on this story.

Today, on my friend Jim's Facebook page, I saw this video of a woman who filmed her last shopping trip to Target. At least one Target employee was not pleased to see a camera.

But Rondi (I hope that's how she spells her name; my apologies to her if I've misspelled it) isn't alone.

I won't be shopping at Target. I have friends who won't be shopping at Target. And they have friends who won't be shopping at Target.

Will it be enough to greatly impact the company's bottom line? No, I'm sure it won't.

But I'll know that I'm not supporting a company that supports an anti-gay candidate.

In case anyone's wondering, I'm not gay. But I have many gay friends and I love them to pieces. What hurts them hurts me.

Then again, what hurts them, ultimately, hurts all of us.

Because acceptable discrimination does not exist.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Brian Ray: This Way Up ...

The beauty of having a blog is that I have a place to write about whatever interests me in a given moment.

And, in recent moments, as some have noted, I've been very taken with Brian Ray. To me, he's the musical equivalent of finding a fabulous new restaurant and telling all your friends.

Music is a fickle business. I'll never stop wondering why some artists who are so electronically enhanced are so successful while others who possess honest-to-God talent fly largely under society's view. Where's the logic in that? Where's the reward?

So, I write about those I like. Actually, I need to write about those I like more often, and do my part to keep Google engaged. (Brian Leitner, I'm looking at you.)

This Brian's new album, This Way Up, drops August 9, but there's a pre-sale happening at The discs won't ship until August, but every sale also buys the digital download. You can buy just the download, but me, I like discs, so I order the CD and download it, too. Yes, I'm weird, I know.

Yesterday was the virtual release, and so I've been listening.

When I get a new album, I click through the whole thing, listening to just a few seconds of the opening of each song. I like to see what catches my attention. Then, I go back and listen to the whole thing all the way through, cohesively, the way I expect artists would like their albums to be experienced, especially in these days of iTunes and buying one track at a time.

What I love about Brian as a musician is that every track he records is different from every other yet they all hang together so well. From the moody open of "Happy Ending" through the guitar-anthem ending of "Under The Sun," there are plenty of highs and lows, wide-open rock straightaways that gear down into a wending, catch-your-breath ballad and then he hits the gas again.

Between the start and finish, a few tracks earned specific first-listen notes.

The beginning of "Hello Lonely" calls to mind the opening of Pink Floyd's "Take It Back" which piqued my interest, because I happen to love that song. And I love this song, too. It might be my favorite on the album. The reason for which is at least two-fold: 1) I love this song because I am a sappy girl, and 2), and more importantly, I love this song because it is one of those rare cuts that reaches into a place inside me and refuses to let go. Some music – most music – floats right by me. But with some music, very rarely, I have a visceral reaction that never fades. (That reaction has identified every song I've recorded. It serves me well.)

When I first heard the title track, I wrote "Sounds like?" And I was very pleased when I realized that it sounds like my aforementioned pal Brian's band, Pet Lover. Though as I listen again as I write this, it also calls to mind Cheap Trick. A Pet Lover/Cheap Trick hybrid. In my book, that is a very good thing.

Not to detract from any of the artists, mind you. I don't mean to suggest that any of them are aping the others, but, well, you listen to enough music, you can't help but compare.

To wit, the first few seconds of "Rearview" made me think of Don Henley's "Dirty Laundry," but that's where the similarity ends.

And I mentioned the ending to "Under The Sun" but it's the beginning I really love, because I started singing it right away. It's just that kind of song for me. It reminds me a bit of something by Eric Johnson, but it's undeniably Ray.

Lest you wonder about the tracks I didn't mention, I wrote about two of them when they were released earlier this month, and the others, well, I don't want to tell you everything. Suffice it to say that there's no song I don't like, I simply like some more than others. So go see – well, hear – for yourself. Music is such a personal experience. I hope you enjoy this particular journey.

P.S. And speaking of journeys, there may be a fall tour, too.

I'm Not OK, I Just Think I'm OK ...

My pal Rick pointed me to a web site for the pharmaceutical Havidol that offers a self-assessment to determine whether one suffers from Dysphoric Social Attention Consumption Deficit Anxiety Disorder (DSACDAD). Concerned friend that he is, he suggested that I might want to take the test.

My result and the "key" to the test, copied directly from the site:

Your score is 29.

If your score falls between 40-60 you should see your doctor immediately.

If your score is between 30-40 you may be on the brink of succumbing to DSACDAD. Be aware of this possibility and be prepared by discussing your options with your doctor.

If your score falls between 15-30 take a moment to check in with yourself. Determine if you are answering as truthfully as possible. It's okay to need help. And thankfully help is available.

So, there you have it: I'm not really OK, I'm just lying to myself.

If you'll excuse me, I have to go crawl into bed now.

P.S. Yes, it's a joke.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Watchability, Watchability, Wherefore Art Thou, Watchability? ...

Once upon a time, I wrote a blog about HGTV's "Design Star."

I didn't write it for HGTV. I wrote it for, the oddly named entertainment site that's part of Tribune.

I hadn't watched all of the first season of the show, but given that I was being paid to write about the second season, I tuned in. Because I'm professional that way, because my name is not Jayson Blair.

Now, as we all know, this is interior designer we're talking about. We're not looking for the cure for cancer. We're not trying to put another man on the moon. We're talking paint and furniture and wallpaper and tchotchkes.

But still.

Design has its place in the world. Design done well is an art form, if you ask me. Which you didn't. But that's how I see it. Design to me is a lot like editing: If it's done well, you don't notice that it's been done.

I mean, you notice the spaces. And hopefully, you think or say, "That's so cool!"

But some rooms look designed. Some rooms look like someone tried too hard to make a statement. Some rooms make me think, "No one really lives there."

Last season, I was initially surprised that Antonio won over Dan, but then, once I thought about it, the decision made perfect sense. Dan's design was nice, but who wants "nice"? "Nice" is the province of home-staging shows, where everything is painted a neutral color and predictable art is hung on walls and rooms are stripped down to levels that suggest "model home," yet everyone oohs and ahhs.

I haven't seen a lot of Antonio since – has anyone? – but what I have seen has been artful and inspired. His background serves him well.

But this season. Oh, this season. Mark Burnett has gotten his mitts on the show and after the first episode, I vowed to watch no more. Gone is Clive, the affable accented host. Vern, Gen, and Candice, three designers I used to admire, have left me wondering if the director has to coax that kind of snarkiness out of them or if their previous television presences have been the lie. Vern is particularly vicious. And they deliberate right in front of the contestants who are about to get voted off the island. All that's missing is the extinguished torch.

I continued to watch, though, laptop on my lap, tweeting away with the hashtag #designstar every Sunday night. With my focus half on the show and half on the Twitter feed, I've been able to watch.

And now I'm wondering how it is that any of these contestants landed on the show. Of course, in seasons past, there have been stronger designers and weaker designers. That just makes sense. You need wheat, you need chaff.

But at this stage, someone should be emerging as the designer to beat, and after last night's episode, I'm more convinced than ever that none of them deserve their own show.

Yes, some of them are pretty. That's all well and good. But with all these group challenges, it's been all but impossible to get a read on any of them as designers. Their weaknesses are on evident display, but where are their strengths?

Do they have any?

Painting some stripes on the wall? OK, that's nice. And? Next?

Last week, the most beloved item from any of the designers was a red silhouette of a fireman painted onto a large canvas. That was art. In a firehouse. Really? The judges ate it up, but is that what firemen want to see? Do cops have "cop" art in police stations? I wouldn't know.

And this week was just as absurd. Even the furniture seemed to feel that way. The bolster pillow on the day bed was flaccid. Yes, even the pillow was bored.

And can we just take a moment to ask what's happened to Candice's wardrobe? Has that been Burnett-ified as well? On her show, she wears mostly casual clothes, but they suit her long, lithe frame. Last night, I swear to God, the woman was wearing a mini-skirt. What? Does that have something to do with "Trump"? And an episode or two ago, she was wearing an enormous floral coat. Was that the week of the "floral" design challenge? I think so. But there's no need to be so literal with the wardrobe. Or ugly. And don't even get me started on what passes for "fashion."

Anyway, were it not for Twitter, I would no longer be watching. I hate the new format. It's snarky and it's so mean as to border on cruel. The designers hardly seem like designers. From what I've seen, none of them could carry a show.

I recognize that not everyone is a David Bromstad, so talented and adorable and eat-him-up-yum. My mother wants to adopt him. Who wouldn't want to have him around? And I look forward to seeing more from Antonio, now that I know that he's not going to adorn every space with paintings of buxom women in sombreros and belts of ammuntion.

But this season. Oh, this season can't end soon enough.

Perhaps the twist to this season is that no one gets a show.

Or perhaps it will end with Bob Newhart waking up next to Suzanne Pleshette. Which it can't, since she died.

But oh, wouldn't it be a comfort to know that this was all a bad dream?

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

To Anyone In Search Of Kodachrome ...

I just read this NPR piece about the last roll of Kodachrome.

Not that last roll in existence, mind you, but the last roll that was made.

Me, I have 20 rolls of Kodachrome if any photographers out there are looking for a stash to shoot. I bought it last year for a photographer who wanted to buy up as much as he could, but then he vanished out of my life. You'd think he would have waited to blow me off until he got his hands on the film, but no.

So there it is, in my fridge, with expiration dates of 08/2010 and 09/2010, and considering that Dwayne's is going to stop processing it by the end of the year, any photographer who wants it is welcome to it.

If you're such a person, leave a note in the comments. Or, if you know of a photographer who's looking for some final rolls, pass this along.

Really. You can have it. I don't care about the money I spent on it at this point. I just don't want it to go to waste.

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Wee Tomatoes ...

This is the first wee-tomato stash of the wee-tomato season, compliments of my mom.

They're so cute!

Monday, July 19, 2010

The 3-Day: Remember This ...

Hello, walkers!

The first 3-Day of the season kicks off Friday in Boston!

For those of you who may be getting a little jittery about this whole adventure, who might be questioning if this was really such a wise thing to do, remember this as you're milling about in the pre-dawn darkness at Opening Ceremonies in your chosen city:

You are there.

The fact that you are there is awesome.

In any given metropolitan area that hosts a 3-Day, there are several million residents. I'll be walking Chicago again this year. According to Wikipedia, the Chicagoland area is home to 9.7 million people. Of course, some of those residents are too young to walk, and some of those residents may be incapable of taking on such a challenge, but let's assume that about half of the population is able.

Half of the population of Chicagoland is 4.85 million people.

I'll probably be in the company of 2,000 walkers, give or take.

That means that 4,848,000 – that's FOUR MILLION, EIGHT HUNDRED FORTY-EIGHT THOUSAND – Chicagoland residents will not be with me. Nearly five million people, who, for whatever reasons, will not be participating in this life-changing experience.

Maybe they don't have the time. Maybe they don't think they can raise the funds. Maybe they don't think they can walk that far. Maybe they've never heard of the 3-Day. Maybe they support other causes. Who knows.

The point is this: They are not there.

You are there.

Before you even take your first official step, you are already a rock star just by virtue of showing up.

You've committed to something that is absolutely more than the sum of its parts, but without you, it couldn't exist.

So take a deep breath and do me a favor, OK?

Smile. Smile the biggest smile you can smile and know that there are so, so, so many people out there – including me, especially me – who think that you are one of the coolest people they know.

And you're about to meet a lot of them. Some of them will honk their horns at you as they drive by. Some of them will decorate the front of their homes. Some of them will set up oh-so-welcome sprinklers. Some of them will meet you on the route with ice or water or candy or Popsicles. Some of them will congregate at massive cheering stations. Some of them will sit in lawn chairs along the route and clap as you walk by. Some of them will decorate their cars and trucks and pop up along the route with the radio blaring, giving you a musical lift. Some of them will be there at the end.

It doesn't matter if you walk every step. It really doesn't.

If you can, that's awesome. If you can't, that's awesome, too.

Because it's not just about walking.

It's about raising awareness. It's about raising money. It's about funding research. It's about saving lives.

And all of that is possible because of you.

So keep training. Keep fundraising. And when your weekend rolls around, pack up your gear – don't forget the sunscreen – and make your way to Opening Ceremonies and know that you are in for three of the best days of your life.

Thank you, friends. Thank you for being bold and beautiful and having your say.

You are there.

And you are amazing.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Irreversibly A Grown-Up ...

Well, I guess it's too late now.

I think I'm stuck with being an adult.

Yesterday, I went to a retirement bash for four people, two of whom were part of my high-school experience, two of whom were not, but all of whom are friends.

It was a three-hour open house, in a house I'd only heard about, a very grand house, not at all what I had conjured in my mind. But then, why I had conjured that particular picture, I have no idea.

I arrived about halfway through the fete, and rang the doorbell, wondering if I should just let myself in.

But the door opened, and there was Rob, one of two of my high-school past.

I never had Rob as a teacher, unless you count homeroom. But Rob was very involved with the theatrical productions, and we spent many Saturday mornings together in the auditorium, before the bustle of the day began, before others arrived, talking about whatever it was we talked about at the time.

Throughout my entire educational career, I always got along better with my instructors than my peers.

Rob ushered me into the grand house, into the parlor, one of the parlors, where Kris, the home's owner, was holding forth. I very much like Kris. Kris likes scotch. Which, really, says a lot about a person.

Having never been to his house before, and incapable of arriving at an event without something in my hands, I handed him a bottle of champagne, and told him how much I loved his house. "It's very subtle," I said.

It is the furthest thing from subtle. It is jammed with furniture and paintings and rugs and collections and stained glass. It is spectacular. It's like stepping back in time.

I said hello to a few folks and followed Rob toward the bar that had been set up in the back of the house. Which is where I saw Gail, one of the other retirees. I hugged her and said, "You look like you just got out of surgery." Meaning her outfit, on a ridiculously warm day, reminded me of scrubs, a loose, pretty linen version.

Drink in hand, I followed Rob into the dining room, where I spied Dave, who was one of my high-school instructors and continues to be a dear friend.

When I first met Dave, as a junior, I appreciated that he liked to wear a pink shirt from time to time. I like men in pink shirts. Pale pink suits men.

The shirt Dave was wearing last night was not pale. It was almost exactly the color of bubble gum. And was set off by a blue foulard bow tie. And electric blue Buddy Holly-esque glasses. And an exaggerated Fu Manchu mustache. As if a Fu Manchu mustache is not exaggerated enough.

He also happened to be wearing khaki pants and brown sandal-y shoes. (Given what I just described about him, I thought it bore mentioning that he was wearing pants. One might have wondered.)

Dave is very much his own person, which is one of the many reasons I love him.

Driving to Kris's house, I was wondering if other past students would be there as well. As I made my way to Dave in the dining room, I spied Laura, whom I hadn't seen since we graduated, but with whom I've reconnected on Facebook.

She was there with her husband, Ken. It was delightful to see her. We endured a semester of English together our junior year. Awful teacher. In that she didn't actually teach anything. We were pretty much left to our own devices.

And yet, I managed to get only a B that semester.

Laura and I chatted until she and Ken had to leave, at which point, I decided I should move from that one spot in the dining room. Mingle, as it were.

I did finally see Karen, the fourth woman who was being feted. Folks were making their exits as the clock ticked toward 7 p.m. I saw Gail, who asked, "You're not leaving, are you?"

"I can stick around for a bit," I said.

The caterers had packed up and left, so I helped Gail consolidate everything onto the kitchen table where folks passed by and grazed.

Kris still held forth from the front parlor. A group of us gathered around the kitchen table. The parlor gaggle eventually disbanded, some folks heading home, others heading upstairs to go to bed. Kris joined us in the kitchen.

And so there were the four honorees - Dave, Gail (Dave's wife), Rob, and Karen - along with Mary (Rob's wife), Kris, and me, and I felt for a moment like a kid again, and it felt for a moment like all those evenings when my parents had friends over and the talking and laughing continued long after I had to go to bed, except this time, I was one of the grown ups, I got to be part of the din.

It felt a little weird. Good weird, but weird.

Dave was sitting next to me, animatedly telling a story, which is the only way Dave is able to tell a story, and I looked at him and thought, "I met you when I was 15. How have I known you for 25 years?"

But 25 years it's been.

I think a big part of the disconnect is Rob's fault. (And I say that with love, Rob.) With the exception of not wearing the glasses I remember him wearing in high school, Rob has not changed. At all. He looks exactly the same. The man doesn't have a grey hair in his head. It's like "... Dorian Gray," but different.

At one point, Dave was making up a poem – more of an absurd rhyme, really – that included the word "smelt." I thought that might be a good time to go. But I stayed, until I glanced at the clock on the microwave and said, "Well, will you look at the time!" It had gotten to be 10 p.m.

So we cleared the table and everyone gathered their things and Rob wanted to get a picture of folks, so I took the camera so all the teacherly types could be in the picture together.

I can't begin to figure how many years of experience and expertise are represented in that photograph. I do know, though, that students who will walk the halls of my former high school this fall will be the poorer for not having Dave and Rob there to help guide them.

Here's hoping that someday those students have occasion to sit around a kitchen table with some of their teachers and appreciate the contribution those people made to their lives.

On to the next adventure, all around.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Failure Is Not An Option ...

Yesterday was a good day. Yesterday, I shredded a book.

Actually, I shredded two books.

Before you start to think that that's somehow evil, that I may as well have started a bonfire on my lawn and chucked the tomes gleefully into the flames, allow me to assure you that I shredded them for the simple reason that I had written in the margins and underlined passages and having "tagged" said books, I had no intention of giving them to Goodwill or some other outlet.

My musings in margins are private. I don't loan books that contain my thoughts. I'll recommend those books. I might even buy copies for folks, but my copies remain mine.

So, two books went through the shredder. One of which is not germane to this post, and one of which is, and that one was "When Smart People Fail."

Excuse me?

Why did I own that?

I mean, I know why I owned it. I bought it. I tend to use receipts as bookmarks, and the one stuck between those pages dated from 1996.

I was working at the Chicago Tribune in 1996. It surely wasn't my dream job, but I don't remember feeling like a failure.

And yesterday, when I spied it in a stack of books, I was actually offended that I owned it. How dare I be so hard on myself? I'm always espousing the truth of "You're always where you're supposed to be" and if I truly believe that, and I do, then there is no such thing as failure.

Yesterday became the day that I decided that I have not failed. Ever. How's that for hubris?

No failure. Recalibration. That's my new perspective. Course corrections, if you will, life as a GPS device: Overshoot a mark? It recalibrates your route and you still get where you're going. It might take a few more minutes, but big deal. The destination isn't going anywhere, now, is it?

Yesterday, as a matter of fact, was the day that I figured out how the film I'm writing will end. Which may not seem like a big accomplishment, but I assure you that it is. I've been mulling that one over for years. And once I figured out how it will end, I started thinking backward, and realized what the penultimate scene will be, and clink, clink, clink, all the pieces are starting to fall into place.

Also yesterday, I realized that I had two versions of the script, one on my desktop and one on my laptop, one 49 pages, one 59. So printed out one to compare it to the other. They were common for 40 pages and then diverged. So now I have all the pages printed out that contain all the content.

And you know what? I should have printed out that puppy ages ago. There is something very, very cool about holding your own script in your hands, even if it's incomplete, even if is a lot left to be done. Just to see those characters and that dialogue and those directions on the page? Magical.

It's no longer just a jumble of ideas in my head. It is now printed words on a page. A thing. That exists in the world. A thing that can be shared.

And that is no small victory.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Blueberry Muffins ...

Yesterday, The Blueberry Fairy (aka my mom) stopped by with two pounds of blueberries from the farmers' market.

In my world, blueberries are eaten out of hand or surrounded by muffin.

I've been noshing on handfuls. So the time for muffins was nigh.

Here's a blog post about 'em from another of my blogs, recipe included, of course.

These babies are so simple. And we're in the thick of blueberry season. Whip up some for yourself and others you love.

Here they are, fresh out of the oven.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Right Turns ...

Wow, yesterday was a good day!

Well, for Democrats, anyway, a k a – eek! – liberals.

Did you see? The Right was sniping at itself. And at least one journalist was actually doing his job and calling out those who like to perpetuate falsehoods. And constituents were making their displeasure known in a town-hall meeting. And a high-ranking senator took down one of the GOP's likely contenders for the presidential nod in 2012. And one high-profile candidate was being a whiny girl.

Here, then, for those of you who aren't regular readers of political sites, a gleeful round-up:

From Daily Kos, citing an AP interview with Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC):

In a revealing interview with AP, Inglis -- a bona fide conservative who took office in the GOP revolution of 1994 and helped lead the impeachment of Bill Clinton -- said the Republican Party had become poisoned by demagogues and racists. Inglis singled out Sarah Palin's oft-repeated (but false) claim that there were "death panels" in the health care reform bill.

"There were no death panels in the bill ... and to encourage that kind of fear is just the lowest form of political leadership. It's not leadership. It's demagoguery," said Inglis, one of three Republican incumbents who have lost their seats in Congress to primary and state party convention challengers this year.

Inglis said voters eventually will discover that you're "preying on their fears" and turn away.

You can read the entire piece here.

From Think Progress:

Yesterday, on CNBC, Hans Bader of the Competitive Enterprise Institute repeated the talking point [that the Obama administration is refusing to waive the Jones Act out of deference to the will of labor unions], but he ran into a host who had done his homework. CNBC’s Mark Haines noted that 68 different offers of foreign cleanup help have been accepted, and then challenged Bader to cite examples of the Jones Act causing a problem:

HAINES: How many rejections under the Jones Act?

BADER: I don’t know how many.

HAINES: Excuse me, Senator McCarthy, you can’t tell us how many there are? I want the facts, give us hard facts, give us evidence, not innuendo, not baseless accusations, okay? It’s offensive to intelligence. The fact is sir, you have told us there are examples of rejections and you can not name a single one.

(I love the "Senator McCarthy" crack!)

You can read the entire piece here.

Also from Think Progress:

This past Wednesday, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) held a town hall in Layton, Utah, to hear the concerns of his constituents. The senator covered issues ranging from immigration to his votes against confirming Supreme Court justices.

During one point of the town hall, Hatch opened up the floor for questions from his constituents. One asked him why, given the reckless and criminal behavior of Wall Street financial elites in the lead up to the financial crisis, there have not been more significant prosecutions of bankers who broke the law. While Hatch quickly agreed that some bankers may have committed crimes and should be investigated, he quickly veered off to attacking Democratic proposals to place new regulations on Wall Street.

The same questioner then followed up, “I don’t think you get it, sir. We’re angry at the bankers, I don’t want to hear all this about the government!”

You can read the entire piece here.

And from the website of Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), the first paragraph of a take down of Mitt Romney:

Governor Mitt Romney’s hyperbolic attack on the New START Treaty in the July 6 edition of The Washington Post repeats discredited objections and appears unaware of arms control history and context. In advancing these arguments, he rejects the Treaty’s unequivocal endorsement by the Defense Department led by Secretary Robert Gates and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He also distances himself from prominent Republican national security leaders, including Jim Schlesinger, Henry Kissinger, James Baker, and Brent Scowcroft, who have backed the Treaty after thoughtful analysis.

You can read the entire press release here.

And from Huffington Post, this lede about Sharron Angle, the Republican candidate hoping to unseat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:

Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle may be the darling of the Tea Party movement, but within the Nevada GOP community, the conservative hopeful has been criticized as "a very difficult person," "an ultra-right winger" and someone the state "can't rely on" to be their representative in Washington.

A growing number of Nevada Republicans are expressing skepticism over Angle's Senate candidacy. Some are even signaling they may not vote for the GOP contender over Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in November.

You can read the entire piece here.

And speaking of Angle, now that her feet are being held to the fire, she's calling out Reid for trying to "hit the girl" in this piece from Washington Monthly citing Politico:

GOP Senate nominee Sharron Angle claimed that Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) aimed to "hit the girl" in the pair's competitive race for his Senate seat, using the phrase in two separate interviews on Wednesday.

"It is also the corruption in Washington, DC that is characterized by Harry Reid, lets-make-a-deal cronyism, politics as usual, and so we're saying dirty tricks Harry is up to his dirty tricks one more time and he's just trying to hit the girl," Angle said on the Alan Stock Show.

"You know, isolate that Sharron Angle, marginalize her and then demonize her," she said in a separate appearance on the Heidi Harris Show. "And he has been doing that to me and what we need to do is say, 'you know Harry, it's not going to do you any good to hit the girl.'"

Really, Sharron? You're trying to unseat the leader of the Senate and you're going to start whining that he should be nicer to you because you're a girl?

You can read the entire piece here.

Thanks, as ever, to pal Doreen for pointing me toward some of these gems and for continually keeping me in the know.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Scores ...

I am a film-score junkie.

I love them. I love music of most stripes, but film scores, done well, awe me.

Last night, I watched "A Single Man," Tom Ford's directorial debut.

Given Ford's success in the world of fashion, it was no wonder that the film was beautiful, aesthetically.

Colin Firth's performance was staggering, oh so worthy of his Oscar nomination. And how is Julianne Moore not British and older? She embodied her character seamlessly.

And the score. Oh, the score. Never before have I seen a movie in which the score so perfectly supported the film. My vast appreciation to Abel Korzeniowski and Shigeru Umebayashi for the beauty and eloquence of their music.

I was tweeting, nay, raving, about the film and the score last night, and one of my Twitterpals replied to say that she's been wanting to listen to some new scores and asked for some recommendations.

There are so many I love. But I kept my recommendations to three tweetfuls.

In no particular order, I suggested:

"Girl With A Pearl Earring" — "Griet's Theme" has a sense of wonder and trepidation and fantasy to it. Alexandre Desplat here. Outstanding.

"The Painted Veil" — "River Waltz" takes my breath away for its simplicity and beauty. Desplat, again here, gets credit for the entire score, but Lang Lang performs this piece.

"The Mission" — If I ever get married, I will walk down the aisle to "Gabriel's Oboe." From one of the elder statesmen of music, Ennio Morricone.

"The Straight Story" — "Laurens, Iowa" is quintessential Angelo Badalamenti. Gorgeous.

"The Wackness" — I wasn't really loving the movie, but I was loving the score. "They Trippin' " is especially good. I wasn't familiar with David Torn before I saw this film. I hope to hear from him again.

"K-Pax" — "Grand Central," which accompanies the opening title sequence, is one of the best compositions I've ever heard. Listen all the way through. Thank you, Edward Shearmur.

"Message In A Bottle" — I've never seen the movie. I never want to. I listened to this score on a trip to Big Sur. It is the perfect score to accompany the watching of the water and the light. "New Dreams" is lovely. Gabriel Yared.

"The Insider" — Not the typical orchestral score, but oh so memorable. Lisa Gerrard's voice is amazing. "Exile" is particularly haunting. It sounds like it's underwater. Praise for Pieter Bourke, Graeme Revell, and Jan Garbarek, too.

"Gangs Of New York" — The pairing of Peter Gabriel's "Signal To Noise" over a battle scene? Genius.

"Charlie Wilson's War" — "Refugee Camp." Period. James Newton Howard is one of my favorites.

"Memoirs Of A Geisha" — Really, any John Williams' score makes a "favorites" list in my book, but with Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman? Every piece is lovely, but "The Garden Meeting" is particularly beautiful.

"Gladiator" — More Lisa Gerrard vocals. "Now We Are Free" is one of my all-time favorite pieces of music. "Earth" is a another favorite. Hans Zimmer. Enough said.

"Life As A House" — "I'm Happy Today." Pair a piano and strings and I'm done. Mark Isham.

"Braveheart" — "The Gift of a Thistle" accompanies such bittersweet moment in the film. Lovely. James Horner.

"American Beauty" — Thomas Newman here. I love that much of this score, like "Dead Already," doesn't sound like a traditional film score. But "Any Other Name" steps up to the traditional film-score plate.

"The Shawshank Redemption" — And speaking of Thomas Newman, "Shawshank Prison [Stoic Theme]" is as sweeping and cinematic as "New Fish" is sparse. If I could only watch one movie for the rest of my life, it would be this one.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Brian Ray: The Latest ...

Call it serendipity.

I "met" Brian Ray through the modern communication marvel that is Twitter. (He tweets as @brianrayguitar.) And we trade tweets from time to time.

I mention this because I am incapable of being an objective listener of anything he produces from here on out. I am preconditioned to love everything, but for one simple reason: Brian Ray is a tremendously talented musician.

He is also a really cool guy.

I wrote this post back in April, when I first found his music.

And here I am again, because today Brian released two singles from his forthcoming album, This Way Up.

"I Found You" has been available on his site, and I've been listening to it. A lot. But my interest was piqued and I was eager to hear what the newer new track would bring to the table.

As I've written before, "What I love about Brian's music is that every track has its own identity. Some are playful, some are rockin', some will nearly break your heart."

It was true on Mondo Magneto and apparently it will be true on This Way Up, too, if this two-single release is any indication.

You can score the singles and a digital booklet directly from his site for the rock-bottom price of 99 cents. You can also buy the two cuts on iTunes.

"I Found You" and "Happy Ending" are decidedly different cuts.

"I Found You" epitomizes summer to me. The first time I heard it, I wished I was in a convertible. Preferably in California. Because if you're going to cruise down the street and blare that song, there may as well be palm trees around just to up the cool quotient.

"Happy Ending" opens with a very moody feel, one of being on the prowl. And when you read the liner notes about the tune, and listen to the lyrics, the open makes perfect sense. True to past form, there are some cheeky moments in the lyrics, and his talent is on very evident display. Brian plays many guitars on his tracks, all of which mix into a very rockin' aural brew.

And I love that Charlie, his French bulldog, gets a "Bark" credit.

Now, lest I seem effusively adoring of every note Brian puts to paper and every moment of every song, I'll add this bit of opinion, and it is my opinion alone, and the rest of the world may not agree with me, but for my taste (have I hedged enough yet?), I'd prefer "Happy Ending" without the brief Auto-Tune/talkbox business (especially at 0:39-0:41).

I admire his appreciation and willingness to embrace the spectrum of music – one cut on Mondo Magneto opens with a country feel – but that one moment in "Happy Ending" feels too gimmicky in a Brian Ray tune, too obligatory. I think it really dates the song.

But I love the rest of it. The man can tell a musical story.

So, stop what you're doing and head over to his site or to iTunes and grab these cuts.

And one last point: Brian is a brilliant musician. He absolutely has the goods to stand on his own, and does. But he's often mentioned in the same breath as Paul McCartney because Brian tours with him. It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway: This is further proof of his mind-blowing talent. Paul, of course, can play with any musicians in the world. (Can you imagine someone telling Paul that they don't want to play with him?) So the fact that Brian has been up on stage alongside Paul for years tells you all you need to know about the man's musicianship before you ever hear a note of his solo efforts.

But oh, you're in for such a great ride.

Monday, July 05, 2010

The Morning After The 4th Of July ...

There is no to-do list. All the to-dos are done.

There is another to-do list, of course. There is always a to-do list. But the to-do list for the 4th of July is one for the record books. Or the shredder. I wouldn't want anyone rummaging through my trash and discovering that I had to vacuum the basement and make Rice Krispie Treats, among other things.

Because today is the 5th of July, which never gets any press. Today is a day that will see me tackling the dishes that I didn't tackle last night, and wandering around my lawn picking up sticks from bottle rockets and candy wrappers shed during yesterday's parade.

I have a shindig for the 4th every year, as I live on a parade route, and I really do love the afternoon of Americana, and I loved it even more this year because some friends with wee ones were able to make it. A parade makes much more sense if there are little people seeing it for the first time, eyes wide at all the movement and sound and bopping around in the street to whatever music happens to be nearby.

And the candy. Oh, the candy. The nearly endless candy. I wonder if Baby Jay will go for a walk with his mom and dad today and be near a street and wonder why people aren't pitching handfuls of candy his way.

It's always fun for me, too, to have new guests in my home, folks who haven't seen the house before. After nearly 10 years, it's nice to still give little tours. Sheila announced that my house is like a B&B. I like that notion of it. It is very important to me that my guests feel comfortable here, that my home feels like a place they would want to stay.

Yesterday, post-parade, as Baby Jay ran through the sprinkler, Sheila said, "Did I mention we're the types who never leave?"

I told her we'd be fine, as long as the brownies held out.

Oh, brownies.

Shouldn't we eat them every day?

I think there would be much less strife in the world if everyone upped their consumption of brownies. Who can wage a war or intentionally plunder the financial system while enjoying a brownie? Some people, I'm sure, but fewer.

Perhaps that should be my life's work: waging peace through baked goods. (Hmm. "Harmony" just took on extra meaning for me.)

Anyway, the 4th is done, for another 364 days. The house is mostly back in order. My fridge is uncharacteristically stocked with food. And it is not yet 7 a.m. The day stretches out before me.

And I will, no doubt, spend it stretched out on the couch.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Early, Early Morning ...

Here I sit, clackity-clacking on my laptop. It is dark in my living room, save for the light of the screen and the track lights above the stairs, which I have brought up from dark to rather dim. My iced coffee is sitting just beyond my reach. All I can make out is the straw.

Light is breaking outside. Birds are singing to one another, surely not to me. I should be asleep. But I am not. I am here, listening to the hum of my refrigerator and the movement of the gears in the clock on the wall. The tick does not sound like the tock.

I was tired last night and I have a very busy day ahead, so if my mind were sane and my body benevolent, I'd still be asleep. But my mind decided to spin an awful dream about my city flooding, so much so that I couldn't get home, and all I could do was sit on some steps, just above the water, and think, "My basement is flooded," which is a concern I have in real life, every time it rains.

But it is not raining, nor has it been raining. It has been lovely, but the weather this weekend, if the weatherman knows anything at all (and some days that is dubious), will be hot. Ninety degrees hot. Which isn't so unexpected in July, I suppose, but it would have been nice if the pleasant weather could have hung on for another day or two.

Alas. At least the watermelon will seem more significant.

There's nothing necessary in this post, though I suppose none of these posts are necessary. But what is there to do before 5 a.m. on a Saturday?

I could go for a walk. But that seems somehow cruel. Plenty of exertion awaits today, in advance of everyone arriving tomorrow. Cleaning, cooking, general "company's coming" prep, all those things that I should do for myself but that I'm quite content to leave alone until someone is coming over. Funny how we're so willing to do for others that which we won't always do for ourselves.

That is far too much insight for this hour of the day.

Though I now know that the world is quite light at 5:09 a.m., that pretty grey light that complements the trees, looking a bit like a painting that has faded.

And there is much I can be doing, really, plotting out the day, at the very least, organizing what should get done when, the pre-party logistics, though no amount of anticipation ever seems to be enough. The day of still goes by in a blur.

So then, a happy 4th of July weekend to you. May it be filled with parades and sparklers and watermelon and gin.

Yes, I wrote "gin." It just popped into my head, and it made me chuckle. I'm usually not a gin drinker, and surely not at this hour of the day, so why it's on my mind, I have no idea.

But perhaps a gin and tonic will be in order at some point this weekend. After the holiday din has subsided and given way to an assault of fireworks. Which I will hear, muffled, through my windows which will be shut against the humidity and heat.

Join me, won't you? Stop by. Or call. You won't wake me.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

On Domestic Bliss ...

When last our heroine wrote, she was blathering on, something about music and needing to get stuff done around the house.

(Hey, you know what'd be annoying? Writing an entire post in the style of a throwback radio announcer. So I'll stop that.)

All righty, then. So, Tuesday, I whipped up a little post about the playlist I'd turned to for motivation, and it worked, because on Tuesday, I washed nearly every item of washable stuff that had take up residence in my basement.

There are still a few things to wash, but they're such an odd collection, they didn't make up a load, so they're sitting in the laundry basket, waiting for me to decide what to do with them.

But otherwise, all the A-list laundry is done. Of course, every day brings with it new laundry, so I'm never officially caught up, but the heavy lifting, as it were, got accomplished on Tuesday.

And yes, I am writing a blog post about laundry. It's OK. You can say it. These days, I take life victories wherever I can find them.

Like yesterday, when I went to Target ... TWICE.

I didn't mean to go to Target twice in one day. Who does? Well, Target addicts, maybe, but a Target addict I am not.

In fact, I had been meaning to go for a few days, as supplies dwindled and disappeared, so yesterday was the day.

I hitched up the team, donned my muslin bonnet, and ventured forth across the prairie, hoping to complete my trip to the mercantile and make safe passage home, free of encounters with marauders or bears.

(Yes, I need more coffee! How could you tell?!)

But seriously, I went to Target, armed with my list, and managed to get out of there spending less than $50. Ugh.

One of the things I bought was a two-pack of toothpaste, my usual Colgate blue weirdness, because I like having one tube in reserve at all times.

And once Einstein over here figured out how the two boxes had been welded together, I managed to separate them, opened up one, slid out the tube, and thought, "Hmm. I don't think I'm supposed to see the toothpaste through the side of the tube."

The seam was split open, down almost the entire length.

I further thought that a) the toothpaste was probably contaminated at that point, and b) squeezing the tube would prove to be a messy proposition.

But I thought I'd chalk it up to a defect and went right to the second box.

And wouldn't you know it? The same exact issue.

So I put the tubes back in their boxes and put the boxes back in a Target bag and after lunch, I zipped back to Target to the service desk where I returned my toothpaste and suggested that perhaps they'd want to pull the other two-packs off the shelf, because there's probably an issue with the entire lot.

And then I went to the toothpaste aisle and selected a single tube, and opened the box, and squeezed that sucker to make sure that nothing was going to split open.

And then I headed for the checkout counter.

And then I thought, "Ooh, you know what'd be good? Dark chocolate."

So I changed course and headed for the candy aisle.

And I didn't pick up a bar of my usual Lindt 70% Cacao chocolate.

Oh, no, I didn't.

I picked up a bag of dark-chocolate Peanut M&Ms instead.

And last night, I used my toothpaste and it worked just fine.

And I'll use it again this morning, just as soon as I finish this ginormous iced coffee, which, frankly, isn't having a lot of effect at the moment.

I think my body has built up a tolerance to caffeine.

I might need to move on to epinephrine.

I have another full day ahead.