Monday, January 30, 2006

E = MC Mozart

Worth-reading article about Einstein and his beloved composer in today's New York Times:
He also empathized with Mozart's ability to continue to compose magnificent music even in very difficult and impoverished conditions. In 1905, the year he discovered relativity, Einstein was living in a cramped apartment and dealing with a difficult marriage and money troubles.

"a curse on your own nation"

Says the perceptive - regarding our President, in this particular quote, at least - Ayman al-Zawahiri:
"Butcher of Washington, you are not only defeated and a liar, but also a failure," he said, speaking of Mr. Bush. "You are a curse on your own nation and you have brought and will bring them only catastrophes and tragedies."

what a life can be

We were lucky to get to know Jean Siri last year, when she shared the house next door with our neighbor, Virginia. R.I.P., Jean.

In honor of her contributions to regional parks, "All flags throughout the [East Bay Regional Park] District headquarters, facilities and 65 parklands will remain a half staff until February 11." The San Francisco Chronicle's obituary captures some of her spirit:
Jean Siri -- activist, former El Cerrito mayor
- Kevin Fagan, Chronicle Staff Writer
Saturday, January 21, 2006

In the end, after a lifetime of dashing passionately from cause to cause as one of the "Wild Women of Contra Costa County," social issues activist and former El Cerrito Mayor Jean Siri died the way she probably would have wanted to.

She suffered a heart attack sitting in her car outside her home Friday morning -- with the engine running and her hand on the shift lever, apparently about to push it into drive.

She was 85 years old, but she had the energy, drive and restless spirit of someone half her age, friends and family recalled.

"She died fast, independent and getting ready to go somewhere," said her daughter, Lynn Siri Kimsey, managing a chuckle even as she struggled with the blow of her mother's death. "It was a perfect way to go.

"And she certainly had a full enough life."

That, Ms. Siri's many friends and admirers said, could be an understatement.

At the time of her death, Ms. Siri was a member of the East Bay Regional Park District Board of Directors, a position she held for 14 years. When asked in 2004, just before her last election, whether she might think of stepping aside for younger candidates, she harrumphed: "Only if I have a dead body would I stop running, and it's not quite dead yet."

The comment was typical of her irreverent, bluntly honest wit. That characteristic, coupled with her high-octane vigor, propelled her into dozens of political and organizational posts throughout Contra Costa County over the past half-century, from two stints as mayor in the 1980s to co-founder of the influential environmental groups Save the Bay and the California Native Plant Society.

Together with homeless activist Susan Prather and their late friend Fancheon Christner, Ms. Siri fought so fiercely with county and city governments on behalf of the elderly, homeless and ecological causes that the three were nicknamed the "Wild Women of Contra Costa County" in the early 1980s by the local press. The three were instrumental in keeping homeless shelters and senior centers open in Richmond and Concord and in protecting access to the bay for the public by opposing industrial expansion plans all along the East Bay shoreline.

"She was the mother I should have had," said Prather, 55-year-old director of the Fresh Start homeless aid center in Walnut Creek. "We both went pretty far in getting into people's faces, I guess, but we sure had fun doing it."

Ms. Siri was born Jean Brandenberg near Bismarck, N.D. After earning a bachelor's degree in biology at Jamestown College in North Dakota, she enlisted in 1943 in the Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) and ran a cryptology unit in Klamath Falls, Ore.

Upon her honorable discharge, she took a job managing the animal lab at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. There she met her husband, biophysicist William Siri, who helped create the atomic bomb as a member of the Manhattan Project. The two married in 1949 and were a perfect fit in their verve and temperament, daughter Lynn Siri Kimsey recalled.

"She and my dad both made it clear that you can't just sit back and wait for someone to do the right thing," said Siri Kimsey, an entomology professor at UC Davis. "You have to get out there and do it yourself."

Ms. Siri quit her lab job in 1952 to raise their two daughters at home in El Cerrito, but she quickly added more ways to fill her time. As her husband pursued a storied interest in mountain climbing -- he co-led the first American expedition up Mount Everest -- and became president of the national Sierra Club, Ms. Siri began protesting on behalf of civil rights and environmental causes.

When her children left high school, she entered local politics, getting elected chairwoman of the Stege Sanitary District from 1975 to 1979. In 1980, she won a seat on the El Cerrito City Council, and served until 1991, except for a break from 1985 to 1987. She took the rotating post of mayor in 1982-83 and 1988-89.

Along the way, she also was active in the Gray Panthers senior citizens advocacy group and served on a plethora of local and countywide commissions, including the West County Toxics Coalition and the county Homeless Committee.

"Will and I have had a pretty good time stirring things up," Ms. Siri told The Chronicle in August 2004 for an obituary about her husband, who had just died of complications due to Alzheimer's. "Hell, someone has to. Why not us?"

"Any one of her experiences would have been a career for anyone else," said park district General Manager Pat O'Brien, who ordered district flags flown at half-staff. "She reminded me of an eight-cylinder car. Everyone else is down to four cylinders, so to speak, and can be kind of subtle, but she was full bore. When she stepped on the gas, you heard it."

Mayor Tom Bates, who with Ms. Siri and others helped create the Eastshore State Park, was shocked to hear that the energetic woman he had fought alongside -- and even with, sometimes -- for many years was silenced.

"Jean was a great advocate to have on your side," he said. "She always told you exactly where you stood, what she believed in. What a great fighter she was."

Ms. Siri is survived by her daughters, Lynn Siri Kimsey of Davis and Anne Siri of Philo (Mendocino County), and two grandchildren.

Donations in her name can be made to Fresh Start in Walnut Creek, (925) 935-8446, or to the East Bay Regional Park District, (510) 635-0135. Services are pending.

Page B - 4
©2006 San Francisco Chronicle

Friday, January 27, 2006

fiction, schmiction: it's all true AND it's all fiction

The all-too-predictable controversy about James Frey's memoir reminds me that my favorite UC Berkeley professor, Todd Willy, assigned Yukio Mishima's memoir Sun and Steel (a beautiful and powerful book, well worth reading; poor guy never had a chance, the War ended before he could become one of the kamikaze that, as an impressionable youth, he adored) to be read as a novel, in his "Rhetoric of the Novel" course. Realizing the impossibility of somehow capturing objective reality (whatever that might be) in words, and the role of re-imagining and revision in every act of story-telling (whether intended as fiction or not), I agree with my old editor John Sterlicchi who said, "Never let the facts get in the way of the story." Deeper truths dominate whatever set of facts the story-teller manages to assemble; the effective story-teller manipulates story elements to evoke the profound realities that even the simplest stories reflect.

Thursday, January 26, 2006


All it's cracked up to be, and more.
Second only to....


Thanks to everybody who helps.

Monday, January 23, 2006

"support our troops"

News that Halliburton delivered contaminated water to U.S. troops in Iraq shocks, but comes as no surprise. By now it should be obvious how poorly prepared the U.S. military has been for Bush's war - sending troops into combat with inadequate armor and other supplies is just the start. Before the war started, I predicted this, and was contradicted by a close friend who works as a journalist for a major metro newspaper: they've got their act together now in the all-volunteer military, compared to the way things were when I was drafted and served (longer ago than I care to recall), he argued. As a motor pool parts clerk just south of the DMZ in Korea, I knew that half of our mechanized infantry battallion's jeeps, trucks, and armored personnel carriers wouldn't run due to lack of needed repair parts, and I saw first-hand the way the troops suffered when the mess hall manager sold our fresh food on the black market (only the most egregious example of how we were cheated by our leaders). Apparently, not much as changed. Profiteers profit, while troops in the field do without or get second-best. So much for "Support Our Troops" - bring 'em home now, out of harm's way...whether that harm comes from Us or The Enemy, if that's a meaningful distinction.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

why isn't Turd Blossom in jail yet?

Bush facing impeachment? Rumsfeld and his bullies in the dock for crimes against humanity? & etc.

Comes with Republican Party control of all branches of government and a majority of voters who, apparently, want things this way, at least they voted in this gang.

Monday, January 16, 2006

everybody shares the dream...right?

Friday, January 13, 2006


There have to be at least 13 reasons not to be, I'm afraid.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

blue sky thursday...

...and it's just as pretty as a picture postcard, as my old Daddy used to say. They say it's going to rain tomorrow, but that's difficult to believe looking at the sky right now.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

"He Rode The Fast Lane On The Road To Nowhere"

UPDATE [Weds, 11.01.06]: From blame to insight and compassion, not a bad move. Sustainable?

10.01.06: Woke up with this phrase, the promotional tagline for Five Easy Pieces, one of my favorite movies (in part because of the oil rig setting and Jack's roughneck character, and my own experience with same), on my mind, seeing in a new light the film's ending, which I have interpreted in a very different way all these years. Finallly liberated from his worst fears and guilt feelings and nearing the end of his earthly existence, the Father mutely expresses his realization – enigmatic because he cannot speak and thus verbalize his feelings – that the Son has managed to find his way and become his own person despite the father's mistakes, the miracle is that Father has, in fact, passed something along to Son, but it's life-affirming, positive, an essential strength, that has helped the Son survive and thrive, not the "infection" of fear and weakness that he feels he received from his own father and that he was certain he had transmitted to his son. In an earlier interpretation, the Father's silence in the face of Son's confession condemns the Son for disobedience, for wasting the gift of his musical talent, renders impossible reconciliation and forgiveness, Father and Son remain trapped (together and separately) within a labyrinth of frustration and pain, bound by the past and their limited conceptions of themselves and each other. Maybe being able to see the movie in a different way indicates some positive shift in my ability to understand and accept my own life? That would be nice. Or, maybe this is just wishful thinking, seeking to let myself off the hook for my shortcomings and mistakes. How would I continue the movie, what does Nicholson's character go on to do after this encounter with the ineffable (nothing to do with the F-word, or does it?) Father?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

the stars never lie

My favorite astrologer says 2006 is going to be a great year, and that sounds just fine to me.

Monday, January 09, 2006

huge war crime happening as we watch, apparently impotent

How many hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died as the result of the U.S. invasion?

Saturday, January 07, 2006

mo' 'bout bro'

Daily Times Saturday, January 07, 2006

EDITORIAL: Will Iran pipeline go ahead despite US opposition?

Even as Iran, Pakistan and India prepare to close a tripartite $7 billion 2,600-kilometre gas pipeline deal that would take Iranian gas to India through Pakistan, a senior State Department official has said that the United States is unequivocally against the deal. “The US government supports multiple pipelines from that [Caspian] region but remains absolutely opposed to pipelines involving Iran,” Steven Mann, a senior official from the US State Department, said last Wednesday.

Interestingly, the Asian Development Bank has assessed that the deal is feasible. At the same meeting, Dan Millison, ADB’s senior energy specialist, said that the ADB’s assessment was based purely on economic grounds and the rising demand for energy from India and Pakistan. The US position, however, is not linked to the economic side of the deal. It is driven by strategic politics, by Washington’s Iran policy. The United States, which has had adversarial relations with Iran since the 1979 revolution ousted the monarchy, has been accusing Iran for some years of cherishing nuclear-weapon ambitions. Since 2004, when Iran conceded that it had tried to enrich uranium beyond the limit prescribed by the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to which it (Iran) is a signatory, the US has been pushing for isolating Iran and taking it to the United Nations Security Council for sanctions under Chapter VII of the UNSC.

Washington has voiced its opposition to the IPI pipeline as part of that strategy. The US fears that the deal will be a blow to its (US) efforts to isolate Iran. Since the deal also involves Pakistan and India, two countries that are squarely in the US camp and friendly with Washington, the Bush administration has been trying to pressure both to back off from the deal. India has come under greater pressure because New Delhi and Washington are steadily getting closer. The two sides have also signed a deal which bestows on India’s nuclear capability a legitimacy that has not come the way of any other state outside the NPT. But part of the quid pro quo is that India should get out of the Iran pipeline deal. Last September, India was forced to give a positive vote on a Britain-sponsored, US-backed resolution at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) calling for sanctions against Iran. While India and Iran managed to tide over that incident, it is clear that the US is not about to let the matter of the pipeline rest.

Indian officials have so far played down the opposition from the US. Even after India cast its anti-Iran vote at the IAEA, the Indian petroleum minister, Mani Shankar Aiyar, was reported as saying that everything was on track as far as the IPI deal was concerned. Indeed, during his visit to Pakistan last year to work out the details of the deal, Mr Aiyar, a strong advocate of the pipeline, had said that there was no official pressure on New Delhi from Washington. We now know that that is not the case. In fact, just after the Indian prime minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, signed the July 17 deal in Washington, he made some unfavourable comments on the IPI deal, remarking that given the US opposition he did not see how any bank or financial institution would underwrite the deal. His statement created uproar among his allies in the Indian government and he had to retract it. But the fact is that he did make those comments as they were reported; the fact also is that Mr Singh knew the exact nature and extent of the US opposition to the deal and seemed to have sent out a warning signal to the financiers.

The US opposition to the deal, therefore, is no more a secret. The issue really is: Will the deal still go through? In other words, will India and Pakistan ignore US pressure and keep the deal on schedule? Opinion is divided on this. There is greater headache in this for India than Pakistan because India has much more to gain from the USA if it opts out and much more to lose if it doesn’t. So far it has tried to play both sides — voting against Iran at the IAEA but continuing to remain close to Iran on the economic agreements it has with that country. But that option may not be available to New Delhi for very long. On the domestic front, the Indian government has elements within the coalition that are opposed to India’s unbridled alliance with the US and New Delhi’s qualified approach to Iran because of its (India’s) strategic partnership with the US. If Dr Singh takes a decision to throw in his lot completely with the US, he will have to face these elements. Technically speaking, India does have the option of telling the US to take a hike. But whether it will do so is another matter.

This is the key to the issue. India’s decision will likely depend on a cost-benefit analysis. What is more important: its energy-starved economy and regional relations with Iran or its geo-strategic deals with the US? This calculation is not very easy. India desperately needs heavy doses of energy. It has already cut a deal with Iran for liquefied natural gas. It is about to enter another deal through the IPI. Its economic ties with Iran have been on the rise since the last 15 years. If Iran is convinced that India has opted for the US camp, Tehran could simply go ahead with Pakistan. On the other hand, India needs the US for a host of reasons, not least the fact that its strategic partnership with the US may be its only route to big power status. The relations also involve foreign direct investment, investment in India by US companies, the US interest in enhancing India’s military capability and so on.

Is the clock ticking on India’s decision? It may be premature to conclude thus. There is a long way to go in terms of the homework that needs to be done and the terms and conditions that need to be clinched among the three pipeline countries before the project can be irrevocably inaugurated. Until then, they can all hope that a solution to the US-Iran problem can be found that removes the US hurdles in the way of the pipeline.

Friday, January 06, 2006

latest back-burner project & another first novel I probably wouldn't get around to reading:

“That’s Mister Loud-Mouth to you, punk!”

Episde No. 555
in the never-ending family saga


DougDay: pay-for-pay-pundit still doesn't get it

Sorry, right-wing-pay-for-play-pundit Doug, you did in fact create a conflict of interest, not the appearance of same: you were clearly speaking for Abramhoff's lobbying interests when you accepted money to advocate their views in print. Bottom line: you still don't get it, concealing the fact that you're being paid to advocate certain views and not revealing same in public statements is unethical and dishonest.

[cross-posted from, "where every Doug has his day"

Thursday, January 05, 2006

you go, bro!

US ‘absolutely opposes’ Iran-India gas line

‘New Delhi can oppose but might not want to sacrifice its ties with Washington’

Agence France Presse

Washington, january 5 The US said it was ‘‘absolutely opposed’’ to a natural gas pipeline project linking Iran with Pakistan and India, even though it was seen as feasible by an Asian Development Bank (ADB) expert.

The 2,600-km pipeline is estimated to cost more than $7 billion. ‘‘The US government supports multiple pipelines from the Caspian region but remains absolutely opposed to pipelines involving Iran,’’ senior State Department official Steven Mann told a forum in Washington on Wednesday night.

The US accuses Iran of trying to build a nuclear bomb and being a state sponsor of terror.

Mann, the special negotiator for Eurasian conflicts in the State Department’s Bureau of European Affairs, spoke after ADB expert Dan Millison told the forum that the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline and another planned pipeline project linking Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan were both feasible. Millison said at the meeting organised by John Hopkins University that his assessment was based purely on economic grounds and demand from energy-guzzling India and Pakistan.

India, Pakistan and Iran, which has the world’s second-biggest natural gas reserves, have said they hope to conclude a deal by June 2006 despite US opposition. They plan to hold further talks in February in Tehran. India has said construction of the pipeline should start in 2007 and be operational by 2011.

Millison said although the 1,680-km trans-Afghan gas pipeline was shorter and less costly, as of last month India and Pakistan were ‘‘moving forward’’ with the project with Iran.

A multilateral institution official, who attended the Washington meeting and who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a key question was whether India and Pakistan were prepared to go ahead with the trilateral project despite US opposition.

He thought India particularly had the ‘‘capacity’’ to forge ahead with the project but a US official beside him said New Delhi might not sacrifice its ‘‘long term interest’’ with Washington.

The US regards Pakistan as a key ally in its war on terror and has provided much aid to the country. It has also pledged to go out of the way to provide civilian nuclear technology to meet India’s energy needs.


© 2005: Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. All rights reserved throughout the world.

behind the carefully-crafted movie image, hippos are really badasses

Cute as the dickens they may be, as sentimentalized by Tubal nature documentaries and Fantasia, but I didn't know that hippos can run 30 mph and "kill more people each year than lions, elephants, leopards, buffaloes and rhinos combined," until I read Paul Raffaele's article, in Hippo Haven, in this month's Smithsonian magazine.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

in yr face, amerikanpuritan fear-based consciousness!

Rhode Island Legalizes Medical Marijuana

....after The Supremes bring the hammer down, Fall '05 C.A.M.P. fires still smoking, in the midst of an ongoing Federal war on medical cannabis dispensaries and associated grower networks.…

"Death to the fascist insect that preys on the life of the people!"

What's next? Smoking taxpayer-supported pot at taxpayer-supported same-sex weddings/abortion clinics/jihadkinder?

Yeah, baby.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

is this the best we can do? mercy killings for whales?

Sad start for the new year. So much for rainydaydreaming, of the sweet variety at least (see left margin).

I still believe in fairies, however.

Stranded whales shot dead in NZ

we are all hungover & envious consumptionists-in-training

Long-time friend and ace journo Tom Abate starts '06 off with a worth-reading look at media immersion and what it might mean when we spend more hours consuming media than sleeping:
University of Michigan communications Professor Susan Douglas said advertising -- which is the bread, butter, jam and mother's milk of media -- has afflicted Americans with a perpetual unease that can be appeased but never quite satisfied with new purchases. "Advertising is designed to sell us envy, and the person we envy is the future self we become if we use the product,'' said Douglas, who believes media have come to "colonize our minds." Young people, she said, are most susceptible to the "extreme narcissism" fostered by media. "They live in a much more saturated media environment. They are the most heavily marketed-to generation ever," Douglas said, adding, "I'm not suggesting young people are dupes. A lot of them are talking back."

Might we be better off if we spent all those hours sleeping, with the hope of illuminating dreams, instead of consuming media which reinforce all our worst fears and foolish hopes?