previous daily digressions ('08)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


for October 4, 2008

Hardly Strictly Tops Itself with Krauss & Plant

Krauss, Plant and band at Golden Gate Park last night.
[photo by Paul Iorio]

"This is, seriously, the best festival I've ever been to,"

said T-Bone Burnett from the stage, after performing an

immensely enjoyable set with Robert Plant and Alison Krauss

yesterday evening in Golden Gate Park in San


It was opening night of the annual Hardly Strictly

Bluegrass music fest, a free three-day extravaganza

featuring dozens of top rank folk-rockers, folkies and

singer-songwriters, among others, and the crowd was


Burnett wasn't exaggerating. I can't remember the

last time I've seen such a sense of exuberant celebration

on such a vast scale, as if the city had just been

liberated and everyone had come to the park to rejoice

with beer, wine, smiling strangers, non-stop dancing -- and

the best live roots music of the year (for the record,

I had water, straight up).

The band seemed charged by the fact that the crowd was

charged, turning in a performance that was even more

electric than their show in Berkeley a few months ago

(and that's saying a lot).

As for Krauss's voice, I tend to run out of superlatives

when describing its beauty. Let me put it this way: I'm

a non-theistic guy but when I see and hear Krauss sing, I

know for certain there's a musical heaven.

Plant was almost Presleyesque (early Presleyesque)

in terms of charisma, stagecraft, vocal mastery.

And T-Bone's guitar work was often irresistible,

particularly when it resembled John Lennon's rhythm

playing with the early Beatles.

Hardly Strictly continues today and Sunday with an

incredible overabundance of greats, including

Elvis Costello, Iris Dement, Emmylou Harris and Nick

Lowe (all made possible by the massive

generosity of entrepreneur Warren Hellman).

But I digress. Paul



for October 3, 2008

Haven't seen the overnights yet, but I bet yesterday's

Biden-Palin match-up drew the largest audience ever

for any debate, probably largely because people wanted

to see a rank amateur slip and say something stupid

in front of around 60 million TV viewers.

Well, the slip didn't happen, and the headline is,

Palin Didn't Blow It, which isn't the same as

saying she won, because she didn't. It was Joe Biden's

to win, and he did so with Springsteenesque passion,

and when he got to the part about having been a single

parent and not knowing whether one of his kids was

going to make it, well, let's just say there

were a lot of undry eyes.

Biden showed heart and decency but also

confirmed he's still one of the smartest people

in the country on foreign policy. Not only did he

mention capturing and killing bin Laden (Palin didn't),

but he also showed the long-term path to

eliminating future Islamic terrorism:

education reform.

"There have been 7,000 madrassas built along [the

Pakistan-Afghanistan] borders; we should be

helping them build schools," he said. Biden sees

that Islamic terror will stop only when a new

generation of kids growing up in Pakistan (and

on the West Bank, for that matter) are

taught something other than jihad in class.

By contrast, Palin showed a lack of foreign

policy wisdom, calling Iraq the "central front

of the war on terror," despite the fact that

bin Laden and his gang are based elsewhere; and

saying "John McCain knows how to win a war."

(Does he really? The only war in which he fought,

Vietnam, was a defeat for the U.S.)

On domestic policy, she seemed oblivious to

the history-in-the-making going on in the financial

sector, as she spouted outdated cliches about

how the private sector handles things better

than the government. Evidently, she wants health

care to be run by the same private sector that has

just collapsed so spectacularly and that had to

be rescued by the government. (Maybe we should

put AIG and Lehman Bros. in charge of the U.S.

health care system.)

Still, there were no major gaffes on either side,

which means this debate is likely to be almost

completely forgotten by next Tuesday, when

Obama and McCain face off with Tom

Brokaw in Nashville.

* * * *

By the way, some cyber-hacker has evidently

been able to gain remote access to my email

account and may be sending emails from that are not from me. I'm

aware of this only because I received a sales

email from my own email address this morning

that I didn't send to myself. I'm going to be

working with AOL to solve this problem. In the

meantime, if anyone receives any sort of

uncharacteristic email from,

please let me know immediately, because it may not

be from me! Thanks.

* * *

You know, when you do undercover journalism, as I did

in the 1990s, that targets a corporation like Moody's

(see below), you can expect that they're not going to

say good things about you. So if you hear smear coming

from someone at that company, tell them to shut the

hell up with their lousy fiction. (And feel free to

send me an email telling me what slander someone

there might be saying.)

But I digress. Paul



for September 29, 2008

As a journalist, I've been lucky enough to have

met and interviewed, usually one-on-one, some of

the greatest icons of cinema, from Woody Allen to

Tom Hanks, but, unfortunately, I was never able

to meet Paul Newman, who died the other day and

who I admired immensely.

I did, however, write and report about one of

his best films, "Cool Hand Luke" -- my favorite

Newman film, even if most critics prefer "Hud" --

in a story that I wrote and reported for The

Washington Post in 1994.

In my Post story, I asked physicians and other medical

professionals to assess the accuracy of the medical and

health information in feature films. And here's

what the pros told me about what would happen if a mere

mortal were to eat 50 eggs in an hour, as Newman's

character did in the film:

Doctors say Paul Newman's character in "Cool Hand Luke"
was behaving foolishly when he ate 50 eggs, most of them
hard-boiled, within an hour.

"I think you would get a protein overload," says
gastroenterologist Martin Finkel. "One would worry
about over-distending the stomach and rupture."

"You'd cause such an obstruction to your gastric
tract that you'd have constipation for days if
not weeks," adds Rose Ann Soloway, a specialist in
toxicology at the National Capital Poison Center.
"That's something that hard-boiled eggs do: they
really slow up metabolism in the bowels."

(The above is from my piece in the Post.)

Newman, of course, was exempt from the medical

realities that face the rest of us. Or at least

he seemed that way on screen, where he'll live on


But I digress. Paul



for September 28, 2008

Regarding the financial crisis: what

rating did Moody's give AIG and all those failed

investment banks just before they collapsed?

Do those ratings constitute fraud or incompetence

on the part of Moody's? If Lehman had, say, a

triple A on Thursday and failed on Friday,

then of what value is a Moody's rating? Are some

news organizations hesitant to investigate Moody's

because they fear having their own credit

ratings downgraded? (Full disclosure: I did

undercover journalism about Moody's in '93 for

a story that never came to fruition, taking

a "position" there for several weeks when I

was actually collecting info about them. But

the piece didn't pan out. For the record, my

undercover journalism reporting was confined to the

period between late 1992 and mid-1995; the best

of those articles were published by Spy magazine

and Details magazine, and I've posted them, along

with other pieces of mine, at

* * * *

What John McCain Is Thinking Right Now

Maybe I'll ditch her after the election. Yeah,

nobody will notice in that dead zone just before

Christmas, and she can say, "Trig needs my undivided

attention" -- just like that National

Review gal suggested. After the election.

Then again, I might not make it to the White House

with Sarah dragging me down.

But if she quits now, it'll be the Eagleton kiss

of death. I'm indecisive, they'll say. And then

I'd have to break in a brand new running mate.

Meg. I always liked Meg. She reminds me of me.

True grit.

Standing up for 90 minutes really took it out

of me. And I'm trying to make amends with the

Letterman people, but they won't take my calls.

Ole Miss is pissed, too, 'cause I kept 'em


But back to Sarah. She didn't tell me about

that affair with the snow machine racer some years

back. She didn't say, "Let me introduce you to my

family: here's my daughter the slut, my husband the

cuckold, and me -- the adulteress." She didn't

say that.

But the press won't find out about all that tabloid

stuff until after the election. For now, everyone

only knows she's not exactly the brightest light

in the greater Arctic Circle region.

Not sure if my melanoma's back. Saw a spot yesterday.

Not certain about it. Haven't even told Cindy yet.

I'll keep it to myself for now. Nobody has to know

until after November 4. And then on New Year's Eve,

when everybody's preoccupied, I'll tell the

world, casually, "Oops, look what I found, one

of those spots on my lower back."

Could be nothing. But what if it's serious? And what

if Sarah has to take over? She thought Kissinger was

president in the 1970s. It took me 90 minutes to explain

to her what a borough in New York City is. At the U.N.,

she asked for a Spanish translator in order to talk

with the Brazilian ambassador. How can I work up

the courage to tell her goodbye?

Would Meg take the spot? How about Carly?

A private sector gal -- that's what's needed for this

financial mess. Or maybe a gook. That might

smooth things over with the Asian vote.

Lieberman hates Sarah. Oh, he says he loves her, but W

has his phone tapped. You should hear the private

stuff he says. His memoir is gonna tell all.

HarperCollins wants him to title it, "Diary of a Traitor:

My Life On Both Sides of the Aisle," but Lieberman

wants "Remembrances of a Principled

Statesman," so there's a bit of a disagreement

there. And he knows about the snow racer, too.

And who is this Daily Digression fellow

anyway? That Oreo guy, calling me a failure

as a fighter pilot. That punk. Thankfully,

the big papers didn't run it.

I'll wait until after the Biden-Palin debate before

I think about replacing her with Meg. She might

do better than expected, if she keeps interrupting

Biden like she did in that debate in Alaska. Just

keep interrupting Joe, and if he overrides her

interruption, he'll look like a bully. Unless

Joe has some readymade zinger like, "Uh, governor,

in Scranton it's considered bad manners to interrupt

someone when he's talking." We'll see.

I wonder if Tina Fey is available?

But I digress. Paul



for September 27, 2008

Friday Night at the Fights

First, am I the only one who noticed that the

debate organizers seem to have placed Obama's

microphone too low? The apparently low mic,

which Obama even tried to adjust at one

point, caused him to lower his face and eyes

more often than he usually does, not his best

angle, and to become less audible

when he lifted and turned his head. McCain,

being shorter, was exactly the right distance

from his own mic, giving him the

advantage in the first ten minutes or so.

But then Obama hit his stride and started

singing that bit that went, "You were wrong

about Iraq...," and he was crooning.

And that's when I realized that he doesn't

resemble JFK as much as he does the early,

skinny Sinatra -- cool, self-assured, the

consummate master at the podium (though lately

a bit of Gwen Ifill's style seems to be

seeping into his persona).

But McCain acquitted himself well, too,

though he came off more like the president of

a small-town bank in a 1950s Capra movie.

Around an hour in, McCain got emotional about

losing the Vietnam war, and I have to say I sort

of got choked up seeing how he was so personally

invested in that conflict, as wrongheaded as that

war was.

After standing for around an hour, it seemed as

if the 72-year-old McCain wanted a chair. Notice

that between the 68 and 73 minute marks, McCain

used the word "sit" three times (Obama, talking

about the same subject, didn't use the word at

all). And then he became frustrated trying to

pronounce "Ahmadinejad," though he did score points

caricaturing what a meeting with the Iranian leader

might sound like.

McCain soon became overly bold, calling for

an across-the-board spending freeze, which Obama

shot down expertly, noting there are some programs

that are underfunded and others that should be

phased out altogether. (By the way, McCain

should retire that "Miss Congeniality"

line, which he used twice last night.)

All told, both candidates did well, with a slight

edge going to Obama.

* * * *


Here's a shot I snapped the other week of
a crowd lined up to watch eco-protesters in
Berkeley, Calif.

But I digress. Paul



for September 26, 2008

Nice setlist for the Paul McCartney show at

Park HaYarkon, the biggest surprise being

"A Day in the Life," which he hadn't played

live anywhere until a few months ago, I hear.

Macca is apparently becoming less McCartney-centric

these days about the Beatles songs he performs,

as evinced by the inclusion of a Harrison tune,

"Something," which, truth be told, is effectively

a Harrison/James Taylor composition, though

Taylor has been too kind over the decades about

the swipe; a bona fide (as opposed to nominal)

Lennon/McCartney song, "A Day in the Life," which

is arguably a Lennon/McCartney/Martin composition;

a Lennon song, "Give Peace a Chance," credited

to Lennon/McCartney, though it's actually one

of the many "Lennon/McCartney" songs

that was not written by both of them.

By the way, if Lennon were still alive, and I were

McCartney, I would push to renegotiate the

Lennon/McCartney credit on all the Beatles

songs that were written either wholly by

McCartney or by Lennon, so that authorship

would go to the person who actually wrote each

track. I find it very unfair that a masterpiece

like "Yesterday" is not only co-credited to Lennon,

who didn't write a note or word of it, but that

Lennon is the first one listed as the composer.

Likewise, it's just as wrong that McCartney

is listed as co-writer of "Give Peace a Chance,"

a tune Lennon wrote alone and that the Beatles

never recorded.

Accuracy, transparency, honesty should trump all

else in both business and in the arts. The old

days of the 1950s, when some cigar-chomping

mogul named Morty would demand to have his

name listed in songwriting credits for a song

he didn't write, are long over. Of course,

the Lennon/McCartney partnership was never that

sort of thing, but "Lennon/McCartney" is also not

an accurate credit when it comes to a large percentage

of the Beatles catalog. Unfortunately, renegotiating

the record of authorship in Lennon's absence -- with,

say, Yoko Ono and the estate of Lennon -- wouldn't

feel right, particularly given that a deal's a deal

until both sides say it's not -- and they both agreed

in writing to the co-credit -- and that Yoko may not

be fully aware of who composed what

in each song.

One saving grace is that McCartney didn't have to deal

with a dishonest bandmate who tried to falsely

take credit for the brilliant melodies and lyrics

that he alone composed. He was spared

that nightmare.

Anyway, I'm digressing.

Regarding the HaYarkon show, which I didn't attend,

it's curious he played nothing from "Abbey

Road" (except Harrison's "Something"), the

Beatles's best album. Perhaps that's because

he has been playing the side two medley to

death since 1989. But still, there are

some unrealized possibilities in the "Abbey"

material; has he ever tried expanding

"Her Majesty" beyond a single verse? Or

playing "Golden Slumbers" as a free-standing song?

Also, he plays "Blackbird" all the time, but

why not try the exquisite "Mother Nature's Son,"

too? Maybe together with "Blackbird."

Has he ever performed "Another Day" live?

Does it not come off well in concert? I think

it's one of his very best singles, despite the

rep given to it by "How Do You Sleep," which

itself is not a very good tune at all. I frequently

play "Another" on acoustic guitar in my apartment

for pleasure and thoroughly enjoy it.

"Mrs. Vanderbilt" is a very smart addition to the

setlist, though I'd prefer an emphasis on "Ram"

material like "Back Seat of My Car," "Dear Boy,"

"Too Many People," "Monkberry Moon Delight," etc.

(Maybe he should play the whole album at Radio City

and encore with the entire "Band on the Run,"

Truth is, no single McCartney show could possibly

include even half of his greatest songs.

* * * *

Back in the day, after Nixon nominated a dope

for the Supreme Court, Senator Hruksa of Nebraska

defended the nominee, saying: "[The mediocre] are

entitled to a little representation, aren't they?"

Well, Hruska would have just adored Sarah Palin. Her

IQ in terms of political thought and general reasoning

ability is almost certainly somewhere in the 90s, which

makes her not just average, but something even better for

those with a fetish for mediocrity: slightly below


To be sure, an IQ can be highly variable within a

given person; Albert Einstein's IQ in physics was off

the charts, but his verbal IQ was probably around 103.

So Palin may have extraordinary abilities we don't know

about yet -- maybe she's highly intuitive when it comes

to predicting which sled dog will lead in the Iditarod,

not an insubstantial talent for those betting in the

tundra -- but we do know this, or should know this,

by now: Palin is astonishingly stupid

when it comes to political thought and policy


And I don't mean just un-intellectual or


She lacks even basic common logic and sense in that

area -- and the self-knowledge to stay out of an

arena in which she's clearly overmatched.

Which leads to the question: what was John McCain

thinking when he chose her? Is there something in

his character that caused him to make such a reckless

decision, or is it that his judgment has become

rusty with age?

Remember, McCain does have the instincts of a

fighter pilot -- but of a fighter pilot who failed,

almost fatally. He was shot down and did not succeed on

his final mission. Granted, that aborted sortie over

Hanoi might not have been his fault -- great pilots are

often downed, even when they're flying expertly and

wisely -- but, then again, it might have been the

result of McCain making an aerial maneuver

that was too risky and careless, bold in a

dumb way.

Like his decision to choose Palin.

The latest evidence of Palin's unbraininess was on vivid

display last night on the "CBS Evening News," in an

interview with Katie Couric that was even more

revealing than her conversation with Charles Gibson.

Here's an annotated transcript (my remarks are in bold caps):

COURIC: You've cited Alaska's proximity to Russia as part of
your foreign policy experience. What did you mean by that?

PALIN: That Alaska has a very narrow maritime border between
a foreign country, Russia, and on our other side, the land
boundary that we have with Canada. It, it's funny that a
comment like that was kind of made to -- caric -- I don't
know, you know. Reporters --


PALIN: Um, mocked, I guess that's the word.

COURIC: Explain to me why that enhances your foreign policy

PALIN: Well, it certainly does because our, our next door
neighbors are foreign countries. They're in the state that
I am the executive of. [THEY'RE IN THE
And there in Russia --

COURIC: Have you ever been involved with any negotiations,
for example, with the Russians? [EXCELLENT

PALIN: We have trade missions back and forth. [TRADE MISSIONS
We -- we do-- it's
very important when you consider even national security issues
with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the air space
of the United States of America [AN INADVERTENTLY SURREAL
, where, where do they go?
] It's just right over the border. It
is from Alaska that we send those out ["WE
] to make sure that an eye is being kept on this
very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there.
They are right next to, to our state.

So there you have the annotated version.

In the interest of fairness, if Palin would like to

explain herself or be interviewed by me for the

Daily Digression, I can be reached


* * * *

POLITICAL QUOTE OF THE DAY: On today's "NewsHour,"

Rep. Barney Frank was more persuasive than I'd ever

seen him. He rocked the place. And he had a

terrific one-liner, saying that John McCain's

return to Congress to help write legislation

that had already been largely written was

like "Andy Kaufman as Mighty Mouse" miming

"Here I Come to Save The Day."

But I digress. Paul



for September 24, 2008

Sen. John McCain (above) wants to postpone the presidential
debate because of the ongoing tragedy in Darfur.

* * * *

Hope Paul McCartney's show tomorrow at Park HaYarkon

turns out very well. But keep in mind that this

isn't the first time McCartney has had to deal with

death threats from religious right-wingers.

In 1966, when he toured the southern U.S. with the

Beatles, Christian fundamentalists vowed to kill

the band during performances in Texas and

elsewhere, after John Lennon made controversial

remarks about Jesus Christ.

Forty-two years later, only the fanatics's robes

and sheets have changed.

* * *

You know, it occurred to me the other day: if some

folks in the Noam Chomsky faction of the American

left substituted the words Taliban and al Qaeda with

the phrase Ku Klux Klan, they would have greater

clarity about bin Laden and the Afghanistan war of '01.

And if the religious right of America took a hard look

at the Taliban, they would see themselves in the mirror.

* * * *

Missed most of the Emmys the other night, but did

catch Teri Hatcher's yellow dress, which may have

been the highlight.

But I digress. Paul



for September 20, 2008

Last Night's My Morning Jacket Show

Jim James, rocketing. [photograher unknown]

Turns out that all the raves I've been hearing about

My Morning Jacket's current tour are accurate,

if last night's concert in Berkeley, Calif., was

any indication. At Friday's show, the band seemed

bent on doing nothing short of reinventing the

electric guitar jam for the late-Oughties, and

there were at least three or four guitar odysseys

that were thrilling, twisty, intense,

unpredictable and always awake to the

undiscovered possibilities of amplification.

And what a night for atmospherics! Fog turned

into mist and then into drizzle and then into

heavy fog and mist at the open-air Greek Theater,

while the group's light show (which I saw from

the hills above the theater) was caught in

the haze. At one point, a beam of lavender

in the heavy fog looked like a massive batch

of cotton candy in the sky.

Even band leader Jim James remarked on the

weather. "Thank you for waiting through the

mist and the rain," he said, noting that the

area looked like "a misty Scottish battlefield."

Then he and his band played a rousing "I'm Amazed"

-- the best song on their new album, and one of

the catchiest pop-rock tracks released by anyone

this year -- and the tune blazed like brilliant

autumn leaves in a grove.

"I love it when it starts turning Fall again, and

you start feeling nostalgic," James said, before

playing "Golden."

Last time he played this venue, in May, 2007, it was a

chilly night on the verge of summer, and he was doing a

solo acoustic set, opening for Bright Eyes and

(among other things) giving fans a preview of

"Touch Me, I'm Going to Scream (Part 1)"

a year before its release.

This show, supporting the amazing "Evil Urges" album,

was far more exciting and fun. Highlights included

"I'm Amazed," set-opener "Evil Urges," the Clashish

"Off the Record," the quirky "Highly Suspicious"

and the truly breathtaking, groundbreaking guitarwork

after "Run Thru."

This is one of the year's most exciting indie

tours, well worth checking out.

But I digress. Paul

[above, photo of Jim James from, circa March '08.]



for September 18 - 19, 2008

The Antonioni Revival

A couple weeks ago, the Venice Film Festival screened

Carlo di Carlo's "Antonioni su Antonioni," based on

interviews with the late filmmaker Michelangelo


Last month, the National Gallery of Art in

Washington, D.C. had retrospective screenings

of many of Antonioni's films, including some real


And some of his movies are -- finally -- making it to

DVD in the U.S. (though I still can't find a copy of

his first color film, 1964's "Il Deserto rosso").

So there seems to be a bit of an Antonioni revival

going on.

Re-watching several of his pictures recently, I came

away with a new appreciation of "Blow-Up," underrated

by those who overrate "L'avventura." I now see more

clearly its central meaning, metaphysically and otherwise:

we never get the entire picture; as human beings, we

have incomplete information about existence. And the

closer we get to the truth, the further away

it gets.

That also explains why the main character picks up

physical fragments -- a plane propeller, a shard of

Jeff Beck's guitar -- much as he sees only fragments

of what he photographed in the park that day. Beautiful


And when he blows up a photo in order to solve a

mystery, the photo becomes only more mysterious,

more ambiguous. The more he sees, the less he sees.

It's like sitting too close to the amplifiers at

a rock concert; you end up hearing less when it's louder.

My only beef is the ending, the mime tennis match, a

clever idea that doesn't really fit with the rest

of the film. The irresolution plays less well than

it does in "L'avventura."

Don't get me wrong, I love cinematic irresolution,

but you have to make it work, as Antonioini

did in "L'avventura" (or as David Chase did, many decades

later, in the "Pine Barrens" episode of "The Sopranos").

Antonioni knew form could get in the way of

expression; if what he wanted to express didn't

fit the narrative formula of conflict/climax/resolution,

then he'd jettison form.

By the way, it's also a lot of fun (in this short

life!) to run into a flock of pigeons, snapping

pictures wildly, as the main character does in

"Blow-Up." I tried that a couple years ago myself, and

here's the photo I shot (click it to enlarge it):

The central metaphor of "Blow-Up"

also applies to the flock of pigeons

sequence, too, because people who get

inside a flying flock of birds see

them less clearly than those who

watch from a distance.

But I digress. Paul

P.S. -- If you'd like to read some of my other writings

on cinema, published in such publications as The Los

Angeles Times, The New York Times, etc., please go to

P.S. -- To any writer who wants to echo my original

insights on Antonioni and "Blow-Up": if you do

so, please don't forget to cite Paul Iorio as your




for September 18, 2008

So who knew the narrative would twist so unpredictably,

that the American economy would collapse so spectacularly

weeks before the presidential election? Pundits, hold

your predictions.

Also, I've never seen so many Republicans and Wall

Streeters become born-again socialists overnight.

Welcome to the fold. Solidarity forever, and all

that. Gee, I thought they were all for free markets

and de-regulation. This Sunday, let's hear George

Will admit he was wrong about unregulated capitalism

(fat chance).

And who knew Palin would start to fade like Sanjaya. Her

convention appearance now seems more like a stunt or like

someone slightly drunk who comes late to a dull party

and really livens things up but is soon forgotten.

* * *

Here're a couple photos that I've snapped in recent


This one is of a sculpture, "Westinghouse-Fichet"

(1984 - 88), by French artist Bertrand Lavier, on

display at the Berkeley (Calif.) Art Museum. Consists

of an ottoman atop a refrigerator, a fresh juxtaposition

I'd never seen before.

* * *

Also, here's an everyday photo I shot the other week of

a street in San Francisco's Chinatown.

* * *

LOCAL NOTES: I sometimes videotape news shows when

I'm out and then fast forward through them later. The

other day, I noticed that the local CBS affiliate here

in the Bay Area had temporarily put its traffic reporter,

Elizabeth Wenger, in the anchor spot for one of its news

programs. All I can say is, wow, did she fill the chair

like a natural. Beauty, brains, youth. And a huge

future in broadcast news, I bet.

But I digress. Paul



for September 17, 2008

What They Need's A Damned Good Whacking

Some rich, homicidal, transient Syrian-born guy,

whose family has more houses than John McCain, is

now spending his leisure time lobbing death threats

at the world's greatest living composer,

Sir Paul McCartney.

The "reason" for the threats is that McCartney plans

to give a concert in Israel to celebrate its 60th

anniversary as a nation.

And that's evidently not to the liking of one Omar Bakri

Muhammad, also known as Omar Bakri Fostock.

Muhammad/Fostock said the following to London's Sunday

Express in last Sunday's edition: “If he values his

life Mr. McCartney must not come to Israel. He will

not be safe there. The sacrifice operatives will be

waiting for him.”

"Sacrifice operatives"? Sounds like a job description

invented by H.R. Haldeman. Terrorism has finally

gone bureaucratic. Next they'll have Sacrifice

Management, Sacrifice Research and Development, etc.

Look, I've been warning in print for decades about the

encroachment by Muslim militants on free speech and

artistic expression. First they came after Salman

Rushdie for writing a work of fiction. Then the militants

said, no, you can't even draw a cartoon of their

prophet Mohammed. Then, earlier this year, they

scared away Random House -- Random House, no less! -- from

publishing a book ("The Jewel of Medina") that

included a fantasy about religious figures. And

now McCartney's on their hit list for taking a

political stand.

It's long been a slippery slope when it comes to

the demands of Muslim right-wingers. What's next?

Are they going to threaten theater-owners who

screen the new Woody Allen movie because

they consider it sacrilegious? Are they going to

demand that the Uffizi Gallery remove religious

paintings by Giotto and Raphael because they're

the works of infidels?

No, we should not suspend free speech every time

Muslim militants throw a temper tantrum. Islamic

extremists must learn to be tolerant of expression

that offends them and should understand that violence

is not the only way to respond to a disagreement.

Hey, I support the creation of a Palestinian state

and a two-state (three-state?) solution, but I also

say: happy birthday, Israel; you've long since earned

your sovereignty.

And bravo to Sir Paul for his bravery in rebuffing the

militants and for insisting the show must go on.

But I digress. Paul



for September 16, 2008

Watching the Newly Released "Get Smart" DVDs (and Loving It!)

Agent 86, tracking down Yellowcake at Zabar's pastry counter.

Given its ubiquity on YouTube and its cult

popularity in recent years, it's hard to

believe "Get Smart," the 1960s TV series,

hadn't been officially released on DVD in

the U.S. until last month.

Watching most of the first season the other

week, I was reminded why this was one of the

funniest sit-coms in broadcast tv history -- one

of the five funniest, in my view (the other

four being "All in the Family," "Sanford and Son,"

"The Honeymooners" and "Seinfeld").

Like "Seinfeld," and unlike the other three,

it took a couple dozen episodes for "Get Smart"

to hit its full stride, and when it did -- near the

end of the first season, with the two-parter "Ship of

Spies," a nice blend of humor and suspense -- it was

as good as sit-comedy gets.

For those about to rent the "Smart" DVDs, my

suggestion is to start with disc four of the

premiere season, which includes the final (and

funniest) episodes of the first season. Disc

one is somewhat spotty, revealing a series still

searching for its identity, a show still framed

as a sort of Spy-and-His-Dog type

thing, probably in order to make it more

palatable to middle America.

There is, of course, the endless succession of

gadgets and inventions, like the hilariously

malfunctioning Cone of Silence (and the more obscure

Tube of Silence), gun phones, hydrant phones,

hair dryer phones and the truly astonishing

cologne phone! Plus peg leg guns,

violin guns, purse guns. In 2008, some of

these inventions seem simultaneously

futuristic and anachronistic (like that rotary

shoe phone).

And let's not forget the many inventive hiding

places of the ever-suffering Agent 44!

All told, it's as addictive as potato chips,

particularly in the late first season.

* * *

Other DVDs I've been watching lately:


Within 29 seconds of the first episode of the first

season, I was roaring with laughter. But after

the first half dozen shows, it becomes

less startlingly funny, though still enormously


Redd Foxx is riotous even when he's just sitting

in his favorite chair, though I can't help but wonder

how much more brilliant the series would have been

as a Richard Pryor-Redd Foxx vehicle, with Pryor,

of course, in the Lamont role.

"Sanford and Son" differs from the other four

greatest sit-coms listed above in that it's a

two-person comedy, which is harder to sustain

than such ensemble works as "Seinfeld," "The Honeymooners,"

and "All in the Family," which all had four main

regular characters.

Sometimes "Sanford" resembles "The Honeymooners"

without an Alice or a Trixie, though Sanford and his

son have more modest dreams than Ralph and Ed. Where

Ralph and Ed hatched extravagant get-rich-quick schemes,

Lamont and Fred just wanted to break even or turn a

modest profit, for the most part. And the two programs

shared at least a couple plot lines in common (e.g.,

finding a briefcase full of money and being confronted

by the crooks who own it; mistaking someone else's

dire medical diagnosis for his own, etc.).

The best of season one is "A Matter of Life and Breath,"

in which Fred, and then Lamont, have a medical scare

that turns out to be a false alarm

Sadly surprising that Foxx wasn't given a shot on

network TV until this series, when he was already

in his fifties.

* * *


Everybody has seen the very first episodes of

SNL countless times, but not as many have seen the

final few shows of the first season (which extended

until almost August of '76).

The quality on Disc 8 is variable, though there are

gems to be found, particularly on the program hosted

by Kris Kristofferson, which is must-see stuff,

powered by Kristofferson's presence in sketches

in which he plays, among other things, a congressman,

a tv ad pitchman -- and a gynecologist dating one

of his former patients. But the most hilarious sketch

is the tv cop show parody "Police State," starring

Dan Aykroyd -- an idea ripe for revival.

* * *


Interesting DVD, with both monologues and

interviews from "The Jack Paar Show" of the

early 1960s. Paar's style so influenced

Johnny Carson that the two could pass for

close cousins. On this DVD, his guests

include a mostly humorless Barry Goldwater and

Robert Kennedy, still emotionally

fragile in the months after his brother's murder.

But his most impressive guest was Muhammad Ali, back

when he was called Cassius Clay, who seems to have

invented rap on the Paar show on November 29, 1963,

when he rhymes while Liberace plays piano. It

occurred to me: if you were to put a hip hop beat

behind Ali's rhymes, you'd have a terrific rap track.

I'm surprised someone hasn't done that yet.

* * *

ANOTHER TV NOTE: For at least the third time in recent

months, Al Roker, on "Today," has used the line "Hey,

I've got some pictures of dogs playing cards!," or

some variation of that, which he always passes off

as a spontaneous quip, which it ain't. I think

he needs some fresh material.

But I digress. Paul

[above, photo of Don Adams from Seattle Times.]



for September 14, 2008

Who Will Palin Choose As Veep When She Succeeds McCain?

Our nukes are about to fall into the hands of

the Taliban.

Lemme me explain. But first, the short math.

Pollsters say Florida's not in play anymore and

is out of reach for Obama. That means ditto

for everything redder -- namely Georgia, Virginia,

Colorado, New Mexico, Montana, Nevada.

So let's see. The I-4 corridor ain't in play,

but metro Cincinnati is? That's humorous. Count

Ohio out for Obama. Count Wisconsin

out. Count the West Wing out, too.

McCain becomes #44 in January, and how long do you think

it will be before his melanoma recurs and metastasizes,

and doctors give him, say, six months to live?

(Look, I certainly hope that doesn't happen, but let's

look at realistic scenarios for a moment.) At his

age, the likelihood of recurrence is substantial.

And that's when our nukes fall in the hands of the

Taliban, aka Sarah Palin, who resembles Mullah Omar

(without the eyepatch) in oh so many ways (e.g., she's

a fundamentalist who acts like a book burning

religious crusader).

That's Palin, president number 45, who recently went on

Charles Gibson's show and casually declared war on, oh,

Russia, Iran, and other "spaz" nations, before heading off

to, presumably, dress a moose, whatever the hell that is.

She's likely to ascend to the presidency without ever

having given a national press conference, because I

doubt McCain will let her meet the press in the seven

remaining weeks till the election -- and after Nov. 4,

she doesn't have to.

The big question, for those with foresight, is: who

will Palin choose as her vice president when she

succeeds McCain? The answer is easy. She

would have to mollify the many moderates (not to

mention moderate-liberals and liberals) who would

be threatening mutiny and calling for her to step

down so that someone qualified could run the country.

And the only way for Palin to stop calls for

her resignation or impeachment (over, say,

Troopergate) would be to choose Joe Lieberman, who

would then reassure a trembling nation that the

mainstream is still in power and that he has arrived

on the scene to become Palin's Cheney.

* * *

Odd that Palin repeatedly referred to John McCain as

"McCain" in her second interview with Charles Gibson.

(What? She's not on a first name basis with her running

mate yet? Yet she repeatedly called Gibson "Charlie.")

* * *

Prediction: McCain starts using phrases

like "freak out."

Prediction: Obama starts using phrases

like "dern it" and "well, heck."

Prediction: Palin digs up some distant

gay cousin and trots him out, saying, "I love him just

the way God made him."

* * *

Tina Fey was funny last night on SNL as Palin, but

people tend to overstate the resemblance. After all,

Fey is a very attractive woman, Palin is not (Palin

misses being attractive by around 7%). "And I can

see Russia from my house" is a classic SNL moment.

SNL's season premiere was primo, at least for the

first hour. "Quiz Bowl," featuring a home-schooled

team; Kristen Wiig's glove commercial; and the Inchon

fight song sketch were absolutely hilarious. (Wiig

has a brilliant ability to play unhinged characters

in a manner that's both controlled and way

over-the-top.) But the high note was the Political

Comedian monologue on Weekend Update, which (unless

my Yuban was playing tricks on me) was a bit of comic

genius, or something quite like it.

But I digress. Paul



for September 12, 2008

Sarah Palin is Fully Qualified to be the Principal

of a Public High School in Alaska

Charles Gibson's interview with Sarah Palin was a

magnificent piece of television journalism. Gibson

was even-handed, understated, more than fair, quietly

tough and unexpectedly lethal.

Palin sounded like an undergrad on an essay


Incredibly, she claimed that Alaska's physical proximity

to Russia was one of her foreign policy credentials.

(Which, of course, would make the Mayor of Nome and

thousands of Eskimos experts on international relations.)

Gibson followed the logic of her claim and asked one of

the most brilliant questions of the political season:

"What insight into Russian actions, particularly in

the last couple weeks, does the proximity of the state

[of Alaska] give you?"

Palin's response was something you'd expect from a

not-so-bright candidate for student body president

of a high school: "They're our next door neighbors.

And you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska."

Shockingly, she didn't even know what the Bush Doctrine

was (I knew instantly what Gibson was referring to,

with regard to the Bush Doctrine), and somewhat

less shockingly, admitted she had never traveled

outside America before her "trip of a lifetime" to

Kuwait and Germany last year.

And then there's her awkward use of language -- "We

must make sure that...nuclear weapons are not given

to those hands of Ahmadinejad" -- and Valley Girlisms

(she puts down "someone's big fat resume" like she's

talking about "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"; she says

the 9/11 hijackers did "not believe in American ideals"

(those hijackers were sooo grody!!!)).

In short, she's the new "American Idol" flavor of the

month -- and approximately as qualified as Sanjaya

or Fantasia to conduct foreign policy and manage

nuclear weapons.

But I digress. Paul



for September 10 - 11, 2008

The Seventh Anniversary of an Awful Day

I actually liked the twin towers, aesthetically. I

particularly enjoyed walking through the World Trade

Center plaza on early Sunday mornings, when almost

nobody was around, because that's when the architecture

seemed to come alive without the busy distractions of

tourists and office workers. When the plaza was windswept

and desolate, it reminded me of the Acropolis, and the

towers themselves looked like a pair of Stanley Kubrick's

futuristic monoliths in "2001: A Space Odyssey."

I used to think: this whole city may be gone

in 700 years but those towers will stand like the Great

Pyramids forever, there is no erasing them. I used

to think that a lot in my countless walks through

that plaza. I had high hopes for those towers.

When I lived in and around (mostly in) Manhattan

from 1979 to 1996, I photographed the towers from

every angle imaginable: through the sculptures in the

plaza, from the Hoboken ferry on the Hudson, from atop

the south tower, from atop the unfinished World

Financial Center in '85, you name it.

On this 7th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks,

let me share several of my own original photos

of the towers, which I shot in the

1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

The real tragedy, of course, was the death of

thousands of people in those towers, so let's all

remember those who died on that awful day.

I shot this pic in 1984 through a sculpture in the World Trade Center plaza.

* * *

The twin towers were the backdrop for a speech by Bill Clinton; I snapped this photo on August 1, 1994, at Liberty State Park in Jersey City.

* * *

An early nineties photo that I snapped from across the Hudson.

* * *

The twin towers, as seen from a hill in Hoboken, N.J.; I shot this in the 1980s.

* * *

Another picture I snapped from inside a nearby sculpture.

* * *

I shot this one from a boat on the Hudson (early nineties).



for September 10, 2008

Once again, The Daily Digression is first.

In yesterday's Digression (see below), I coined

the term "Palinista" to refer to supporters of

Sarah Palin. Today, in her column in the New

York Times, Maureen Dowd also uses the

word "Palinista."

For the record, I coined it first.

But I digress. Paul



EXTRA! for September 9, 2008

A couple hours ago, in Berkeley, Calif., eco-protesters

finally came down from the redwood in the oak grove

where they had been tree-sitting for the past 21 months.

There was no rioting or violence as there was last

Friday evening (see Daily Digression, Sept. 6, 2008), but

tensions were high until the sitters came down to earth

at around 1:30pm (PT).

I was at the scene a few hours ago and shot these photos:

Two activists voicing support for the tree-sitters earlier today. [photo by Paul Iorio]

* * *

A protester from "CopWatch" watches cops who were keeping activists away from the oak grove this morning. [photo by Paul Iorio]

* * *

The redwood where the final four tree-sitters sat, around ninety minutes before they came down from the tree. [photo by Paul Iorio]

* * *

Yes, "Save the Oaks" t-shirts were on sale at today's protest. [photo by Paul Iorio]



for September 8 - 9, 2008

The Temporary Palinization of America

(The Rise of the Palinistas)

The B---- To Nowhere: She wants you to trust her with the launch codes. [photographer unknown]

If Sarah Palin had tried to run for president in

early 2008, she would have likely lost all the primaries,

trailing somewhere between Sam Brownback and Duncan

Hunter. As a complete unknown outside Alaska,

she would have had to meet the press and do interviews

in which voters would've plainly seen her vast

inexperience and lack of stature. Her funding would've

dried up, her mis-speakings would've been ammo for

Letterman and Stewart, and she would've dropped out

after the first couple primaries, fading back into the

Aurora Borealis just in time to host the next Iditarod.

In other words, she wouldn't have been able to earn

her spot on the presidential ballot -- though she's now

fully capable of being appointed to the ticket.

With a mere seven weeks or so until the general, McCain

can now cynically keep her away from almost all the top

national journalists -- and she can run the clock the

way she couldn't if she were a candidate campaiging a

year before the election.

Scripted by pros, stage-managed like an actor, Palin can

play "Tootsie" for several weeks, without having anyone look

too hard at who she really is. Meanwhile, lots of minor

pols now think they, too, are Sarah Barracuda -- or could

be, because Sarah didn't have any major experience before

ascending to the national stage, so it could happen to

them, too, they think. (By the way, get ready for

the Palinization of television advertising, an

onslaught of tv commericals for all sorts of products

featuring perky wifey types (Palinistas) saying things

like, "I'm just a regular PTA mom, and I don't know

much about history, but I do know about my history

with laxatives." Etc.)

If you believe she's qualified to be president, then you're

effectively saying there's no such thing as being properly

qualified for the presidency, that the presidency is an

unskilled position that a virtual amateur can do as well

as a pro.

I mean, it's one thing to be responsible, as she was as

mayor, for events like the "Fishing Derby" and the

"Alaska Arbor Day Celebration," and quite another

to be in charge of enough uranium and plutonium

to end life on this planet. (As for her experience

as governor of a state with the population of Charlotte,

North Carolina, it should be noted that she

has yet to serve a full calendar year in that


And a huge issue that the media is largely ignoring is

that she believes the religious theory of creationism

should be taught alongside the scientific theory of evolution

in the public schools.

That's akin to believing in voodoo or in a flat Earth -- and that's

what's called a red flag. It means, among other things, that

such a person lacks the mental ability to assess fact-based

evidence, which is not the sort of quality you'd want in a


Imagine if Palin were to say she believes the world is flat and

that you can fall off the Earth by sailing across the Pacific.

You would need to know nothing else about her in order to

know she's not qualified to be president. Electing someone

who believes in creationism is like electing someone who

still thinks the sun revolves around the Earth (and,

astonishingly, one in five Americans still believes the

latter). Some pundits would note that truth, if they

weren't on such a sugar high from the jellybeans.

But I digress. Paul

P.S. --

Q: What's the Difference Between Sarah Palin
and Those Who Persecuted Copernicus?

A: Lipstick.

* * *

P.S. -- For those who think Palin's popularity is

sure to endure, I have two words for you: Ross Perot.



for September 6, 2008

I ran into a mini-riot in Berkeley,

Calif., on my way to hear the Dave Matthews Band

perform at the Greek Theater several hours ago.

As I walked along Piedmont Avenue at around 7pm

(Friday), a violent scuffle broke out between police

and eco-activists trying to stop the University of

California from cutting down a grove of oak trees.

Here are some photos I shot of the mini-riot.

The guy on the ground clashed with cops and was tossed around and beaten pretty badly. (Sorry for the bluriness, but I was in the midst of the melee and being jostled.) [photo by Paul Iorio.]

* *

Two cops detain an activist (he's beneath a guy's bare arm at center left) while a crowd surrounds the cops and chants, "Let him go." [photo by Paul Iorio]

* *

A woman smashes a metal pot/drum with a bar in the middle of Piedemont Ave. [photo by Paul Iorio]

Needless to say, I didn't make it to the Dave Matthews show

until late (just as a 4.0 quake hit that part of the

East Bay, I found out later), though I did get to hear

around 45 minutes of the gig from the hills above

the Greek Theater.

I arrived as Matthews was starting "Eh Hee," a song he

released as a digital single a year ago, which was

followed by a song I didn't recognize and then by a

full-band version of 2003's "Gravedigger," which

got fans going.

"It's a lovely evening," Matthews said from the stage

after that one -- and it was. Cool, dry, crisp, like

the first night of fall (after a day of 100 degree


The crowd was even more enthusiastic about

2002's "Grey Street," featuring some spirited

sax playing by whoever has replaced the late

saxophonist LeRoi Moore, who died a few weeks ago.

Anyway, I didn't have time to hear the rest

of the concert, and walked home along Piedmont,

where I'd seen violence a few hours before.

Things had become considerably more harmonious

at the site of the protests; some guy was playing guitar and

singing some Bob Marley song, cops were

mingling and talking with the activists -- and

I strolled home.

But I digress. Paul



for September 5, 2008

Probably John McCain's best speech yet, though

that's not saying much because he's not exactly known

for his oratory. The problem with his "change" theme

is he's implicitly saying he disagrees with the policies

of the Bush administration, though he actually claims

he does not disagree with them.

When he made his entrance, he, frankly, looked a bit

like a senior security guard, casually checking to see

that the stage was safe and in order for the arriving


What has been glossed over by some news organizations

is that his speech was interrupted at least three times

by noisy protesters, who were quickly, muscularly whisked

away, Beijing-style, by security guards. They seemed to

almost blow McCain's cool at one point.

After his speech, the body language onstage was

telling. Palin looked like McCain's fling (because she

acted like his fling), though you'd never say the same

thing about Meg Whitman or Carly Fiorina. Sure, McCain

and Palin briefly acted the expected role of candidate

and running mate, but for the most part, McCain

seemed to be distancing himself from her and even

appeared to be a little miffed at her, as if he had

found out hours earlier that there was real substance

to the rumor that Palin had once had an extramarital

affair with a snowmachine racer. Meanwhile, he gave a big,

big wave in the direction of Whitman, almost as if to say,

"Hold on, Meg, you're on standby."

Ah, how soon we forget the lessons of Eliot Spitzer:

the most puritanical are often the most secretly


But I digress. Paul



EXTRA! for September 4, 2008

Check out the sermons by Sarah Palin's pastor,

Ed Kalnins, staff crackpot at the way-out

Wasilla Assembly of God.

Plus, the inside word is that, yes, there is

some evidence to substantiate the charge

that Palin had an extramarital affair with

a snowmobile racer and biz associate of her


So let me put all this together. A wild

and crazy church. A swingin' adultress

luv guv. And an underage daughter who's

havin' unprotected pre-marital sex with

an adult.

Sounds like the religious right has really

loosened up in recent years!



for September 4, 2008

The First EyeWitnessNews Candidate for Vice President!

Now the McCain strategy is becoming clear: hire a

television newscaster as your running mate if you

wanna win!

Of all the skills required to become a successful

candidate, telegenicity is key.

McCain was looking for someone with the ability to look

directly into the camera and make it work, the ability to

play the space onstage, and a sense of what is

and is not effective on TV.

Palin's experience in broadcasting in Alaska has evidently

paid off. She has become the very first EyeWitnessNews

candidate for vice-president or president, and she

knows all the tricks and buzzwords.

News flash. Breaking news. We have a reporter on the way

to the scene now. This is developing news. We'll bring

you details as we learn them. Stay with us. Because

firefighters are getting the upper hand on that blaze.

70% contained. Everyone is breathing a sigh of relief.

They're lucky to be alive. We really dodged a bullet.

The tide has turned. What a difference a day makes!

Thank you for joining us. Stay tuned.

Yes, that's what a Palin presidency would sound like.

But could you please name one -- just one -- original

policy idea that she mentioned in her entire half-hour-plus

speech? Can you name one original policy idea that she

has ever had? If so, could you show me documentation

of that?

Unfortunately for Palin, her punch lines are already

getting stale. "Thanks but no thanks on that bridge to

nowhere": uh, Sarah, I think we already heard that one.

Like...last Friday. (Even Cindy McCain was almost

rolling her eyes in a cutaway shot.)

And then there was that odd appearance by McCain -- odd

in that he didn't properly close out his cameo

with a "see you tomorrow night" or something. Instead

he was led off the stage by nurse Sarah, who will make

sure gramps doesn't wander from the home and his meds and

onto the stage again.

Other notes on Night 3:

MITT ROMNEY: Inconvenient truth omitted from Romney's

auto-bio last night: he failed to mention that he came

from wealth, which gave him a gigantic advantage in his

later business pursuits.

And Romney's line about "homes that are free from

promiscuity" received an uneasy, embarrassed, tepid

response, the reason being that it's now known

the Palin home was the site of unprotected, underage,

unmarried sex. (At least we know they're not frigid in


MEG WHITMAN: She looks sort of like a female version of

John McCain -- or John McCain's sister.

But I digress. Paul

P.S. -- The real double-standard about Palin is

that some female pundits, so relentlessly harsh

about the seemingly low IQs of guys like Dan Quayle

and W, overlook her obvious lack of stature and

appear to be charmed by Palin. If she were a guy

who called himself "an average hockey dad" and who

was as demonstrably mediocre and lacking in experience

as Palin is, a lot of female columnists would be

kicking the tar out of him. Instead, some who

ridiculed Quayle for every misspelling are making

excuses for Palin, suspiciously pulling their




EXTRA! for September 3, 2008

Lemme guess. Tonight, Sarah Palin will

give her Checker's Speech. Using the slick

broadcasting skills she learned in Alaska, she'll

get all choked up at the podium -- and then, in

a burst of righteous indignation and anger, she'll say

something like, "And to those of you in the news media,

I have a message for you: Leave my children alone!!!!!,"

and the audience will respond with three minutes of

wild applause.

Afterwards, some pundits will probably say the following:

"I think she might have saved her job tonight" and

"If there was any doubt going into the convention about

whether Sarah Palin could stand the heat, there is no

doubt anymore" and "Looks like she hit it out of the

hockey arena!"

* * * * *

Palin Ain't the Quayle of '08. She May Be The Harriet Miers.

Elderly John McCain, with less energy than he had

as a young man, gets lazy about vetting his first major

nominee. All he knows is he needs A Woman on the

ticket, and it really doesn't matter much which Woman.

(Is this how McCain will choose his Attorney General

and Supreme Court nominees if he's elected?)

And so, with the same gambling instincts he showed as

a fighter pilot -- instincts that, by the way, got

him shot down over the Hanoi metro area -- he made a

bold, careless veep choice and let the

devil take the hindmost, as they say in his parts.

Well, now the devil is taking the hindmost.

Because Palin is fast developing the distinct

aura of a nominee who gets ditched within a

week or so of being nominated. Yes, Palin may be

the Harriet Miers of Campaign '08.

The Daily Digression has been digging around and

found there are even more question marks

about her than the press has revealed.

For example, far from being universally popular

throughout her career in Alaska, it turns out that

she was the object of a recall campaign several months

into her first term as mayor. In early 1997, a group

of around 60 Wasilla residents (a huge number of

people for a town that small) formed Concerned

Citizens for Wasilla, which objected strenuously to

several of her early decisions and wanted her removed

from office.

It's worth noting that she ascended to mayor of Wasilla

from the Wasilla city council, a position so tiny that I

couldn't find any coverage of her race

in the main newspaper in the area, The Anchorage

Daily News.

So, effectively, Palin was a part-timer before she

became governor of a state that has a smaller population

than the city of San Francisco.

Also the Digression has learned Palin has not been

shy about putting daughter Bristol, even when she

was a child, in the media spotlight when it was to

her advantage -- and that her household was recklessly

permissive when it came to guns.

When she was merely 9-years-old, in 1999, Bristol Palin

was covered in the Anchorage Daily News because of her

rifle-shooting education. "First-time shooter Bristol

Palin, 9, recently learned how to handle a rifle," went

the piece in the ADN. Can I ask a common sense

question, or is it too old-fashioned to ask what

the hell a 9-year-old is doing in the vicinity of

a rifle?

[Incidentally, it's important to note that Palin defines

herself as an "average hockey mom"; Barack Obama has never

defined himself as an "average hockey dad" -- and neither did

JFK. So we must, to some degree, scrutinize her on her own


The New York Times and The Washington Post have uncovered

their own info about her, including:

-- the state legislature is investigating abuse-of-power

allegations against her

-- she was busted for drunk driving in 1986.

-- for two years, she belonged to an eccentric political party

that wanted to put the issue of Alaska secession to a

ballot vote

-- the father of Bristol Palin's daughter, Levi Johnston,

describes himself as "a fucking redneck," according to

several news organizations.

Question not asked by anyone: if Levi was 18 when he had

sex with 17-year-old Bristol, then doesn't that make

him an adult having sex with a child? Is that illegal

in Alaska? If so, then how come sex crime allegations

are being levied (or not levied) in an inconsistent

manner here?

More later.

But I digress. Paul



for August 3, 2008

Notes on Day 2 of the GOP Convention

There's something vaguely German about the whole gathering.

Even the music sounds like Wagner, though it isn't.

A few notes:

-- Norm Coleman: Reminds me of a Franklin Mint salesman,

practicing his sales pitch alone in front of a mirror the

night before going door-to-door. And what an ear for

catchy language: "Change the Republicans can

actually deliver."

-- Funny how the Repubs now claim to admire Martin Luther

King, when in fact they vehemently opposed him when he was


-- Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. Looks like

the Anita Bryant wing of the party. I half expected

her to welcome us to the Florida sunshine tree! Also

has an ear for catchy language: "Minnesota is a really nice state

that loves you!"

-- Tommy Espinozzzzzzzzzzzzzza

-- George W. Bush: Might've coined something with that

"angry left" bit. Not quite "nattering nabobs," but

getting there.

-- Fred Thompson: Calls Obama "inexperienced" but believes

Palin is qualified because "she knows how to field dress a moose."

-- Joe Lieberman. Hadassah looks like she's thinking, "Joe,

how did we sink so low? Joe, how did we lose all our Connecticut

friends?" Michael Beschloss had a nice insight on PBS, saying

that Lieberman's speech sounded like a barely modified version

of the scrapped speech he had written to accept the GOP vice

presidential nomination. (He may have to give that speech

yet.) Probably right.

But I digress. Paul



EXTRA! for August 29, 2008

After hearing Sarah Palin speak, I have to say

she sounds like the perkiest temp in the whole

typing pool.

A people person!!

And if she ever had to go head-to-head

with Ahmadninejad, why, she'd give that man 15

lashes with a wet noodle!

McCain has made an awful, cynical, dangerous

choice -- dangerous because McCain is old and

has health problems, and if he were

incapacitated as president, she would be the

one in charge of a nuclear arsenal that could

annihilate life on earth.

And get a load of these Churchillian aphorisms:

-- "Put people first!" (As opposed to what? Putting

iguanas first?)

-- "The people of America expect us to seek public

office and serve for the right reasons" (I'm sure

Vaclav Havel is hailing the arrival of a brilliant new

political poet.)

An "average hockey mom," as she describes herself, should

be in charge of average hockey teams, not of the most

powerful nation in the world.

McCain's strategic shrewdness (i.e., wedging into the

embittered Hillary-Ferraro vote) is neutralized by his

nominee's scary lack of experience, which inadvertently

inoculates Barack against such charges. A better wedge

would've been Kay Bailey Hutchison.

But I digress. Paul

P.S. -- By the way, Hillary and Geraldine should release

a joint statement by the end of today saying

that Palin is no friend of the women's rights movement

and does not speak for them or their supporters.



for August 29, 2008

Notes on Day 4 of the Democratic Convention

Anti-climax. The expectations were too high.

You cannot will an "I have a dream" speech into


Barack's speech was prose, not poetry this time -- and

predictable prose at that (except for the moment when he

slipped and almost said, "The market should reward

drunk driving" -- now that would've been an

unpredictable moment!).

His "you're on your own" bit was classic, as were his

great lines about bin Laden ("We must take out Osama bin

Laden and his terrorists," and "John McCain says he will

follow bin Laden to the gates of hell but he won't even

follow him to the cave where he lives").

But he should know better than to use a come-on like

"This election has never been about me; it's been

about you," which sounds like the sort of thing a car

salesman or prostelitizing evangelical would say.

(Whenever I hear a salesman say that, I immediately

know it's about him, not me.)

It occurred to me while listening to him that

no matter who gets elected in November, there's

bound to be gridlock once again. I mean, Obama has

a job right now, and so does McCain, and we don't

see either of them magically ramming through

legislation or inspiring their Senate colleagues to

action, so it's hard to believe they'd suddenly be

able to do so by merely moving to the co-equal executive


In '93, the Dems had control of both houses of Congress

and of the White House and there was still partisan gridlock.

Perhaps the change that has to happen in Washington is

more fundamental than what Barack wants to bring about.

Maybe our political system needs to be re-imagined and

re-structured with a greater emphasis on direct democracy

instead of representative democracy. What I mean is, bills

and issues that are regularly voted on by Congress, and

that are regularly jammed in gridlock, should perhaps

instead be voted on by the public in ballot referenda. That

way, we can put, say, universal health care to a public

vote, and if the people choose it, it becomes law.

No gridlock. No partisan bickering. No need to reach

across the aisle to massage the interests of some

corrupt congressman who wants an unnecessary bridge for

his district.

Anyway, I don't expect Barack will see any appreciable

convention bounce from this speech, which means he may

have already peaked in the polls. We'll see.

But I digress. Paul



for August 28, 2008

Notes on Day 3 of the Democratic Convention

What a surprise to see Barack show up at the

convention center last night. Great move.

Like a gust of wind into a smoke-filled room. I've

decided that Barack is post-neurotic. He doesn't

seem to have the hang-ups that most of us do,

which allows him to move further faster.

And it was revealing to see him shake hands

with various Dems (it's evident he has great

personal chemistry with Nancy Pelosi). Also,

wonderful to see Barack's great-uncle,

Charles Payne, who helped liberate Buchenwald.

Joe Biden's speech was characteristically forceful

and poignant, particularly when he imagined,

stream-of-consciousness style, the thoughts and

anxieties of everyday Americans as they try to

make ends meet.

It's clear that Biden speaks Middle Atlantic

fluently and can talk Philly Cheesesteak, too -- a

dialect essential to persuading swing voters.

The protracted ovation for Bill Clinton was truly

astounding -- and his calls for unity sounded

heartfelt. And he scored some points noting

that the GOP had control of both the White House

and the Congress in 2001, enabling them to

implement ideas that proved disastrous.

Other notes:

-- Beau Biden seems to be made of the same stern

stuff that his dad is made of. And there wasn't a

dry face in the crowd when he described that

horrific car accident.

-- Harry Reid should lay off history and stick to

politics. Saying that World War II was

partly motivated by oil on the Russian front is a

stretch at best. A quick refresher course: Hitler

was invading everyone in the 1930s/1940s, whether

they had oil or not. Austria, France, the Netherlands

didn't have any oil, but he invaded them, too. The

opening grafs of his speech should have been

better edited.

-- John Kerry: Roared like he rarely did in '04.

-- Evan Bayh: predictable.

-- Chet Edwards: bland.

All for now.

But I digress. Paul



for August 27, 2008

Notes on Day 2 of the Democratic Convention

More electricity than last night. If it wasn't

Hillary's finest moment at the podium, I don't

know what was. Funny, confident, spontaneous,

pithy: if she had been like this back in '07,

she might have won the Thursday night slot this

week. Lots of crowd-pleasing zingers: "No way,

no how, no McCain," "sisterhood of the traveling

pantsuits," etc. Plus, a stirring evocation of Harriet

Tubman at the end. (And, of course, any candidate

who opens with Davies has got to be gold.)

And the cutaway shots of Bill suggest he

might have a thing for her. (You think

they're having an affair?)

The big surprise of the night was keynoter Mark Warner.

I had no idea he was this great. Talk about

Kennedyesque. Came across like a guy who

knows how to get things done in an

innovative, effective way. Best line:

"In 4 months, we will have an administration

that actually believes in science."

But perhpas the most genuine moment of the night

came from the Republican mayor of tiny, cold

Fairbanks, Alaska, who looked like a throughly decent

fellow, his posture hinting at a lifetime of

shivering, his slightly too-large jacket probably

bought at one of the very few shops in Fairbanks

where you can actually buy jackets.

Other notes:

-- Montana governor Brian Schweitzer got the house

a-rockin'. Lots of unexpected pizazz.

--Did you feel the Steny-mania in the hall?

-- Janet Napolitano talked about "the burgeoning cities

and towns" in her home state.

--- Kathleen Sibeliuszzzz: better at governing than

at comedy. (To her credit, she didn't mention

"burgeoning cities and towns.")

-- And why the swipe at Franklin Roosevelt's

ahead-of-his-time vice president by a pundit on

PBS? Keep in mind that ol' Henry

believed what you probably believe now -- except

he believed it decades earlier.

Anyway, time to get back to the "burgeoning

cities and towns" in my region.

But I digress. Paul



EXTRA! for August 26, 2008

Well, it's official: the first night of

the Democratic National Convention was a ratings

dud for the broadcast networks, who cumulatively

attracted a million fewer viewers than they had

on opening night in 2004, according to

TV Week's E-Daily Newsletter.

And the reason is no surprise (read my review below).


for August 26, 2008

Notes on Day 1 of the Democratic Convention

This is what Day 1 sounded like:

This son of a butcher, a baker and a candlestick

maker rose to heights previously undreamed of,

because he dared to dream the dream and hope the

hope and dare the dare and believe the belief, and

in his youth his father walked 50 miles through a

blizzard each day to get to his job in a steel

mill, where he was paid a mere dollar a day,

which he shared with his nine children

after he returned home from his daily

walk, sacrificing so that the new generation

would have a better life, but his spirit

was undimmed, his optimism undefeated, his faith

unquashed, his vigor undminished, his focus un-undermined,

even as his legs ached and he cried out for Extra

Strength Advil liquid capsules, as he drew succor from

his dream of a truly united United States of America,

in which black and white, blue and green, yellow and

red, chartreuse and violet, rich and poor, suburban

and urban, those who walk 50 miles a day and those

who merely walk 50 feet, those who believe, as he

believes, and still believes, that one America, one

nation, one vision, one people, shall prevail against

all divisions, blah, blah, blah.

And on and on. The stories of boot-strap triumph blend

together like a bunch of wallpaper, leaving the

audience with the false impression that wealth

in America isn't acquired mostly through inheritance,

as the facts show. Scratch the surface of almost

any rags to riches bootstrap story and you'll find that

the "self-made" person was actually the beneficiary

of government money or family money or drug money

or criminal theft or unethical business leverage

or a freakish winning at a casino or on a TV game show.

For now, such harsher truths aren't ready for prime time.

For the most part, the first day of the convention, as

seen on TV, was so overscripted and lacking in spontaneity

that it made the Oscars look like an experimental

improvisational performance.

Occasionally, and thankfully, the human element seeped

through all the calculation. Senator Kennedy's speech was

a highlight, if only because he looked surprisingly

robust and sounded like Classic Teddy, despite his terminal

illness. And the adorable Obama children virtually stole

the show, cutely interrupting their dear ol' dad, who

was piped in from Kansas City, Mo., showing everybody

what a real political star looks and sounds like.

Also: Caroline Kennedy looked great, sounded genuine

and has developed a slightly tougher edge that is

very welcome; she should run for Uncle Teddy's Senate

seat after he passes. Michelle Obama was winning

and quite a natural at the podium -- and also generous

(can you imagine Muriel Humphrey saying kind words

about Eugene McCarthy from the stage in '68?)

More later.

But I digress. Paul



for August 25, 2008

Sorry to those who thought I'd be covering the

Outside Lands music fest in San Francisco last weekend.

As much as I wanted to attend, I couldn't because I

was holed up in the studio, doing final overdubs

on two new songs of mine, "Love's a Heaven You

Can't Reach" and "Three Minute Song," which I've released

today (my music site is

In any event, I've covered multiple concerts by almost

all the festival headliners and subheds in the past

year or two (see below or in the Digression Archive

for my pieces on Radiohead, Wilco/Jeff Tweedy,

Tom Petty, Widespread Panic, etc.).

And keep in mind that Radiohead premiered their new

"In Rainbows" material at shows two years ago in the

San Francisco Bay Area and in a handful of other

cities (at concerts that no serious daily newspaper

in the Bay Area neglected to cover), while

Jeff Tweedy's unforgettable gig in Golden Gate Park

several months ago (following a Wilco show across the

Bay) was also a must-see and must-review event.

Anyway, now that my new songs have been released, I'm

back to Digressing!

But I digress. Paul



for August 23, 2008

Once again, the Daily Digression has been first --

this time, the first of the major blogs and

news organizations to have identified Joe Biden as

the likeliest veep nominee (see last Sunday's

column below).

And the Biden choice is perhaps the best strategic

decision in terms of vice-presidential picks since

JFK chose LBJ in 1960, as Biden complements Obama on

foreign policy the way Johnson complemented Kennedy

geographically. (The Biden selection probably won't

mean much in the opinion polls -- until the

vice-presidential debate, where Biden will surely

clean the clock of McCain's running mate.)

As a freelance journalist, I did some intensive

research around a year ago to see which of the

presidential candidates, if any, saw the 9/11 attacks

coming before the fact. And my digging showed that

Biden came the closest (by far) to sensing the clear

and present danger posed by the Taliban and bin Laden.

Listen to Biden on June 21, 2000, speaking on the floor

of the U.S. Senate: "We all know about Pakistan, the

gateway to Afghanistan for Osama bin Laden and his

buddies. Can anybody think of a better place to

beef up border security, so that terrorists can be

apprehended as they go to and from those Afghan training camps?"

Again, that was Biden in the year 2000, over a year

before bin Laden committed mass murder on U.S. soil.

And Biden had the danger sized up perfectly -- before

the fact.

To be sure, Biden wasn't completely alone in ringing the

alarm but he almost was. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was

also somewhat prescient in speaking out about the

Taliban. "The Taliban in their activities...there

[in Afghanistan] have placed them outside the circle

of civilized human behavior," said Pelosi, on June 13, 2001.

(The least prescient about 9/11? Dennis Kucinich.)

Candidates with hindsight are as plentiful as

gravel, those with foresight as scarce as gold.

In this case, the Democratic nominee for president

has chosen a running mate with the latter.

But I digress. Paul



for August 17, 2008

After deeply researching insider blogs,

convention schedules, travel plans

of both the candidate and his veep

contenders -- and applying simple common

sense -- I've arrived at an educated guess

as to who Barack Obama's running mate

will be.

In all likelihood, it's Joe Biden.

[posted at 6:44pm, Sunday, August 17, 2008]

But I digress. Paul



for August 13 - 14, 2008

I must confess I wasn't at all impressed by

the precision mass synchronization spectacles

of the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.

They didn't express much except a punishing

level of rehearsal. Orson Welles was able to do

more with simple hand shadows in "Citizen Kane" than

the organizers of the Olympics did with their

Himalayan-sized budget.

That said, the folks at NBC (particularly Brian

Williams, Tom Brokaw, Bob Costas and Matt Lauer)

are doing a super job making it interesting even

to viewers who couldn't care less about things

like the 50-meter freestyle competition. (Lauer

had a particularly humorous moment last week

touring a building in Beijing called The Studio

of Exhaustion from Diligent Service.)

* * * *

It occurred to me yesterday that our next

president will be someone who wasn't born

on the U.S. mainland -- a first (I think).

* * * *

If you want to remember Isaac Hayes at his very

best, and you've already seen "Shaft," check out

the "Wattstax" DVD, which captures primo Hayes -- intro'd

by a circumspect Jesse Jackson, no less.

* * * *

The Enduring Ambivalence About Jethro Tull

Jethro Tull, reading the latest edition of
The Daily Digression?

Of all the major 1960s/1970s bands eligible

for induction to the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame

who have not yet been inducted, few present a

more difficult problem of critical evaluation than

Jethro Tull. Watching a video of the band performing

in its absolute creative prime -- the period right

after "Benefit" and before "Aqualung," captured on a

DVD called "Jethro Tull: Live at the Isle of

Wight, 1970" -- I saw at once the reasons why

the band should be inducted and why they shouldn't,

though I lean toward the former view ("Aqualung" alone

should be their ticket in).

The DVD shows the band performing on the last

day of the Isle of Wight Festival of 1970, when

the crowd, having already heard The Who and

Jimi Hendrix on previous days, had dwindled

considerably. By day five, the audience was

gnarly, gamey, pissed off and fed up with

malfunctioning toilets and being pushed

around by fest organizers. To its credit, this

documentary/concert film, directed by Murray Lerner,

doesn't prettify this (or Tull's own performance,

for that matter).

Tull took the stage looking like they had just

stepped off the cover of "Benefit." Up close, you

can see that Ian Anderson had a case of stage fright

and, at least at this gig, was nervous, even dorky,

full of odd tics and idiosyncrasies, a strict

taskmaster who missed his own cues, while his

band was precise but clunky, for the most part.

It's when he puts down his flute, which he really

doesn't play very well, and sits with an acoustic

guitar for "My God" that you say, "Wow." Anderson is

relaxed, engaging, marvelously melodic, almost

hypnotic -- for the first three minutes and fifteen

seconds of "My God." And then he does embarrassing

schtick with his flute that even he sort of cringed

at in a 2004 interview included here.

I've long felt the band's best stuff was British

folk and folk rock like "Sossity," "Inside,"

"Reasons for Waiting," "Mother Goose,"

"For Michael Collins, Jeffrey and Me," "Slipstream,"

"Cheap Day Return," "Up the Pool," the "in the clear

white circles of morning wonder" part of "Thick as a

Brick" -- I almost never tire of hearing

those songs, none of which they played at Isle

of Wight. (Anderson should have hung out a bit

more with Maddy Pryor, by the way.)

Though the setlist here is disappointing (why only one

song from "Benefit"?), you see the dawn of

"Aqualung" taking shape, particularly on "Dharma

For One," where you can hear the band hurtling

toward its "Locomotive Breath" sound. (Turns out

Glenn Cornick had a lot more to do with the

overall sound during this period than you'd guess

from hearing the albums.) By show's end, the

previously angry crowd looked genuinely


The problem with bands that you enjoyed as a child

is that, in adulthood, you can't tell whether you

still like them because of nostalgia or because

of the group's musical value. I was barely

13-years-old, a suburban American kid living for

six months in Florence, Italy, when I first heard

of Tull. I remember the moment well: I was in the

front seat of a Fiat in central Florence in

November 1970, a couple months after Isle of Wight,

looking to the backseat where some cool older guy at my

school, St. Michael's Country Day School, was holding

a brand new copy of "Benefit" (with that "headband" cover)

and talking the band up.

At that time in Florence, "Woodstock" was in the

main movie theaters, "Led Zeppelin 3" was weeks

away from showing up in record store windows and

Italian singer Gianni Morandi had a big hit with a

protest song about the Kent State massacre.

But Jethro Tull, at least for a month or two in the

fall of '70, was the talk of the piazza, and their

melodies seemed to emanate from the medieval and

Renaissance alleys of the city, and there were rumors

flying that Tull was actually a group of 70-year-old men.

But the band's true heyday lasted only from 1969 to

1972, between "Stand Up" and "Living in the Past." The

subsequent albums, between '73 and '78, from "A Passion

Play" to "Songs From the Wood," were spotty at best,

though there are at least a few good songs or musical

moments on each. After 1978, they created almost nothing

worth listening to.

Even at their peak they were the object of an unusual

degree of derision. (I once heard the nickname Jethro Dull;

and the late, great Lester Bangs memorably eviscerated

the band with his famous line about Jethro Tull having

no "rebop.")

To be sure, they're not in the same league as the Stones

and the Who, though their melodies are more memorable

than those of a terrific band like Fairport Convention.

Tull can't be dismissed -- there's just too much good stuff

on albums two through six. "Live at the Isle of Wight,"

the best long-form concert by the group on DVD, is a

great way to take a close look at a band that still

provokes extreme ambivalence after all these years.

* * * *

A Year After "Sicko," Still No Universal Health Care

This time last year, Michael Moore's documentary

"Sicko" was stirring such debate about the U.S. health

care system that some thought the film might actually

spur some sort of policy change.

No such luck. Hasn't happened. The rich keep

getting richer off of the sick, who keep

getting sicker.

As "Sicko" notes, the government provides

free postal service, free police protection, free

education -- and nobody denounces those programs

as "socialist." Why not also provide

something as basic as health care?

Imagine if you had to personally pay the police

department every time you called 911 for an

emergency (though, on second thought, it is true

that in some communities in New Jersey and Louisiana,

I hear you actually do have to pay the cops!). Same

thing as paying for an emergency room visit.

Maybe we need to re-think our socialism-phobia,

which almost nobody else in the world shares. Let's

take that fear apart for a moment.

Since unregulated capitalism failed spectacularly

in 1929, the United States has adopted and adapted

and refined some of the best ideas of

socialism -- e.g., FDIC, unemployment insurance,

social security, food stamps, etc. -- so that

now we're -- thankfully -- a capitalist-socialist

hybrid nation, in a sense.

Even arch-conservatives have seen the absolute

necessity of having a baseline level of government

involvement and regulation, without which we would

have complete catastrophe on several levels,

as we found out the hard way in '29.

Meanwhile, the communists have adapted and adopted

some of the best ideas of American capitalism so that

Russia and China are now also socialist-capitalist


In other words, nobody won the Cold War. We became

partly socialist, and the socialists became partly

capitalist. The U.S. has social security, and China has

Saks Fifth Avenue. In the process, the Soviet Union

ran out of money and collapsed, which probably

would've happened anyway, whether they had been nominally

communist or not, given the fact that their economy has

long been based on main exports vodka and corruption.

(And their totalitarianism, which almost nobody defends

anymore, had more to do with their own political

traditions and history than with the theories of Marx

and Engels.)

In "Sicko," we actually see the spectacle of

Americans "defecting" to communist Cuba in order to

get health care -- and it's no joke.

Oh, I can hear the conservatives now, talking about

the lack of freedom in Cuba. But let's dissect that cliche

for a moment, too.

In the U.S., every dissenter is free to savagely

criticize President Bush in the most radical ways,

but there's no real danger or risk in that.

After all, we work for corporations like

Hewlett-Packard and Oracle and Xerox and GE, not

for Bush. And if you work for Hewlett-Packard,

I dare you to go to the office tomorrow and start

criticizing your boss in order to see how your First

Amendment rights hold up. I dare you to go to work,

wherever you work, and say, my boss is a bum and my company

is run by a bunch of fascist thugs. First Amendment or

not, you'd likely be cleaning out your desk before the

day is done.

In America, you have very limited free speech rights

when it comes to the domain in which you really

reside: your workplace, where you spend most of your

day. Your actual residence is the fiefdom of Xerox or

GE or Oracle, not the U.S.

So, yeah, it's true: there is a public sector

tyranny in Cuba -- but there's a private sector

tyranny in America.

Just watch the final scenes of "Sicko" -- in which

Cuban firefighters in Havana stand to honor the New

York area firefighters who died so tragically on

9/11 -- and you'll realize we have a lot more in

common with the communists than we care to admit.

But I digress. Paul



for August 3, 2008

Last Night in Berkeley, John Mellencamp Declares:

"Hatred Elected George Bush"

Mellencamp performing last year (photo by Paul Iorio)

John Mellencamp has never been known to hold

his tongue about much, and last night in Berkeley,

Calif., on the final date of his tour with Lucinda

Williams, he let it all hang out.

"It's that hatred that's getting people killed overseas,

it's that hatred that's getting -- well, let's call a

spade a spade -- it's that hatred that elected George

Bush," Mellencamp said to cheers from the crowd.

He then paused, chuckled a bit and said: "I'll probably

get arrested for saying that," as if realizing he had

said something a bit extreme.

Several songs later, before "Crumblin' Down," he dialed

back a bit on his comments. "I didn't mean to start

preachin' but I did a little bit," he said, adding at

another point that a lot of people think he

should "shut up about politics."

Mellencamp also talked unusually vividly, even by

his own standards, about the infamous racial incident

that happened last year in Jena, Louisiana.

"Down in Jena there was some kind of problem, you

know, and people thought it'd be a good idea if they

hung nooses in a tree," he began. "...That's a bad

idea no matter how you cut it. Hey, here's a

good idea: [in an ironic, confidential tone]:

after the show let's all go...spray paint swastikas....That's

a good idea...That's not going to get a good result

no matter how you cut it. That is not the way we solve

problems. We're better than that." Fans cheered.

Then he launched into his song "Jena," played here a bit

like a Neil Young protest tune.

Mellencamp made his remarks at a sold-out gig at the

Greek Theater in Berkeley, last night (August 2),

supporting his recently released album, "Life Death

Love and Freedom." (I heard -- and recorded -- the gig

from the hills above the theater.)

His comments about "hatred" followed an anecdote he

told about an instance of racial discrimination he

experienced when he was a teenager in a rock band;

effectively, given the context of his story, he was

implying that racial "hatred" played a part in

electing Bush.

His remarks, however, didn't upstage his music,

which was, at times, as good as live rock 'n' roll

gets; in fact, there are only a handful of acts

-- the Stones, Springsteen, U2, R.E.M., etc. -- who

can play rock with this level of mastery and intensity.

The last segment of the show -- in which he played

several of his best-known songs in rapid

succession -- felt sort of like a jet quickly

ascending over mountain peaks; his versions

of "Crumblin' Down" and "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A."

had the irresistable force of the Rolling Stones

on their "Bigger Bang" tour, and it was almost

impossible not to dance (or not to move to)

the music.

Also notable were "Rain on the Scarecrow," a

defiant retort to anyone who thinks the Reagan era

was just an endless stream of jellybeans; "Check

It Out," the most enduring song from "The Lonesome

Jubilee"; and an unexpectedly strong "Human Wheels,"

as well as the half dozen or so new songs from his

latest album, "Life Death Love and Freedom," his best

CD in many years.

"Minutes to Memories," one of his finest songs, was

performed here solo acoustic, unfortunately flattening

a lot of the song's appeal, which has much to do with

its central guitar riff, absent here. For years,

I've enjoyed performing that song on acoustic guitar

for pleasure in my own apartment, and it works in a

bare arrangement, but only if you also include that

wonderful riff.

I remember Mellencamp splitting open Madison Square

Garden on December 6, 1985, with a vibrant, electric

version of that one, along with other tracks from

"Scarecrow," still his crowning achievement, in my

opinion. (That was the famous gig at which

Mellencamp generously offered to give everyone

their money back because he felt that a

slightly malfunctioning sound system was

diminishing the sound, when in fact it was

easily one of the greatest rock shows

I'd ever seen.)

Opening at the Greek was Lucinda Williams, playing

songs from her upcoming album "Little Honey," due

in October, and assorted songs from the past decade

or so, as well as a fun encore cover of AC/DC's "It's a

Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)."

Ever since I first heard her perform, in 1988 at

Maxwell's in Hoboken, New Jersey, back when her

major song was "Changed the Locks," which she never

sings anymore, I've always had the urge to cry

whenever I hear her music.

I'm not joking: her stuff just breaks my heart,

and I get so sad when I hear it -- I don't know why

that is, though I do know that it has stopped me from

listening to her as frequently as I listen to, say, Bob

Dylan, whose brilliance she sometimes comes close to.

But remember: even at his most bitter and snarling,

Dylan had a marvelous sense of humor ("I can't help it

if I'm lucky" is worthy of a great stand-up comedian),

the missing element in her work.

I think the AC/DC cover is a really good sign. I'd

give a lot to hear her sing "You Shook Me All Night


my backstage pass to an AC/DC show in NY in '85.

But I digress. Paul



for August 1 - 2, 2008

"Laugh-In" Is Forty, Dick Martin is Dead

(But We'll Always Have Beautiful Downtown Burbank!)

Jokes about Ralph Nader, Fidel Castro, the

Olympics, tensions between Pakistan and India,

the obsolescence of cash -- with a special

appearance by Regis Philbin. Sounds like

a new TV series, right?

Nope. I'm describing the first episodes

of NBC's "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In," now over

forty years old but so ahead of its time in many

ways that it still seems progressive.

Or some of it does. Clearly, the mod garb and

slang are hopelessly outdated, more associated

today with Austin Powers than with anything else,

as are most of the topical references and silly

sayings such as "You bet your sweet bippy"

and "sock it to me," which never quite made

it into the lexicon after the 1970s.

But get beyond those superficial elements and

you'll see that "Laugh-In," as much as "Saturday

Night Live," was an exponential leap forward

pop-culturally -- and in prime time, no less,

where "SNL" proper never resided. Even today, a lot

of the stoned humor pioneered by "Laugh-In" is

relegated to the 11:30 hour or beyond,

or to cable.

The main thing, though, is that the series, at

least in its first years, is still very funny.

I recently rented a DVD of disc one of the first

season, which includes two episodes from early 1968,

and laughed and laughed.

Some of the one-liners are almost worthy of

Allen and Perelman.

"My grandfather is a sexagenarian," says one woman.

"That's amazing at his age," quips Dick Martin.

And there are humorous moments from Tim


"Hey, man, I don't want my kids hearing all them dirty

words in the movies," says Conway. "They get enough of

that at home."

Elsewhere, Conway plays The Great Nervo, who makes

predictions about events that have already happened.

The two most entertaining regular features were the

opening cocktail party, at which partygoers would

tell a joke that sort of aspired to the level of a

New Yorker magazine cartoon (though many fell far

short of that goal); and "The Rowan & Martin Report"

(aka "Laugh-In Looks at the News"), a forerunner of

SNL's "Weekend Update."

The latter had a future news sub-segment, reporting

headlines from 20 years in the future, 1988 (oh,

how quickly a future date in time becomes a date

from the past in any sort of speculative comedy or

drama). It even joked about Reagan becoming president.

Among the more humorous future news bits: "Item.

White House. 1988. President Stokely Carmichael,

in his office in Hanoi, today once again repeated

that the United States must get out of America."

Some of the sketches were more cutting-edge than

most prime-time fare today. In one segment, Rowan

and Martin covered campus riots, play-by-play

style, as if they were sports events ("the winners

will be invited to meet Berkeley in the national


At another point, Sammy Davis Jr. and Joey Bishop

play government officials writing a press release

about an international incident at sea, gradually

altering the facts so that an accident in which 15

Russians were injured by Americans is changed to

one in which 15 Americans were deliberately hurt

by a Russian submarine.

One great thing about seeing this on DVD is that

you can finally slow down the ultra-quick cuts in

order to read the placards and bumper stickers that

whizzed by way too fast when they were first aired.

For the record, here's what was invisible to viewers

in 1968:

"Lower the Age of Puberty," "Get Our Boys Out of Berkeley"

and "Bullets are Forever."

Other highlights are abundant: a French juggler who

juggles plates but ends up breaking all of them; a

sight gag in which someone flamboyantly waves a sword at

Dan Rowan, who casually pulls out a gun and shoots him

(a similar bit got a lot of laughs many years later in

the movie "Raiders of the Lost Ark").

It's puzzling that other networks didn't counter-program

with their own knock-offs, though ABC tried and failed.

Ultimately, the show became passe by 1970 and was fully

eclipsed by the more outre "All in the Family" by 1971.

Its influence is still felt everywhere today from

"SNL" to "The Late Show with David Letterman," and

you can even see a stylistic thru-line from Rowan

to Letterman (though Letterman at this point has

become an original in his own category).

Last May, as everyone knows, Dick Martin died at

age 88, which is 23 years longer than his partner

lived. Their DVDs, obviously, live on, but rent

them with this caveat: get the "Laugh-In"

discs that have complete episodes, not

the best-of clip jobs, and stick to the stuff from

the early years.

* * * *

As soon as I finish reading the poems Coleridge

wrote on opium, the novels Hemingway wrote on booze,

the lyrics Lennon wrote on acid, and the works that

Ginsberg, Burroughs and Kerouac wrote on a variety

of recreational drugs, I'll read Princeton's study

(scientific, I'm sure) describing the underrated University

of Florida as a "party school."

But I digress



for July 27, 2008

Last Night's Steely Dan Show

reeling in the you-know-whats

Almost everybody coming out of the Steely Dan

concert last night in Berkeley, Calif., was

smiling wide, as if they had just gotten

laid or were about to. The show was that


A couple hours earlier, from the stage, in the

middle of "Hey 19," Walter Becker even gave some

advice to the romantically inclined in the crowd.

"Sometimes on a summer night, way up in the hills of

Berkeley...after a Steely Dan head home

with your beloved, the object of your affections,

and there's only one thing in mind: showing her

how much, how very much, you love her," said Becker,

who then proceeded to talk about one way to

have fun with your loved one.

"Go to the liquor cabinet," he said, and find

the stuff labeled "'100% guaranteed'...If you

break the seal, you're gonna feel real," he said.

"You understand what I'm saying?"

The crowd roared approval, as the band lit into

a soulful verse celebrating "Cuervo Gold."

From the beginning to the end of this two hour-plus

gig, Steely Dan was fully dedicated to making sure

everybody within earshot -- even the people up in the

hills, where I was -- was aesthetically satisfied

and entertained.

The pleasures were many. There were exotic sounds

from quirky instruments turning up like rare animals

at a zoo. One minute, the tenor sax and the tenor

trombone would be re-combining into new combinations,

then there would be mysterious guitar riffs creating

texture, nuance. Plus, and most important, you

could dance to it all, which a lot of people did.

As the summer night progressed, hits and new material

and obscurities came vividly to life: my favorites of

the night were "New Frontier," "Black Friday," "Peg"

and finale "Do It Again."

And there was Becker's colorful intro of

Donald Fagan: "Lead singer, pianist, singer-songwriter,

composer, author, producer, star of screen, stage

and television, man about town, stern critic of the

contemporary scene, please welcome, if you will,

the original, the originator, the one, the only

one, Mr. Donald Fagan."

After the show, as I walked back home, through my

favorite park in the world, I realized that the show

had caused me, for a time, to hear the sound of

chirping birds and the rest of the world in a brand

new way, which is one of the reasons I was

smiling, too.

But I digress, Paul



for July 27, 2008

A point missing in the discussion about

the surge in Iraq is that it's way too

early to declare "mission accomplished"

with regard to the lessening of hostilities

there. The surge is only a few months old,

and insurgents might easily re-surge later,

stronger than ever.

Remember: Tet was quashed, too, in early 1968,

but the guerillas came back with a vengeance and

fought on for several more years -- to victory,

in fact. (To be fair, McCain may not know about

all this, as I hear he didn't have access to

Cronkite in those years.)

Lately, McCain is sounding like a guy who drives

your car into a ditch and then wants to be

congratulated for replacing its flat tire, though

the car still remains in the ditch.

He's changing his heart
(you know who you are!):

McCain has flip-flopped
from advocating a "hundred year"
presence in Iraq to supporting a
"time horizon" for withdrawal.

* * *

Here's A New Idea for An Antonioni Exhibit....

In the U.S., the neglect of Michelangelo Antonioni's

work verges on the criminal. Up until

recently, even some of his most popular films were

not available on DVD domestically.

Which is why it's so welcome to see that the

National Gallery in Washington, D.C., is in the

midst of a gourmet Antonioni retrospective, spanning

his entire career and including rarely-seen gems

like "L'eclisse," the last of the trilogy that

began with "L'avventura," and (especially)

"Deserto rosso (Red Desert)," which I am dying to

see because I'm told it experiments with color

(and birds!) brilliantly. (Check out

coverage of the screenings at

As I wrote in the Daily Digression on July 31, 2007:

"I've always had the feeling that if Michelangelo

Antonioni hadn't been a film maker, he would've

been a post-expressionist painter, because that's

the sensibility he brought to cinema. In fact, he

seemed to see film as an almost purely visual

medium, and the best example of that was the

dazzling end of "Zabriskie Point," which was

virtually one expressionist painting after

another, if you were to still each frame. I was

always waiting for Antonioni to take his aesthetic

to the next level and make a two-hour film that was

purely painterly visuals, with no plot, no story."

Here's an original idea for a museum exhibit

that is long overdue: a photography exhibition of

stills -- blown-up still photographs -- of around

forty moments or scenes in Antonioni movies. I thought

of this idea after recently watching "The

Passenger" and finding that I kept pausing the

film just to savor various visual images that were

as powerful and resonant as many great modernist

paintings. This most painterly of auteurs should

surely have his moving paintings stilled and

displayed by a major museum.

But I digress. Paul

[photo of McCain from]



for July 23 - 24, 2008

A few notes on DVDs I've watched (or re-watched)



re-watching it the other day, I was struck by

how Hitchcockian the suspense was (particularly

the sequence in which Josh Brolin sees Javier

Bardem's shadow beneath the door). The

first time I saw it, I was very impressed and

literally on the edge of my seat (to coin a phrase!),

but second and third viewings reveal flaws,

among them: suspense dissipates after the

first hour, despite a nice star turn by Woody

Harrelson; Tommy Lee Jones's opening VO segues

into Brolin's first appearance onscreen, confusing

viewers into thinking the VO was Brolin's

(further, what Jones says about "old-timers" and

generations changing hands doesn't really come

into play later in the film); it's not

believable that the cop in the opening sequence

would separate Bardem from his oxygen tank in

the squad car; etc.

More significantly, the two main characters are

indistinctly conceived. Brolin's character is

initially drawn sort of like Kris Kristofferson's

memorable sunuvabitch in "Lone Star"; but that

persona is soon supplanted by a more typical

Coen Bros. character: the bumbler a la William

H. Macy in "Fargo." And it's an uneasy combination,

likely the result of competing, colliding visions.

Likewise, Bardem's character, truly a singular

creation of American cinema, is nonetheless

indecisively conceived. In the early part of

the film, he's scripted as a serial thrill killer

who kills for killing's sake. But as the

movie progresses, the concept of his character

shifts -- not through evolution -- to that of

a businessman in the underground economy who

is semi-reasonably trying to get back

money stolen from him. There's less duality

here than flawed concept.

Still, a great thriller -- and probably as good

as "Fargo," the Coen brothers's peak to date.

* * *


"No Country For Old Men," "There WIll Be Blood"

gets better with each viewing. It unfolds much

more naturally and organically, and has the epic

sweep of a best picture Oscar winner, which it

didn't win but should've. And it's probably the

first major film since Kubrick's "2001: A Space

Odyssey" to be wordless in its first fifteen

minutes or so -- but with all meaning perfectly

conveyed. Seeing this right after "No Country"

makes the latter look like a cartoon. Paul

Thomas Anderson is like Coppola and Polanski in

his ability to create a complex plot that

yields new revelations on fifth and sixth

viewings. The brilliance is everywhere:

the baptism by oil, the thunderstorm of gold,

the "milkshake" sequence at the end, the

"Peachtree Dance" moment of truth with

Henry, etc.

The plot is sort of like an entrepreneurially

legitimate version of the entrepreneurially

nefarious sub-plot of "Chinatown," in which

Noah Cross and others are trying to bump people

off their land in order to turn the land into

valuable property. Of course, Plainview is more

honest, even if he tries to give them "quail

prices" at first. (And good to see Eli Sunday

"repenting" before his death.)

* * *

JESUS CAMP: Fascinating docu

about the thoroughly nauseating indoctrination

of kids into fundamentalist religion. The sort

of manipulation of impressionable children

depicted here is not just disgusting; it's

child abuse.

It also proves beyond any doubt that most people

in the modern era don't come to religion

naturally but through warped, intense brainwashing

at an extremely tender age. Left to their own

devices, these kids might have gravitated naturally

toward the wisdom of Aristotle, Nietzsche, Sartre,

Yeats, Bob Dylan, etc. -- all better writers

than the anonymous folks who wrote and revised

and (badly) translated the Bible.

* * *

A MIGHTY HEART: I expected

an earnest, well-meaning work but was

pleasantly surprised at how consistently gripping

it was, from beginning to end -- a very satisfying,

moving movie that refuses to be exploitative about

the tragic death of journalist Daniel Pearl. And

Angelina Jolie disappears into Mariane Pearl

the way a great actress should. You know, with

all the tabloid headlines about her these days,

we tend to forget that she's a first-rank actor

(and you can almost believe she might be a

presidential contender in 2020).

* * *

GANGS OF NEW YORK: Funny thing

is, "Gangs" could pass for futuristic. As an

evocation of Boss Tweed's Tammany New York, it's

magical, convincing. But the style of its characters

is so inventive and unfamiliar that it's almost a

depiction of a future era of thuggery, the way

Stanley Kubrick/Anthony Burgess created ultra-modern

droogs, who dressed flamboyantly and spoke in

pseudo-Shakespearian slang (a characterization

that, by the way, was reportedly based on

real-life 20th century street criminals in

St. Petersburg who wore Edwardian garb and

had their own Russian dialect).

At times, it's like walking through pre-Civil War

New York, the way it must've really been. You

also see that, before the Civil War, parts of

America still had a tin-whistle Colonial

resemblance, while the decades after the Civil War

were more akin to the modern era (in fact, that's

when the grandparents of most baby boomers

were born).

Anyway, I digress.

A masterful film, even if it has neither the epic

perfection of "The Godfather, Part 2" nor the concision

of "Goodfellas." After seeing it a second time, I had

opposite feelings simultaneously: it should've

been edited down to something more succinct and it

should've been expanded by another hour.

* * *

GRIZZLY MAN: It's one of

the best documentaries of the decade -- and

not just because it features footage of

a guy hours and days before he was eaten by a

brown grizzly bear in Alaska, though that's one

of its draws.

It's also a penetrating portrait of someone

with a death wish, a clinically depressed alcoholic

who replaced booze with the natural adrenaline

released by hanging out with deadly animals. The

doomed subject, Timothy Treadwell, revered and

anthropomorphized and sentimentalized bears, a fatal

misjudgment. But before that judgment becomes fatal,

we experience his obsessive love of wildlife

and Alaska, the very picture of untrammeled

paradise, though it's telling to see that even in

these remote reaches of the far north, where there's

almost no human population, he's still as full

of anger and frustration as someone living in a

crowded slum (witness his tirade around 80

minutes in).

Ultimately, the foxes almost upstage the bears

in this film; you'll never think of a fox the same

way after seeing how much they look like a mere whim

(Richard Thompson's instrumental during

the fox chase sequence is immensely enjoyable).

In the end, Treadwell filmed his own death, but with

the lens cap on -- an apt metaphor for someone shutting

his eyes to the danger nearby.

* * *


Perhaps the most unimaginative mock-documentary ever

made. And I'm not saying that because I'm privately

offended by something in it, because I'm not offended by

it. I'm merely astounded by the degree to which the film

makers did not smartly (or even interestingly) (or even

competently) extrapolate from its premise to the future.

For the dim only.

* * *

DOCTOR ZHIVAGO: Finally saw the

double-DVD edition that was released a couple

years ago, though I must admit I have nothing

major to add to critical thought about this

flick right now. It has moments of indelible

beauty and other moments...not so indelible.

To my knowledge, no one has brought up the

fact that its theme song, "Somewhere My Love

(Lara's Theme From 'Doctor Zhivago')," is

overplayed to the point of distraction -- something

like 27 times. And while the theme is a classic

of its kind, the song doesn't seem to have an

ethnic Russian flavor the way, say, the music of

"Zorba the Greek" is distinctly Greek

and the music of "The Godfather" is Italian.

"Somewhere My Love" could as well be the theme

of a British period drama.

But I digress. Paul



for July 21, 2008

The Next Coen Brothers Picture

The Fall movie season kicks off after Labor Day with the
Coen Brothers's comic take on paranoid movies, "Burn After
Reading," starring That "Oceans" Team Clooney and Pitt.

The next Coen Brothers movie, "Burn After Reading,"

is a C.I.A.-themed comedy starring Brad Pitt, George

Clooney and John Malkovich.

I've not yet seen the film, due in theaters after

Labor Day, a traditionally fallow period for

releases, but it looks to be a send-up of the

sorts of paranoid movies that Clooney has starred

in in recent years.

After "Michael Clayton" and "Syriana," I thought

Clooney's next project might be the feature film

version of "The Man From UNCLE," an idea I'm sure

is kicking around Burbank these days, or will be

once someone reads this.

Frankly, I think Clooney works better in movies

less byzantine than "Michael Clayton" and

"Syriana," Paranoid Movies of the kind I poked

fun at in a feature for the San Francisco Chronicle

newspaper in '97 that included a usable game board

for The Paranoid Movie Game, which I'm re-printing

here, for your enjoyment!

Have hours of fun with The Paranoid Movie Game! (I conceived and designed and wrote the Paranoid Movie Game for the San Francisco Chronicle in '97 (the only elements not authored by me are the drawings within the boxes).]

But I digress. Paul

[photo of Clooney and Pitt: photographer unknown.]



for July 20, 2008

Last Night's Feist Show

Feist played Berkeley, Calif., last night

and was alluring, enchanting, impossibly

seductive. Hard to believe from

the fervent reaction of the mostly twentysomething

crowd that she wasn't always a Big Indie Star, but

as recently as a couple years ago, she wasn't.

"1234," of course, changed all that, and though

everyone has heard it a few million times,

the song is still astonishingly fresh and carefree

and irresistible -- perfect folk-pop magic, like the

memory of hiking through a forest as a child. Played

here at mid-set, it seemed to cast a spell on fans,

even the ones listening from the hills above

the theater, where I heard the show.

In a 90-minute set that featured much of her latest

album, "The Reminder," released around 15 months ago,

Feist was both bold and fragile, sexy and innocent,

guileless and knowing, spontaneous, loquacious, even

chatty, talking about everything from apartment living

to opening for Rilo Kiley. Highlights included

"Mushaboom" ("We'll collect the moments, one by one/

I guess that's how the future's done"), set closer

"Sea Lion Woman" and the second encore (don't know

the title of that one).

Opening act The Golden Dogs, a quasi-power pop

indie band from Toronto, is well worth checking out.

Very impressive set. I wish I knew the title of the

second song they played because it was truly

fabulous. Sort of a combination of the Velvets

and the Talking Heads and McCartney circa "Ram"

(and in fact they performed a wonderful cover

of McCartney's "1985"). I wouldn't be surprised

if they broke through in a big way.

The Golden Dogs, terrific band.

But I digress. Paul

[photo of Feist from; pic of Golden Dogs from True North website.]



for July 18, 2008

OK, this is my last bit about that cover of

The New Yorker magazine. I just received my

subscription copy of the mag in the mail

(can't they put those postage address stickers

on the back, over the Saturn ad, so the covers

aren't defaced?).

Anyway, when you see the real cover, Barack looks

more like a U.S. Navy sailor during Fleet Week

than a practicing Muslim. And that empty chair?

They could've put Jeremiah Wright in that.

The other side of The New Yorker cover is,

literally, this advertisement (below) for the

Saturn Outlook luxury SUV, which sells for around

$30,000. Obviously, the front cover wasn't

so radical that it caused rich, conservative

back-cover advertisers to drop their ads.

"We hawk yer satire at the fronta da shop,
we hawk yer gas guzzler at da back."

But I digress. Paul



for July 17, 2008

No Riots Yet Over The New Yorker Cover

As The New Yorker's David Remnick noted last

night on "Charlie Rose," the best commentary about

his magazine's controversial Obama cover came

from Jon Stewart, who said the following:

"You know what [Obama's] response should've been? It's
very easy here, let me put the statement out for you:
'Barack Obama is in no way upset about the cartoon that
depicts him as a Muslim extremist. Because you know
who gets upset about cartoons? Muslim extremists! Of
which Barack Obama is not. It's just a fucking

And Remnick rightly wondered whether the cover's

detractors also took other satire, like "A Modest

Proposal," literally (which is something I also

wondered in my July 14th Digression, below).

Recently I read all TNY's cartoons from the

1920s to today, and one thing that struck me was

the courage it showed in the late 1930s and

early 1940s in skewering Nazism. Today, I see

that sort of welcome audacity in the famous

Jyllands-Posten cartoon series of 2005, which

is wearing very well with time.

The Obama cover: not quite as ballsy as this.

But I digress. Paul

P.S. -- Remnick is also right when he expresses

distaste for editors and others who say, "I get it

but let's not publish this because THEY may not get it."

I can attest that that sort of attitude

does exist among certain people in publishing; my

last editor, a senior editor, at the San Francisco

Chronicle (let's call him "David," though that may or may

not be his real name) once asked me to delete the word

"ubiquitous" from a news story because he thought readers

might not understand such a "big" word. People are smarter

than you think, I told him -- or at least they're smarter

than "David," who also thought the phrase

"quid pro quo" meant cause and effect. Look, I prefer

simple, direct language in news stories, but sometimes

a word just fits, as ubiquitous, a pretty common word,

did in this case. (By the way, how did "David" manage

to flourish at the newspaper, where he's still employed?

The same way Donald Rumsfeld flourished at Defense (and

convinced otherwise bright people to back the Iraq war

in '03): by lying, which I'm sure my former editor

will be doing once he reads this.)



for July 16, 2008

Once again, the Daily Digression leads the pack!

In my July 14, 2008, column (below), I noted the

"irony-deficiency" of those critical of the

controversial cover of The New Yorker magazine.

On July 15th, in the Los Angeles Times, James

Rainey also wrote about such an "irony-deficiency."

(July 14th, of course, came before July 15th --

and his story was a riff on breaking news, not a

piece that was six months in the making.)

Rainey probably didn't even see my blog before

he wrote his thing, but there is a problem out there

with big media companies ripping off the ideas and

language of bloggers who have low readership like

myself. The Daily Digression, and other blogs, are

becoming a sort of backwater for good ideas that

journalists with tight deadlines at big newspapers

can steal with near-impunity.

If you guys are going to pilfer my ideas, and I'm

not implying Rainey did (neither of us invented

the phrase, after all), take a few seconds to say

or write: "As freelance writer Paul Iorio put it."

P.S. -- And if the Rainey story is actually bait --

a deliberate nicking of my material in order to

provoke a response for which they have a readymade

retort (e.g., "that's typical Paul") -- my response is:

I don't care if it's bait or not. If you steal my

material, I'm going to note it publicly and to your

editors. And if it's merely an innocent matter of

my idea preceding yours, I'm going to make sure people

know who came first.

* * * *

There should be no compassionate release for

Susan Atkins. Let her die in prison -- that's

exactly what she deserves.

There are good, honest poor people out there

who have never committed an awful crime, who die

abusive, unspeakably cruel deaths because

they don't have money for the basics. Where is

the compassion for them?

Rather than focus time and energy on a homicidal

sadist like Atkins, let's instead focus our

generosity on poor people who are dying and in pain

because they can't afford medication, who are being

evicted by callous landlords who couldn't care less

that their tenant is dying, who are the targets of

muggers because they are weak from chemo, who are dying

in homeless shelters or on the street without even a

proper bed, etc. By contrast, Atkins has it made

in the shade.

But I digress. Paul



extra! for July 14, 2008

The New Yorker Cover, and Sharpton's Irony-Deficiency

I actually talked once, one on one, with Al Sharpton,

in a telephone interview in late 1985, when I was a

writer/reporter for music trade magazine Cash Box

in New York. He was virtually unknown then and

organizing some sort of anti-drug benefit concert,

and I thought it would be a newsworthy item for my

weekly column, East Coastings.

It wasn't an in-depth Q&A, just a casual quickie

with some guy who was putting together a show for what

seemed like a good cause.

But around ten minutes into the conversation, I noticed

there was something really ugly about this guy Sharpton.

As gracious and nice as I was being to him, he simply

wouldn't let me be gracious and nice, and he kept raising

his voice as if he were trying to pick a fight.

And I would say something like, well, good luck with

the concert and thanks for the interview, and he would

shout for no reason at all as if he wanted an argument.

Strange, unpleasant fellow, I thought at the time.

It was only years later that I was told that Sharpton

was not the sort of activist he was pretending to be,

and that he was actually working as an undercover agent

for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (that sort of thing

is hard to confirm, but I've heard it from multiple reliable

sources). For the '85 conversation, he was directed to me

by a colleague who was, evidently, trying to cause problems

for me in some way or deflect attention away from himself

for some reason.

Let me further digress here for a moment to provide

full context. A few years later, as an independent

investigative reporter, working at first for the Village

Voice on spec, and then for a time for CBS's "60 Minutes,"

I did uncover disturbing information -- downright

nauseating information -- that linked my magazine Cash

Box with the worst sort of industry corruption. But keep

in mind, I was the one who uncovered and exposed this

nefarious activity. And, I should note, there were a lot

of music-news reporters at the time who didn't lift a finger

to voice support for (much less help) my investigation, even

though they knew full well what I had uncovered, and even

after I was nearly murdered in front of a shoe store on

West 72nd Street in Manhattan in a still-unexplained

assault during the week I went to "60 Minutes"

(October 13, 1990). [Advice for aspiring freelancers:

don't get physically injured while freelancing,

because you won't be able to afford to fix your

injury. You think the government doesn't care

about your health care?! Corporate America

cares even less.)

I say all this to show the landscape in which Sharpton, the

FBI agent, phoned me, one of the honest guys at Cash Box.

(For the record, most of the editorial people at the

magazine had a lot of integrity; certainly my

writer/reporter colleagues in New York and Los Angeles

were honest pros; but it was on the business side, mostly

in the Nashville bureau, where there was extremely corrupt


Anyway, in the subsequent years Sharpton eventually

made a name for himself as an activist, though few of

his supporters seemed to know his apparent history

with the FBI -- and even fewer know about his past

today, it seems.

When the Tawana Brawley scandal broke in 1989, it

didn't surprise me at all to see Al, the blowhard

who I had interviewed years before, at the forefront,

this time shouting lies as loud as he could in front of

every camera he could find. I had already experienced

his pick-a-fight attitude and deception, and all of

that was on grand display during the Brawley affair,

when Sharpton lied, lied and lied again for

personal gain. And I have yet to hear him apologize for

his role in the Brawley hoax, and until I do, I will

never consider taking him seriously or believing a word he


If I had lied the way he lied about Brawley, I would

have never worked another day in any field. So tell me

why he's still on the public stage? It's not like

the man has changed; he has gone from championing

Brawley in '89 to defending liar Crystal Mangum in


But there are other reasons why Sharpton is abhorrent,

e.g., his religious fundamentalism, which puts him in bed

with Pat Robertson, and not just jokingly, either. In the

years since Brawley, he has become indistinguishable

from a right-winger with regard to issues of

censorship and First Amendment rights.

The latest example is typical. There was Al, earlier today,

yelling like people couldn't hear him, trying to gain

advantage by criticizing the witty, controversial cover

of The New Yorker magazine that satirizes perceptions

about Barack Obama. Seeing him on various news programs

today, it was clear Sharpton really was out of his depth,

without the brainpower to take on the sort of high satire that

he didn't understand. I mean, the guy is such a religious

literalist that you wonder whether he even knows what

irony is.

But there he was tonight on some nightly news show.

"Michelle in an Afro wig, [Obama] in Muslim garb: it

plays on all the ridiculous notions that we

hope we're getting out of American politics," Sharpton

told one television reporter.

Clearly, Sharpton is irony-deficient. Does he also

not understand Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" and

other serious satiric works of literature? Or pop

cultural touchstones like Elton John's "Texas

Love Song"? Does he take those works literally, too?

Until Sharpton decides to take some time out for a college

level course on satire, he really shouldn't be weighing in on

subjects he knows absolutely nothing about.

But I digress. Paul



for July 14, 2008

Here are the two latest installments of my

comic strip series "The Continuing Adventures

of bin Laden, the Jihadist Pooch." (Another

dozen episodes are


[Note: I know, I know -- every dog is unique and

has his or her own personality. Some dogs are

good-hearted, loving and even heroic, and they

don't deserve to be lumped in with a sick mammal

like bin Laden. So, to dog-lovers everywhere: it's

not my intention to de-individualize (de-humanize?)

dogs with my cartoon series.]

* * * *

QUICK NOTES: Bravo to The New Yorker for

its ballsy cover of Barack and his wife,

making satirically explicit the implicit,

unspoken, irrational fears of the American

ring-wing...the Washington Post's Shailagh Murray

is a smart addition to PBS's "Washington

Week"....Very cool of Little Steven to celebrate

Bastille Day on last night's "Underground Garage,"

must-hear radio...For the record, The Daily Digression

was the first media outlet to speculate about an appearance

by Ted Kennedy at Invesco Field in August (see Daily

Digression, July 9, 2008, below); a couple days

later, on July 11, on "The NewsHour," the

always-interesting Mark Shields talked about his

own fantasy of a Ted Kennedy appearance in Denver...New

Newsweek poll showing Obama and McCain within a few

points of each other is probably far closer to the mark

than the previous ones showing a double-digit Obama

lead; the presidential race is shaping up to be yet

another near-50:50 contest that will be fought and won

in places like Gettysburg, not in the mountains of

Montana. And to those who think race is not a

significant factor in the election, I say: race

would be a substantial element even if the

vice-presidential candidate -- and not the

presidential contender -- was African-American....OK,

someone pointed out to me that a certain woman

has a wedding ring on her left hand. True, but there's

always hope, however distant, that her right hand

is available! (Just joking.) (I think.) (HD TV

is quite revealing!)

I heard the Feelies reunion shows in NY and NJ were great. So when do we get to hear them in northern California? (Also, anyone know where I can buy a new copy of "The Good Earth"? As you can see (above), my vinyl version is worn out!)

But I digress. Paul



for July 11, 2008

Second Takes On Recent Concerts I've Heard

Listening to bootleg recordings of recent shows

I've heard, here are a few thoughts:

1) Mark Knopfler's "Cannibals" is a lot of fun

in concert, worth the price of admission in itself.

2) "Hot Corner" is the unexpected stand-out of the

recent B52s show in Berkeley, much better than

"Juliet of the Spirits," the 2nd single from the

band's new album.

3) Of all the songs Alison Krauss and Robert

Plant performed at their recent gig, "Please Read

the Letter" is the one I keep going back to.

4) If I rave any more about Jesca Hoop's set,

people might think I have a thing for her, so

I'll shut up.

5) The live verson of Death Cab's "I Will Possess

Your Heart" is addictive.

6) "Mr. Richards" is the best of the new

songs R.E.M. performed at its recent concerts

in Berkeley, though almost all the "Accelerate"

material is first-rate.

* * * *

Nothingness + Time = Matter

Thanks to those who wrote to me about my "A does

not equal A" philosophical argument (The Daily

Digression, July 1, 2008, below). As I wrote,

my premise, if taken to its conclusion, debunks

certain fundamental ideas common to most


In my view, religious people of almost all

faiths focus too much on the mythological

moment of Creation -- and scientists focus too

much on the Big Bang, the moment when the

universe supposedly began.

But that's not how to look at it. The most likely

explanation of "Creation" is this, in my view:

in the beginning, there was no beginning, because there

was complete nothingness.

And nothingness, of course, did not require a creator

or a moment of creation.

Nothingness also has no beginning and no ending.

But nothingness plus time -- an uncountable amount of

time, trillions and trillions of millennia -- equals

matter, because (as I've noted before) time

is transformative. So nothingness over a vast

expanse of time will inevitably produce some

sort of small irregularity -- a wisp of gas, for

instance -- that, in further time, will lead to

another bit of matter and then another, setting

in motion the unfolding of the universe we

have today.

The element that most thinkers leave out of the

equation when discussing Creation is time, which

is really another form of nothingness and merely

our own contrivance, a way that we organize successive

instances of nothingness (and being) and stack them

atop one another to create order, something.

Paradox, obviously, did not need a creator, either.

But I digress. Paul



for July 9, 2008

The Unspoken Debate About Obama's Electability

An Imaginary Dialectic

ANTI-OBAMA: Let me get this straight: the Dems
are nominating a guy who can't catch a cab in parts
of New York City, yet can win old south
bastions like Georgia and Virginia, where the
Confederate flag still flies. That's realistic?

PRO-OBAMA: You pundits are all the same. You said he
couldn't possibly win that U.S. Senate seat in '04, and
he won. You said he couldn't possibly win
the Democratic nomination for president, and he has won it.
And now you're saying he can't possibly win the presidency.
Some pundits ought to consider another line of work.

ANTI-OBAMA: But winning primaries is one thing; winning
the general is another altogether. George Wallace won
primaries and was probably on his way to the nomination in '72,
thanks to intense factional support that would not have
translated into a presidential win. I'd love to see how
Obama plans to win, say, Wisconsin, which Kerry
barely took.

PRO-OBAMA: Have you seen the major polls lately? Obama is
way ahead, sometimes by double digits, in all the major
swing states, including Wisconsin, Minnesota,
Michigan -- even Colorado.

ANTI-OBAMA: Yeah, and he was leading by double digits in
the polls in New Hampshire before he lost the New Hampshire
primary by double digits. So what does that tell you about
the reliability of polls about Obama?

PRO-OBAMA: But the polls were completely accurate in most
subsequent primary states. And voters have consistently said
they are more concerned about McCain's age than Obama's race.

ANTI-OBAMA: How stupid do you have to be to think a racist
is going to admit to a pollster, a complete stranger, on
the record, that he is a racist and wouldn't vote for
a black candidate?

PRO-OBAMA: Then how do you explain the crowds at Obama
rallies? How do you explain 70,000 people at a rally in
Oregon, a state where there are something like 7 black
people, I think. And he's drawing crowds in traditionally
red states. He's even campaiging in Montana. When was
the last time the interior west was seriously in play for
the Democrats?

ANTI-OBAMA: Reminds me of the student who doesn't want
to do the hard work of studying for a calculus exam and
instead spends all night doing something even more
difficult -- but by volition -- like investigating
the 19th century origins of mass transit in his hometown.

It's fun for him to go to Montana. And it's
a lot more scenic than campaigning in old-fashioned machine
areas of Pennsylvania where some white voters will
simply not vote for a black person. Period.

PRO-OBAMA: Every credible poll has him winning
Pennsylvania by a comfortable margin.

ANTI-OBAMA: Tell me exactly when all those bitter
Pennsylvanians suddenly fell into Barack's column?
Wasn't it just weeks ago that he couldn't win Pennsylvania
from Hillary no matter how much money he threw at it?

PRO-OBAMA: The money advantage he had over Hillary was
small compared to the money edge he has over McCain.

ANTI-OBAMA: Funny thing, if Obama had less money, he'd
probably do more. He'd be forced into a more meat and
potatoes strategy, parking in, say, Monroe County, Pa.,
or Grant County, Wisc. -- counties that were
virtually 50:50 in '04.

PRO-OBAMA: He can afford to lose Monroe County because
he'll make up for it by racking up larger totals in
Philadelphia than Kerry did. What you're
not seeing is that we're dealing with a different
electoral map this time. You're driving through
Yugoslavia with a 1988 road map.

ANTI-OBAMA: Things have changed since '88, but not
so much since 2004. I could drive through Yugoslavia
with a 2004 road map.

PRO-OBAMA: In retrospect, you'll see how historically
inevitable Obama's election was all along. McCain is an
antique -- what's the famous phrase in "The Godfather"?
"Pensa all'antica." He thinks in old ways. He's Crocker
Jarmon, to mix movie comparisons. Even looks a
bit like him. Obama's McKay.

ANTI-OBAMA: Obama may be historically inevitable -- but in
2020, not this year.

PRO-OBAMA: You'll be convinced when you see his acceptance
speech at Invesco Field this August. Smart idea. Barack
alfresco. The Dems can literally clear the air. The opposite
of the tear gas of '68. Barack and Hillary can elope in the
Rockies. Bill can join the "fairy tale" that has now become
reality. And maybe the party can even persuade Ted Kennedy to
make a swan song appearance for a closing night curtain call
with, among others, Jimmy Carter, for that public handshake
that didn't happen 28 years ago -- showing that we may
have our family squabbles, but in a crisis or a general
election, we come together.

ANTI-OBAMA: That's the movie version. The reality is that
lots of Hillary backers are going to vote for McCain, no
matter who the running mate is. As the cliche goes, people
don't vote the bottom of the ticket. He could choose even
Al Gore and it wouldn't have an appreciable effect. In
the end, McCain will win at least 300 electoral votes.

PRO-OBAMA: In the end, Barack will win with around 300
electoral votes.

But I digress. Paul



for July 1, 2008

Here's the latest installment of my comic strip

series "The Continuing Adventures of bin Laden,

the Jihadist Pooch!" Click it to enlarge it!

(Another dozen episodes are


[By the way, those ubiquitous "Unlikely Alliance"

ads featuring Al Sharpton and Pat Robertson were

created months after my own Daily Digression

column of December 18, 2007, about what I

called "The Robertson/Sharpton Religious

Conservative Axis" (archived below).]

* * *

Bee Ballet

While listening to the B52s concert in Berkeley

on Sunday night, and watching people in the audience

dance inventively, I wrote in my notebook: "The B52s

are really choreographers, or choreographers in

reverse, in that their music strongly suggests,

even compels, certain dance moves by listeners."

Yesterday morning, I got an email from the

brilliant conceptual artist Jonathon Keats that

shows he had been thinking independently along

that line -- about external stimuli suggesting

choreography -- for longer than I have. Except he's

now taking the idea to a whole different level.

The premise of his latest conceptual art

work -- and I hope I'm getting this half right -- is

that plants and flowers will suggest choreography for

dancing bees. Keats has created what he

calls a "bee ballet" -- commissioned by the Yerba

Buena Center of the Arts in San Francisco -- made

possible by the planting of "hundreds of flowering

cosmos plants" in various neighborhoods in San Francisco

with the intention of having bees dance and buzz

around them in unpredictable patterns and ways.

With consultation from a Smithsonian zoologist, Keats

is creating choreography for bees by planting plants

and flowers that strongly suggest a pattern of motion

for the bees. But the audience will have to

imagine the dances created by the bees -- extrapolating,

of course, from the plant stimuli they're encountering.

Keats is sort of a 21st century combination of

Wittgenstein and Warhol, specializing in these

sorts of "thought experiments," as he calls them,

that dwell at the intersection of art, philosophy and

humor. (For example, he once sold his thoughts to

museum patrons and has literally copyrighted his

own mind.)

And he once mounted a petition drive in Berkeley to

create a binding city law, a Law of Identity, that

states A=A.

Yeah, I know that last one was meant as a bit of

absurdist humor, but the more you think about the

logic of it, the more A=A becomes less self-evident.

For example, the lamp-in-your-bedroom equals

the-lamp-in-your-bedroom. True or false? At first,

you say that that's obviously true. But then

you think about it and realize it's not so obvious at

all. Because the first iteration of the

"lamp in your bedroom" (A) happened a second or two

before your reiteration of "the lamp in your bedroom" (A),

so the second "A" is a different "A" because it

is conjured at a different point in time than

the first A.

Another example: if I were to say, "Paul Iorio equals

Paul Iorio," that's not really true. Because in

stating the equivalency, you're positing Paul Iorio at

two separate moments in time. And as Heraclitis once

said, "You can never step in the same river twice." Time

is transformative. Therefore, A does not equal A.

If you say "A" at 8pm and then "A" again at 8pm and

five seconds, the second "A" is not an identical

equivalent but a subsidiary reiteration of the

original A; you're saying the second A with the

idea that it is a copy, not the original.

(The implications of this demolish the idea of a

fixed soul, if you carry the logic forward, which

I won't do here because I don't have time.)

I could go on. (Of course, the preceding four paragraphs

about A=A are my own thoughts, not the thoughts of

Keats or anyone else.) But let me end with a photo I took of

Keats OuijaVote balloting system, which was on display

last winter at the Berkeley Art Museum.

For specifics about Keats's bee ballet, go to .

Keats' OuijuaVote balloting system.

But I digress. Paul



for June 30, 2008

Last Night's B52s Show, Etc.

The first time I heard the B52's in concert was

in the summer of 1979, just as its first album was

being released. The quintet was playing Wollman

Rink in New York's Central Park and, if I'm not mistaken,

was opening for the Talking Heads.

I remember everybody in the audience seemed to

have a copy of New York Rocker, one of the great

music newspapers of the era, and a lot of people

were completely unfamiliar with the B52s, despite

the fact that local radio station WPIX (what

a fun and smart station that was back then;

remember the PIX Penthouse Party?) was playing

tracks from the debut.

From my perch in the rocks at the edge of

Wollman (where one could see and hear the whole

show perfectly), I was knocked out and thinking

I'd never heard anything like them before. The big

song of the night seemed to be "52 Girls," and

some people in the audience thought the name of

the band was 52 Girls, and there was one guy who

couldn't see the stage who was wondering whether there

were 52 girls in the band. Such was the mystery

and mythology surrounding the arrival of these wacky

space-age Athenians.

By this summer, punk had long since morphed

into various New Wave mutations, and the Ramones

had sort of gone Hollywood. (Their own Wollman Rink

show of '79 sparked open arguments among fans

leaving the gig; some loved it (as I did) and

some didn't; I remember "Don't Come Close," which

they didn't really play much after '79, sounded so

thrilling and buoyant that day.)

But getting back to he B52s. As I left the gig,

the main things I remember are that "52 Girls" was

the dominant song and the late, great Ricky Wilson was

the bandmember people were taking about most.

Fast forward 29 years later. Berkeley, Calif. The Greek

Theater. Last night. The B52s have returned after a

16-year absence with a new album, "Funplex," only their

third post-Ricky Wilson album since his extremely

untimely death in '85. The last time the B52s had an

album out, Bush was president, there was a bad recession

and Iraq was the center of foreign policy debate. In

other words, nothing has changed.

"Funplex" is a surprisingly vital album, and the

50-minute set the band played last night, as part

of Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors" extravaganza

(I covered the 2007 edition of that tour in this

space), was very danceable and very enjoyable. Set

included a half dozen new tunes ("Funplex" and

"Hot Corner" were the best of those), classics

like "Rock Lobster" and "Roam," and lots of humorous

stage banter (including a dis of Larry Craig). Great

to hear them in such fine form.

But I digress. Paul



for June 29, 2008

Massive Indie Star

It takes around 9 seconds to fall in love with
Jesca Hoop's music

Please let me rave embarrassingly about Jesca Hoop,

who opened for Mark Knopfler last night at the Greek

Theater in Berkeley. Her stuff is absolutely,

astonishingly, I'm-running-out-of-superlatives to

describe how brilliant a singer-songwriter she is.

Hadn't heard her name before last night, but I fell

in love with her music approximately 9 seconds into

her opening song.

Hoop understands that a three-minute song is its

own free universe, with as many time zones as you want

it to have, with melodies within melodies, with any

unpredictability you can get away with, using very

little sound to get a lot of effect.

In her five song set, she fell into melodies like water

into crevices, or a river into tributaries, and each

song -- "Summertime," "Money," finale "Seed of

Wonder," from her debut album "Kismet" -- topped the

previous one.

Amazing. I bet she'll she be as big as Feist within

a few years.

* * *

(and while I'm in a raving mood!)
Knopfler: Better Than Ever Live

30 years after his debut, he continues to astonish

Last night, Mark Knopfler played the fifth

date of his U.S. tour in support of his latest

solo album, "Kill to Get Crimson," a further

resurgence in a career that keeps flying higher

almost each time out.

Among the peaks of the show: "True Love Will

Never Fade," the first single from the new one,

which had the power of an "Oh Mercy"-era Dylan

ballad; "Cannibals," which felt like an open

air celebration in New Orleans; "What It Is," which

(to me) evokes a vintage western flick (especially

when you hear it in the hilly woods above the theater,

where I heard both Knopfler and Hoop); encore

"So Far Away," always a sure shot; and the most

riveting "Sultans of Swing" I've ever heard him

play in concert.

In the 30 years since "Sultans" and the first

Dire Straits album were released (30 years ago this

October), Knopfler has successfully

re-invented himself so often that he could

conceivably play a set with no Straits material and

still satisfy fans, who love getting lost

in his guitar playing much as people used to

hang on every note of Jerry Garcia's jams. As

marvelous as his singing is, perhaps he should toy

with the idea of performing a series of completely

instrumental concerts; I thought of this while

listening to the inspired jam at the end of

"Marbletown," when Knopfler riffed with his

pianist like great conversation or two rapid streams

merging. This is a tour worth catching.

But I digress. Paul

[photo of Hoop from Minnesota Public Radio; pic of Knopfler from]



for June 28, 2008

Last Night's Robert Plant/Alison Krauss Concert

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss played such a

terrific show last night at the Greek Theater

in Berkeley that one hopes they turn their concerts

into a live album/DVD and release "The Battle

of Evermore" as their first single, because

"Evermore," at least last night, was as awesome

as anything I've heard live in years, with Plant's

singing recalling his 4th album prime, and Krauss

trading and weaving vocals with Plant like a

great tapestry.

It was the undisputed highlight of this concert,

and even in the hills above the theater, where

I heard the show, fans were entranced, charged.

But this was no Zeppelin or Plant solo gig, not

by a long shot. In fact, it was as much a Krauss

concert as anything else, and was sooo T Bone in

sensibility, and was actually a true and seamless

fusion of disparate styles, as well as an ironic

reclamation by a British rocker of his American

roots. (Originality, of course, is often the

inadvertent product of failed imitation; on

the way to following in the footsteps of

various blues legends, Zep became something

else altogether: a bona fide original in

its own right.)

Highlights were everywhere. T Bone did a marvelous

"Primitives," with the memorable line: "The

frightening thing is not dying/the frightening thing

is not living."

Krauss hit high notes with Gene Clark's "Through the

Morning, Through the Night," from Krauss/Plant's

"Raising Sand" album, and with the

haunting, siren-like "Trampled Rose." (Though

let me take this opportunity to say there are

way, way too many songs in popular music

about roses, an overrated, predictable flower.

And there aren't enough tunes about, say,

the Venus Fly-Trap or Jimson Weed,

which would set an ominous Tone for a song,

dontcha think?)

But I digress.

There was also a fresh reimagining of "Black Dog"

on banjo. (Another way to have re-arranged that

one would have been to play it briskly

on acoustic guitar, scatting the main Page guitar

riff; try it -- it's fun.)

A couple missed opportunities: "Celebration

Day" could have been transposed for banjo to fine

effect (imagine that intro live!), and

"Bron-Y-Aur Stomp" could have leveled the place

in this context.

On the way home, I couldn't help but think of what

I'd written in this space before: that T Bone

should produce a musical version of "Robert Altman's

'Nashville'" for Broadway or Off-Broadway. The

main parts of "Nashville" are easily transferable

to the stage, and its music and story are fully

ready for rediscovery by a new generation.

For now, if I were Krauss and Plant, I'd provide

radio and MTV with their live "Battle of Evermore"

so everyone can hear it. Then again, it's 2008 -- an era

when everyone's a distributor! -- and that means it's

already all over YouTube. Check it out there.

But I digress. Paul



for June 27, 2008

One original photo I left out of the June 6th column

is a picture I took of Jim Campbell's "custom electronic

installation," part of his "Triptych" (2000), on display

at the Berkeley Art Museum. It's a glowing, space-age

looking thing on the wall -- and looks even more so

when you photograph it.

Part of Jim Campbell's "Triptych" (photo by Paul Iorio].

But I digress. Paul



for June 24, 2008

Here's the latest episode of my cartoon series "The

Continuing Adventures of Bin Laden, the Jihadist

Pooch!" (This particular frame was inspired by Jim

Borgman's Carlin-inspired cartoon of last week.)

My other cartoons in this series are at:

* * * *

The other day, I came up with an idea for

a political bumper sticker, and here it is:

[Note: The Daily Digression tries to provide even-handed analysis and reporting about politics and pop culture (and beyond!) and does not formally endorse political candidates. If I come up with an interesting bumper sticker idea about McCain, I'll be publishing that one, too.]

* * * *

Strange story. French president Sarkozy heard a

gunshot on an airport tarmac today.

Rumor has it he immediately surrendered and offered

to set up a coalition government in Vichy.

* * * *

If you don't live in northern California, you

probably don't fully appreciate the current

atmospheric situation out here, which is

downright weird. Over the last several days there

have been what they call "dry lightning"

strikes -- hundreds of 'em -- that have

sparked hundreds of brush and wild fires in the Bay

Area and beyond. No one fire is especially

dominant, but taken together, they have created very,

very unusual air-quality conditions. What I mean

is, when you step ouside in the SF Bay Area, you can

actually smell smoke, as if a fire were nearby. In fact,

in Berkeley, where I live and where there are no fires,

I can smell smoke in the hallway of my apartment house

from faraway infernos. This is a first for me and a lot

of people.

But I digress. Paul



for June 23, 2008

A mid-summer's day obscenity bust: Carlin's mugshot for Milwaukee Summerfest arrest, 1972.

There's now one less genius on the planet;

George Carlin has died.

I loved the guy's comedy, I really did. More than

any humorist other than Woody Allen, Carlin most

closely expressed my own feelings about religion, and

he was enormously bold and brave and funny about

doing so -- and a few hundred years ahead of his

time, too.

As he would be the first to admit, if he could, he's

not in heaven or in hell right now; he's dead, as we'll

all be eventually. But he created moments of pure

heaven while he was alive, which is the point (and maybe

the only point).

I've been fortunate enough to have interviewed

several of the greatest stand-up comedians of

all time (Richard Pryor, Woody Allen (who is also

far more than a stand-up)), but I never met or talked

with Carlin, and now I never will, which is only one

of the reasons I'm sad about his death.

police report on Carlin's Summerfest bust.

* * * *

Revolution is a powerful tool that should be

used only rarely and sparingly -- and only when all

legitimate channels are blocked and the level of

oppression is unacceptable.

If ever there was a case for revolution -- armed,

violent insurrection -- that case is vivid and

clear in the nation of Zimbabwe today.

Morgan Tsvangirai has withdrawn from the presidential

race because his supporters are being attacked and

massacred by allies of tyrant Robert Mugabe, who wants

to retain power despite his evident lack of popular

support. But Tsvangirai should do more than just

boycott the election; he should carefully and steadily

consider gathering weapons and arming guerillas for

a coup aimed at toppling the current regime.

Perhaps everyone should do the short math on this

one. Sanctions won't work (they rarely do). Condemnation

by the Security Council won't work (it rarely does).

Mugabe isn't going to budge (why should he?). And

Tsvangirai's supporters will continue to be targeted and

persecuted and killed (you can bank on that).

Let's hope the international community doesn't

vacillate about this situation Kofi Annan-style.

Unfortunately, Mugabe has made armed revolution

the only reasonable option for the oppressed in


But I digress. Paul

[above, Carlin mugshot by unknown photographer.]


June 22, 2008

Last Night's Death Cab Concert

Death Cab for Cutie performed a sold-out gig

last night in Berkeley, Calif., playing over half

of its new hit album, "Narrow Stairs," its

follow-up to 2005's "Plans," which (in my view) is

the band's peak work to date -- and this concert

made a better case for it than for the new one.

The show peaked in the middle, with the double shot

of "Soul Meets Body" and "I Will Follow You Into

the Dark," which is a fabulous song to hear outdoors

in the wooded hills above the Greek Theatre, where

I heard the whole show.

The best new ones were opener "Bixby Canyon

Bridge" and first single "I Will Possess Your Heart,"

which is somewhat in the spirit of the hypnotic, extended-play

mood of Wilco show-stopper "Spiders (Kidsmoke)," which

has spectacularly re-invented The Long Song

for modern indie consumption.

Also of note: a marvelous "Crooked Teeth" and set

closer "Transatlanticism," which had surprising


Death Cab is evolving in interesting ways, though it

still reminds me of the unjustly overlooked indie band

The Connells -- and I can't help but think Ben Gibbard

sounds a bit like a cooler, more genuine

Al Stewart, though the band has more heft than either.

Opening act was Oakland's own Rogue Wave, which caught

fire nicely during its last two songs.

* * *

The Tree-Sitters, Day Whatever

Walked by the controversial oak grove encampment in

Berkeley before midnight last night, on the way back

from Death Cab, and was astonished by the spectacle.

Two sets of metal barricades blocked the northbound

lane and sidewalk of Piedmont Ave. Two sets of barbed

wire fences surrounded the trees where environmental

activists have been living since late 2006 (see column,

below). Klieg-like night lights illuminated

the area like it was Stalag 17. Cops were everywhere.

Take it from my own first-hand experience: I have personally

seen Iron Curtain checkpoints inside Eastern Bloc countries

at the height of the Cold War that looked less fearsome

and fortified.

It's clear that what began as an act of vivid civil

disobedience has now become an out-of-control infection

in east Berkeley.

May I make a suggestion?

The sitters are confined to one tree, right? Then put

netting and cushions beneath that tree around 20 feet above

the ground. That way, if anyone falls, there will be no grave

injury. As it stands now, if someone falls and is

badly injured, then the university and the city will

have an exponentially more serious problem,

as well as a human tragedy. And the longer they stay

in the trees, the greater the chance of a mishap.

Currently, the mainstream student population at Cal

doesn't seem to care much about the oaks dispute.

(And frankly, as an issue, it doesn't rank nearly as

high in importance as, say, providing health care for

the uninsured -- now that's something worth

climbing a tree for!) But if one of the tree-sitters,

heaven forfend, were to be badly injured (or killed) as

the result of a fall, and if it were perceived to be

the fault of the authorities, you might have turbulence

similar to the People's Park riots of 1969.

On a more immediate level, a quick resolution of

this thing would free up police resources; it's

fair to say that last night there were probably

muggings and burglaries that were not prevented

because cops were deployed at the oak grove instead

of in high crime areas.

If the activists come down from the trees, they

can continue their protest by other means; if they

truly have popular support, they'll be able to

organize an effective boycott against

UC interests (they should study the effective tactics

used by Columbia University protesters to

force the university to divest from South Africa in

June 1984). While the sitters's cause may be just,

their tactics have gotten out of hand and are


But I digress. Paul



for June 19, 2008

The "Rad-Lab" on the Big Divide

This chemistry building and its chemicals, protected by this sign,
are mere feet from the Hayward earthquake fault in Berkeley, Calif.
[photo by Paul Iorio]

Many years ago, the powers that be in California

said: let's build a radiation laboratory, a chemistry

building, a sports stadium, an amphitheater and a

student dorm on an active earthquake fault that is long

overdue for a big temblor.

And so they went ahead and built those buildings

within a mile of one another on (or feet from) the

great quaking Hayward divide, which is due for

a big one soon.

Of all the places in northern California, why pick an

active quake zone for your so-called rad-lab? Oh, I know,

it's been buttressed and retrofitted to

the nth degree, but I also know that almost no structure

can fully withstand a direct hit from an 8.5 quake.

And the easternmost chemistry building on the U.C. campus

looks much more flimsy and far less fortified than the

Lawrence lab; anyone can walk by and see shelves of all

sorts of chemicals, safeguarded by a paper sign on

the window that reads: "Steal Here -- Die Here!"

And let's not even think about what would happen if an

8.5 occurred when Memorial Stadium and the Greek Theater

were packed with people. Or rather, let's think long

and hard about it.

Problem is, there's no way any of those places are going

to be relocated anytime soon, though it's worth asking:

isn't there a better place for Lawrence Berkeley (and its

paranoid border guards) than the hill above the fault?

I bring this up now because yesterday's superior court

ruling about whether the University of California can

expand an athletic facility into an oak grove (see column,

below) notes the danger of building on a fault.

The Hayward divide seems to be the root source of

a free-floating community anxiety that attaches itself

to smaller issues like the decimation of oaks. But the

far greater concern should be the hazardous overbuilding

on the east side of the UC campus and the placement of

ultra-sensitive sites on treacherous turf.

But I digress. Paul



for June 17, 2008

Protests Over Oak Grove Escalate in Berkeley

A demonstrator blocks a truck traveling through a protest against the
proposed destruction of an oak grove in Berkeley, Calif. (She claimed the
truck was affiliated with UCB.)][photo by Paul Iorio]

Early this morning, tensions surrounding the oak grove

protests in Berkeley grew considerably worse.

As most of you know, the University of California at

Berkeley wants to destroy a group of oak trees in order to

expand a sports complex on its property. But environmental

activists have been tree-sitting in the oaks since late

2006 to stop that from happening.

This morning campus police removed some of the

tree-sitters' supplies and fenced off the sidewalk

adjacent to the grove, where supporters of the

sitters had been regularly gathering.

This is all happening a day before a Superior Court

judge is expected to decide whether UCB has the

authority to begin construction on its long-delayed


I arrived at the protests around 10:30 this morning

(June 17) and shot these pictures (click on a photo

to enlarge it):

A police officer looks on as a protester jumps atop a car in Berkeley. [photo by Paul Iorio]

* * *

An activist plays a drum as protesters protest near the disputed oak grove. [photo by Paul Iorio]

* * *

The save-the-oaks protest, as seen through a floppy hat. [photo by Paul Iorio]

* * *

A police officer next to the barbed-wire fence surrounding the oak grove. [photo by Paul Iorio]

* * *

The woman-blocking-traffic, seen from mid-range. [photo by Paul Iorio]

* * *

The woman-blocking-traffic, seen in a tight shot. [photo by Paul Iorio]

* * *

Here is the court order (below) served on the tree-sitters and posted on the fence beneath the oaks.
[page one] [photo by Paul Iorio]

[page two] [photo by Paul Iorio]

[page three] [photo by Paul Iorio]

But I digress. Paul

[posted at 4pm, 6/17/08
updated on 6/18/08]



for June 11, 2008

No Gold Glitters Like Emmylou

I've heard Emmylou Harris perform twice in

the past couple years -- on her "All the Road

Running" tour with Mark Knopfler and at the

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass fest in Golden Gate

Park, where she appeared as Emmylou Coward at

a Coward Brothers show -- and came away from both

shows charmed and amused and impressed by how she

continues to grow artistically decades after

collaborating memorably with Gram Parsons on

"Return of the Grievous Angel."

"This Is Us" still sounds like a classic of

Oughties Americana, and her star turn singing

"The Scarlet Tide" with Elvis Costello was a highlight

of Hardly Strictly.

Now comes "All I Intended To Be," her latest album, and

there's already a bit of buzz around her original song

"Gold," though I haven't been able to hear the whole album

yet. I see there's a national tour behind it -- from Cheyenne

to Tennessee, as the song says -- but no California date

is listed, so I guess I'll have to be satisfied with seeing

her perform on Letterman tomorrow night.

But I digress. Paul

[Above, photo from 1970s -- photographer unknown.]



for June 7, 2008

John McCain's Kind of Fascist?

McCain has long voiced support, at least implicitly, for the regime of South Vietnam's former premier (and vice president) Nguyen Cao Ky, an open and enthusiastic admirer of Adolf Hitler. Has McCain ever denounced Ky? If not, why not?

Barack Obama has been taken to task

for his past associations, however remote, with

radicals from decades past. Isn't it time the media

started focusing on John McCain's defense of

right-wing extremists and outright fascists associated

with South Vietnam's Ky and Thieu regimes of the 1960s?

McCain, of course, served in the U.S. Navy in defense

of Thieu and Ky, so one can understand his personal

reluctance to denounce the South Vietnamese leaders

who he sacrificed so much to support. He evidently

doesn't want to admit those five-and-a-half years in

a North Vietnamese prison were served for a big mistake.

Now that the passions of the Vietnam era have cooled

a bit, perhaps McCain can bring himself to say what's

obvious to most Americans today: Thieu and Ky

were neo-fascists, governing without popular support,

whose human rights violations equalled (or virtually

equalled) those of the North Vietnamese.

Ky, in particular, is indefensible by any measure of

modern mainstream political thought. Here's Ky in

his own words: "People ask me who my heroes are. I

have only one: Hitler. We need four or five Hitlers

in Vietnam," he told the Daily Mirror in July 1965.

Why does McCain, to this day, still voice support,

at least implicitly, for Ky and Thieu? At the very

least, McCain should, however belatedly, unequivocally

condemn Ky's praise of Hitler, if he hasn't already.

(My own research has yet to turn up a clipping in

which McCain has been significantly critical of

either leader.)

the Daily Mirror article in which Ky praises Hitler.

But I digress. Paul

[I should note for purposes of full disclosure that I do
have a sister (who I'm very proud of!) who is in politics
in the south, but my opinions are not necessarily her
opinions and hers are not necessarily mine, and we
usually don't discuss politics.]



for June 6, 2008

Jean-Luc Godard, May 13, 1968, the day more than a million protesters marched through Paris (photograph by Serge Hambourg).

Stopped by the Berkeley (Calif.) Art Museum yeterday

to see what was on display and was knocked out by

Serge Hamburg's photos of the massive protests of

May 1968 in Paris against the de Gaulle regime

(the so-called Days of Rage). On display are 35

pictures, most of them riveting, especially

the shot of all the great faces near the banner

"Sorbonne Teachers Against Repression"; a photo

of Jean-Luc Godard filming the protests; a poignant

shot of student leader Jacques Sauvageat, almost

tearful amongst his comrades; and a few telling

shots of older pro-Gaullist counter-demonstrators.

Also of interest at BAM is a separate exhibit of

photos, by Bruce Conner, showing Mabuhay Gardens, San

Francisco's Max's Kansas City, in all its late 1970s

glory. And there's a series of striking posters

for the punk band Crime that are worth checking out.

poster for a Crime concert, on display at BAM

OK, equal time for Stanford's Cantor Arts Center; here's a photo I shot there a few years ago.

A couple more original photos:

an ubiquitous sight in Berkeley: a bumper sticker for KALX, the best radio station in the U.S. (along with WFMU), in my opinion (and not just because they've played my own music!).

OK, it's a hokey shot, but I snapped this picture several hours ago of a dog trying to drive a truck.

But I digress. Paul

[All photos (and photos of photos) above by Paul Iorio.]



for June 2, 2008

Night Two of R.E.M. in Berkeley: The Jangle Is Back!

R.E.M., pre-"Accelerate," pre-post-Berry.

Last night, R.E.M. played its second consecutive

show at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, Calif., and it

was even better than the first, pure proof that the greatest

jangle in modern American rock is back. And melancholy

is now, once again, danceable.

The news is the new stuff, from "Accelerate,"

which I covered in the previous column (below),

and that material sounds better each time out.

But what distinguished this particular gig was

the number of gems from the band's 1980s catalogue:

nine, which is more than they've usually

performed in recent years. And the choices were


Encore "Carnival of Sorts (Boxcars)," which

the band hadn't played in the U.S. since December

9, 1985 (though it did play the song twice in

Europe in 2003, according to reliable setlists),

was as fresh and intense as ever.

(The first time I heard "Carnival" in

concert, at the Beacon Theater in New York in '84, it was

also done as an encore, and it caused people to dance

in the aisles as wildly as I'd ever seen rock fans

dance at a concert (outside of a Grateful Dead show).)

Even Stipe was impressed with his band's performance

of "Carnival" last night -- an endearingly ragged version

that made it sound like you were hearing the group

perform it at one of its earliest shows. (For the record,

I heard this Greek show in the hills above the theater.)

"We had not rehearsed that song in about four or

five years," Stipe said from the stage after "Carnival."

"It's been awhile since we've played it. But it

sounded great."

The crowd roared in agreement.

"So somebody post it immediately," Stipe said.

Elsewhere, "Disturbance at the Heron House," one of

the three or four best R.E.M. songs of all time,

was nearly perfectly played. "Heron" is the sound of a

band in its prime, with every element in harmony, a

pastoral rush like a waterfall or a drive through a

great forest.

Look, I could go on and on -- about "South Central Rain"

and "Auctioneer" and "Electrolite" -- but you get the idea.

I bet parts of the show will be turning up on

YouTube soon, so catch it there.

But I digress. Paul

[collage of REM by Paul Iorio using a photo from the "Chronic Town" EP by an unknown photographer.]



EXTRA! for June 2, 2008

Remembering Bo Diddley

The only time I ever saw Bo Diddley perform was on

May 20, 1989, at Pier A in Hoboken, New Jersey,

where I was covering his concert for the East Coast

Rocker newspaper, which published my review around a

week later.

At the time, Diddley was middle-aged and largely

undervalued by a music industry that had made vast

fortunes off of his musical ideas. As I note in the

piece, his show was fascinating but more than a

little bit sad.

Here is a scan of my original manuscript (click on a page

to enlarge it):

[Bo Diddley review, page one]

[Bo Diddley review, page two]

[Bo Diddley review, page three]

[Bo Diddley review, page four]



for June 1, 2008

Last Night's R.E.M. Show in Berkeley, Calif.

Last night R.E.M. played the Greek Theater in

Berkeley, Calif., the fourth date of its tour

backing "Accelerate," its first studio album in

four years and probably its best since '96's

"New Adventures in Hi-Fi."

When last seen at the Greek, in October 2004, the

band was touring behind a less successful album, was

booked at this venue for only one night, and Michael

Stipe was wearing a John Kerry for president t-shirt.

What a difference four years make. The Kerry t-shirt is

gone, the band is now doing two nights at the Greek,

"Accelerate" is selling quite nicely, thank you, and

the group has rarely sounded better in concert.

And some of the new stuff is good enough to

compete with their classics (and this is coming from someone

who is R.E.M.'s age and is therefore biased in favor of their

1980s oeuvre!).

In concert, new album peaks included surprisingly

strong encore "Mr. Richards," opener "Horse to Water,"

"Man Sized Wreath," the first single

"Supernatural Superserious" and "I'm Gonna DJ," which

has grown substantially since they played it here

in '04; the title track and "Hollow Man" were less

effective live (or at least that's how it sounded

from my vantage point in the hills above the theater,

where I heard most of the show).

A third of the roughly two-hour set was from "Accelerate"

but there was also a good deal of smartly-chosen vintage

material, most notably "Wolves, Lower," a thing of real

beauty here, like watching springtime erupt at time

lapse speed.

And the encore featured a double dose of "Fables of the

Reconstruction" in the order heard on the album:

"Driver 8" and "Life and How to Live It," a bit

of a thrill.

If I were creating the setlist with an eye toward

including neglected gems, I would definitely add "Shakin'

Through" and "Near Wild Heaven" to the set (and the less

rare "Disturbance at the Heron House," "Pretty Persuasion,"

"9 - 9" and "World Leader Pretend"). And I have to

wonder why the band is so averse to "Stand." Simply put,

that song is as fun as anything they've ever recorded.

Crowd response ranged from enthusiastic to extremely

enthusiastic. Some tie-dyed Berzerkeley dude was dancing

so wildly during "Wolves, Lower" that, when I passed him

and his swinging arms, I came an inch or two from

ending up in the local E.R.

Elsewhere, even security guards and police officers were

clearly enjoying the music (and the harmonious mood of

the event, too).

More on this show -- and tonight's gig -- later.

Ah, my first R.E.M. show. "Pretty
Persuasion" exploded the place. Fans danced
aerobically during the encores.

But I digress. Paul

[Full disclosure: I should note that I once sent a CD

of my own songs to the band's management but that

nothing ever came of it, and I'm not pursuing that idea now).]



for May 28, 2008

It's all well and great that Yale University

honored Sir Paul McCartney a couple days ago

with an honorary Ph.D. Maybe this is also a

moment when we can try to figure out why no major

songwriter of the rock era ever spent a day as

a student at an Ivy League university (or at a

British equivalent, though Mick Jagger, with his

stint at LSE, which was a different sort of place

back then, comes close). Or at Juilliard.

To be sure, there are a lot of brilliant musicians

at Yale, its School of Music and its music department,

no question about it. But no songwriter of the caliber of

McCartney/Lennon/Dylan/Jagger/Richards/Townshend/Ray Davies/

Paul Simon/Brian Wilson/Buddy Holly/Chuck Berry was ever

a student, much less a graduate, of Yale or any other

Ivy institution.

In some cases, the genius of a given landmark band was

non-Ivy (say, Paul Simon of Queens College, or Dylan of

the University of Minnesota) while the supporting craftsmen

attended an elite school (Art Garfunkel of Columbia

University, or Peter Yarrow of Cornell).

Why has this been the case? Do admissions people put

too much emphasis on the SAT? Or could it be, to put

it crudely, that a flower best blooms in dung -- at least

initially -- and might wither and die in an expensively

manipulated Ivy environment?

No first-rank songwriter of the rock era has ever come out of an Ivy League university, though a lot of lesser side players did. Witness genius Paul Simon of non-Ivy Queens College, and non-genius Art Garfunkel of Columbia University. And (below) Bob Dylan (University of Minnesota drop-out) and Peter Yarrow (Cornell grad).

Genius: University of Minnesota drop-out.

Non-genius: Cornell grad.

The school that nurtured McCartney's genius was the

Reeperbahn in Hamburg -- a tough, tawdry district of

whores and speed and seedy clubs that allowed the Beatles

to perfect their sound in 7-hour shows every night.

McCartney, a "graduate" of the Reeperbahn, may well be

the world's greatest living composer (it's probably between

him and Dylan, graduate of clubland in Greenwich Village)

and is arguably a better songwriter than Yale's own Cole

Porter was. I can't think of a Porter song as great as

"Yesterday" or "Hey Jude" or "For No One," and I know

Porter's work well.

By the way, I recently picked up a copy of "Cole Porter:

American Songbook Series," a terrific 23-track CD of his

songs performed by various artists, and wondered who the

singer of "Anything Goes" was. To my surprise, I found

it was Porter himself, and he had a not-bad voice by the

singer-songwriter standards of the current, more liberated

era, when voice is considered more important than merely

having a voice, when expression is valued over technique

(though "American Idol," which has also yet to produce

someone of the stature of McCartney (or of even a Badfinger,

for that matter), runs counter to this trend). To be sure,

Porter sometimes sounded as if he were reading it from the

sheet -- and the final verses of "Anything Goes" are as

wordy as a bad blackboard lecture.

The highlight of the Porter CD is Bing Crosby's "Don't

Fence Me In," which sounds as adorably American as any

non-country song before Woody Guthrie, and the nadir

is an awful reading of "I've Got You Under My

Skin," which Sinatra owns (the definitive "Skin" is on

"Sinatra at the Sands" with Count Basie).

While I'm digressing about CDs I've been enjoying lately, I'm

also enthusiastic about "The Best of Laura Nyro," two CDs

with 34 tracks that cover almost all of her peaks. Certainly,

Nyro is not in the McCartney/Porter stratosphere of songwriters

(she's not even in the same league as Carole King), but

is nonetheless sorely underrated -- and her songs are

probably ripe for a revival.

The best way to hear Nyro's songs is to forget or

unhear the better-known versions that were later

turned into hits by MOR acts like the

Fifth Dimension and Blood, Sweat and Tears.

Listening to "Eli's Comin'" fresh, suppressing the

memory of the Three Dog Night hit, one realizes how

intense it is and that a band like the Rascals

probably could've turned it into something special and

soulful with Arif Mardin producing (a gospelish group

could cut a great version today). Other gems include

a live "Sweet Blindness," the familiar "Blowin' Away"

and the more obscure "Save The Country" and "Stoney End."

Lately I've been listening to "The Best of Laura Nyro," 34 songs, some of 'em underrated, on two discs. (Obviously, she's not in McCartney's league but worthy nonetheless.)

- - - -

Recently re-watched the DVD of "The Aristocrats," which

I admire for its spirit of extreme outrageousness. I'd

love to see a sequel called "Taboo," with each joke

taking on a different sacred cow of some sort.

It's interesting that I didn't hear major controversy

about it back in 2005 (or maybe I missed it), because

you'd think it would have been targeted by fundamentalists,

who tend to regard a joke as advocacy of the joked-about

subject. (I mean, I used to tell jokes about taboo subjects,

Andy Kaufman style, decades ago -- during a very brief

period in my life when I actually performed stand-up

comedy -- and found that some of my dimmer pals took

my act as non-fiction autobiography (and some

still do, it seems!)

Anyway, the film is an equal opportunity offender -- except

when it comes to the ultimate daredevil sacred cow of

mainstream comedy: Islam. Now there's a

subject for a sequel.

-- -- --

Recently checked out a DVD called "Blind Shaft,"

thinking it was a quirky sequel to

"Shaft" in which John Shaft, a la "Ironside,"

continues his investigative work after

having gone blind. Wrong disc! Instead, it

was a riveting, ultra-realistic Chinese

feature from 2003 about criminality and

corruption in the coal mines of China. I hope

others make the same mistake

and rent it.

-- -- --

Haven't heard anything lately about David Letterman's

tick-head mishap. For those who haven't heard, a tick

became embedded in Letterman's back some time ago; it

was removed but the head of the tick still remains

under his skin, which, as any medical professional knows,

can be a very serious condition. We at the Digression

wish him a speedy recovery from his tick head crisis.

But I digress. Paul



for May 22, 2008

"Do not go gentle into that good night/
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

-- Dylan Thomas

[photo from Look Magazine]



for May 19, 2008

Ah, yet another audiotape from bin Laden: what a

better reason for another couple installments of my

own cartoon series "The Continuing Adventures of bin

Laden, the Jihadist Pooch." (If you want to see

the previous 12 episodes of the strip, go to

But I digress. Paul



for May 13, 2008

To remember Robert Rauschenberg, who died earlier today,

here's a photo I shot of one of his works at the Norton

Simon Museum in Pasadena in 1999. It's called

"Cardbirds 1 - 7" (1971), a series of wall reliefs made

of cardboard.



for May 11, 2008

The other day I saw a McCain bumper sticker in

Berkeley, Calif., for the first time and immediately

snapped a picture of it, as if it were a rare

variety of Macaw never before seen outside Natal.

Anywhere else, that sticker might not stick out, but

in Berkeley, arguably the most liberal place

in the nation, it did. Here it is:

the loneliest bumper sticker in Berkeley

I don't know if that means McCain is making inroads

in left neighborhoods or whether it was just somebody's

cousin visiting from Fresno, but I do know that, if bumper

stickers were ballots, Barack Obama would get close to

98% of the Berkeley vote. I have seen cars on Shattuck

that are like shrines to Obama, one with a cardboard

cut-out of him on the roof that probably

wouldn't clear the Caldicott Tunnel. There are

houses that look like Obama palaces, with signs

and pictures in every window. But you can hike

for miles in Berkeley without ever seeing a single

Hillary sticker or sign, though there

have been sightings, I'm told.

lots of these in Berkeley

But California ain't a battleground state. The

main swing states right now are Wisconsin and

Pennsylvania, without which Obama could not possibly

win the presidency. And, in fact, he might not be

able to win the general with them, if

Ohio or Florida also don't come aboard, though one

wonders how they could when even Oregon -- Democratically

reliable Oregon! -- is still a question mark,

as is Minnesota. (Anyone who thinks Georgia and

Virginia are in play is dreaming or joking.)

How is Obama going to do better than Kerry did in the

swing counties of the swing states? I'm talking 50:50

counties like Grant County, Wisconsin, and also

Iron and Washburn counties, which Kerry won by a goose

feather. I'm talking Monroe County, Pennsylvania, where

the vote was virtually tied in '04. It's hard to

believe Obama's money advantage over McCain will close

the gap (remember how Obama threw bucks everywhere during

the Pennsylvania primary but didn't budge in the polls?)

And the vice-presidential choice rarely affects the


If Kerry could barely win Grant County, Wisconsin, how can Obama? Can he offset such losses here with big totals in Madison? Or will the black-o-phobic vote offset the Madison offset?

No, Obama's only hope is he'll rack up totals greater

than Kerry's in liberal areas that will compensate for

his loss of the more moderate precincts that went

Democratic in '04. In other words, the enthusiasm

of his supporters in Madison will make up for his

losses in Washburn/Grant/Iron/etc. counties. Or in

Florida, they think his true believers in Miami

will offset his defeat along the I-4 corridor.

But his edge in, say, Dade County, will likely be

neutralized by white backlash in the panhandle. The

same thing that energizes his backers in Miami will

also energize the black-o-phobic McCain voters in Pensacola.

Let's look at Florida for a moment. The way liberals

have traditionally won statewide is to mount up votes

in the Miami area in order to overcome the panhandle

tally, which is always solidly Republican; the tie-breaker

is, generally, the central, moderate, suburban I-4 corridor.

Sure, Barack will fire up his supporters so that he gets maybe

three percent more in Miami than Kerry did; but that

will be offset by the fact that McCain will win the white

panic vote in the panhandle (where people still drive

around in pick-up trucks with Confederate flag license plates,

looking like extras from the final scenes of "Easy Rider") by

maybe four percent more than Bush got in '04.

When pundits say race is not an issue, what they're really

saying is "race shouldn't be an issue" or "race isn't

an issue among my circle of friends" or "I don't want to

admit that race is an issue." But it is, and not just among

the sorts of rural whites or blue collar workers who will

vote against a black candidate just because he is black.

(Further proof that racism is still alive and well in

America, as if we needed it, came last week with the

public exposure of racist email between Secret Service

agents, who are not exactly construction workers.

Of course, that was just the stuff they put in writing.)

Age, not race, should be the salient contrast in November,

but probably won't be. McCain is almost as old as senile

von Hindenburg was in his final years as president of

Germany -- and is almost as likely to be seen by the

rest of the world as a telling symbol of an empire past

its prime in foreign policy leadership, if he's elected.

Obama is so young that he could run again in 20 years and

still not be as old as McCain is now. And he may have to run

again because, in 2008, there is still too much racism

in America and are apparently not enough black, student

and liberal voters to elect Obama this year.

Is Obama ahead in counties like Monroe County, Pennsylvania, one of the 50:50 counties of '04?

But I digress. Paul



for May 6, 2008

[cartoon/photo by Paul Iorio]

But I digress. Paul



for May 3, 2008

A Brief History of the Next Few Years

-- Jeremiah Wright will appear on the season

premiere of "Saturday Night Live" in

October, acting in a sketch that sends up the

TV sit-com "Sanford and Son," in

which he plays Redd Foxx's character to

Obama's Lamont (Fred Armisen), who

he calls "a big dummy."

-- When McCain and Obama choose their running mates,

pundits will inevitably say, "Voters don't vote

for the bottom of the ticket" and

"Running mates don't usually help but can hurt

a candidate's popularity."

-- In October 2008, there will be fear of a surprise

terrorist attack that never materializes.

-- Around October 20th, people will start talking

about having seen Christmas decorations in

department stores and about how this must be the

earliest arrival of the season ever.

-- Around Halloween, Republican advocacy groups will

run TV ads in key swing states showing Jeremiah

Wright's rants, and McCain will, of course, denounce

the commercials, while saying he has "no power to

tell them to take down their ads, any more than

Obama has the power to tell Rev.Wright to shut up."

-- Obama will go hunting in Ohio and shoot at, and

miss, several geese.

-- McCain will misspeak on the campaign trail, calling

the Sunni insurgents "gooks."

-- Liberals will get giddy in late October when the latest

tracking polls show Obama within three points in

Ohio -- and ahead by one point in Florida!

-- On election day, it will turn out that the late polls

were wrong and that Obama loses Ohio by seven points,

Florida by 12 points and Wisconsin by five. McCain

wins Iowa and Missouri by double digits The final

electoral and popular tally is a massacre for the

Dems, ranking somewhere between the defeats of Duakais

and Mondale.

-- During the Christmas season, "Good Morning America" will run

a holiday segment titled something like: "Why You Hate Your

Loved Ones During Christmas Get Togethers."

-- The press will start speculating about who President-elect

McCain will appoint to his cabinet, and the list will

include lots of new faces from Arizona.

-- Someone will coin the phrase "the Arizona Mafia" to

describe McCain's inner circle.

-- The White House press corps will be reconfigured

to include local reporters from

Arizona news outlets who have covered McCain

in the past and have had access to

him. There will be glowing, puffy stories

about the new First Lady; beauty and

grooming magazines will run features about

how you, too, can look glamorous

like Cindy McCain in just 12 easy steps!

-- There will be a honeymoon period during which

leading Democratic pundits will say over-generous

things like, "President McCain is doing far

better than expected in bringing together disparate

factions." David Brooks will say, "The

grown-ups are back in charge in Washington." McCain's

approval rating in March will hit a record 77%.

-- Mother Jones, the San Francisco Chronicle and

the National Review will all run cover stories with

identical headlines: "Is The Democratic Party Dead?"

The Mother Jones and Chronicle stories will be almost

identical, while the National Review piece will not.

-- The honeymoon will last a few months, until McCain

starts over-using his veto pen. David Brooks will

call him "principled." Mark Shields will call him

"Vito McCain."

-- In February 2009, Katie Couric will resign from

CBS News to join CNN in order to helm a series

that is "still in development." She releases a

farewell statement that partly says, "I bear no

ill will as my ship sails on to ever higher peaks."

-- In the spring of '09, The Washington Post will run

a front-page bombshell quoting anonymous, tearful

White House sources who have borne the brunt

of President McCain's frequent temper tantrums. "The

West Wing has now become a hostile work environment,"

says one staffer.

-- By Labor Day 2009, there will be early

speculation about the 2012 race that

will include the phrase, "But in politics,

three years is an eternity."

-- The New York Times Magazine will run a cover story

during the holiday season of '09 titled: "The Maturation

of Hillary Clinton." Newsweek will be even

bolder, putting her on the cover with the caption:

"The Front Runner in '12?"

-- A serious Draft Gore movement will spring up by

January 2010. Tim Russert will try to get Gore to

announce his candidacy on "Meet the Press," but Gore

will only say "it's too early to decide," which will be

taken as a "yes" by jubilant Gore supporters.

-- Vicki Iseman will receive a seven figure advance

from HarperCollins to write a tell-all memoir

about her relationship with McCain.

-- President McCain adopts a pet German Shepherd

that unexpectedly becomes vicious and bites a CNN

correspondent on the leg at the White House. (A tabloid

is forced to apologize when it runs the headline

"German Shepherd Bites Pit Bull.")

-- The New York Times quotes West Wing staffers about

the insiderish power of Cindy McCain; one source says,

"If the First Lady doesn't like you, you're out."

-- During a "Where in the World is Matt Lauer?" segment in

Yemen on "Today," Lauer comes under sniper fire by

Islamic militants who call him "The Infidel Lauer." Later,

the relieved anchor says, "This one could've easily gone

the other way."

-- In the spring of 2010, the Washington Post

will run a front-pager revealing that McCain

has been secretly seeing an oncologist and that

there is widespread speculation in the White

House that McCain's melanoma has returned. McCain

heatedly denies the reports.

-- Those presidential health concerns are swept from

the headlines for a time in the summer of 2010 by

the most turbulent hurricane season since

2005 and a Category Five storm that takes dead

aim at, yes, New Orleans, destroying all the

rebuilding of the past few years.

-- McCain will seize the moment and heroically

helicopter into New Orleans's Ninth

Ward, personally handing food and water to

the devastated victims. But there

will be a moment of confusion when he

says, "We must help the people of Vietnam

in their hour of need." His poll numbers

soar, as everyone forgets about

the gaffe and about the Post revelations.

David Brooks will call him "action Jackson"

-- On Christmas eve of 2010, McCain will admit that, yes,

he has had a recurrence of cancer that is not

life-threatening. The Post, angry that McCain had

dismissed its earlier reports about secret visits to the

oncologist as "fantasies by a once great newspaper,"

harshly questions his credibility and suggests he

should consider resigning. The phrase "credibility

gap" makes a comeback.

-- There will be jokes about McCain's afternoon

naps at the White House after McCain is caught

dozing at a leadership symposium in Arizona. Time

magazine will catch flak for running a photo

of a snoozing McCain on its

cover with the headline, "The Credibility Nap."

-- Cindy McCain will appear in a controversial photo

spread in Vanity Fair wearing a queen's crown

and eating jelly beans.

-- As it becomes apparent that McCain will not seek

a second term because of health issues, the 2012

race moves into gear. Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney,

Hillary Clinton and Dennis Kucinich all set up

exploratory committees, or hint that

they will.

-- Obama announces that he will not seek

another term in the Senate and will

retire from politics; shortly thereafter,

he files for divorce from his wife and

says he intends to relocate to Massachusetts,

one of the few states he won in '08, to live

with his "friend" Samantha Power.

-- Jeremiah Wright announces his candidacy for

Mayor of Chicago.

But I digress. Paul



for April 26, 2008

Shining Light on "Shine a Light"

torn, frayed, mostly fabulous

I finally got around to seeing "Shine a Light"

and couldn't help but think it might have benefited

from a more straightforward approach cinematographically

instead of the incessant cutting that makes this more

of an editor's film than a director's film, though

anything Martin Scorsese is involved with is a

Scorsese film, period. Then again, any movie the

Rolling Stones are involved with is a Stones film,

period, so there is almost a tug of war between

strong-willed auteurs here, with Scorsese

seen pleading for a setlist at one point, which

he definitely could've used to block and plan

shots for his cinematographers who seem to be

scrambling frantically to catch pictures of lightning

after the lightning has already struck, though every

now and then they do catch and bottle a bolt

or two.

But it would've been nice if one of the cameras had

caught, say, Darryl Jones playing the bass intro

to "Live With Me" instead of focusing on one of

the guitarists or had shown Charlie Watts doing

that vintage drum roll that opens "All Down

the Line."

The setlist is a masterpiece, around as good as the

one at the Olympia show in Paris captured in the

"Four Flicks" film, though one can quibble at the edges.

Perhaps the better-live-than-on-the-album "You

Got Me Rocking" might've worked better than the

better-on-the-album-than-live "Shattered," which

I've never heard performed successfully live.

And "Sweet Virginia" or "Dead Flowers" could have

best filled the "country" slot reserved here for

failed joke "Faraway Eyes." And "Respectable" would've

been the perfect song to play with the Clintons

in the audience. And what about a nod to "Bigger Bang"

with "Oh No, Not You Again," the best of the new

ones live.

The choices are otherwise dead on; "She Was Hot," a

highlight, has terrific, unexpected momentum; "Loving Cup"

now sounds like it was written with Jack White in mind

all along; "As Tears Go By" has a real pulse, thanks to

Watts; "Connection" is one of the band's best

overlooked songs of the 1960s, though Keith botches it

here (he did a far better version in Oakland, Calif.,

shortly after this gig).

And each guest star tops the previous one, with

Buddy Guy leveling the place with "Champagne & Reefer"

and with offhand artistry that is assured, authentic

(he livens up the place much as Dr. John did in

"The Last Waltz"). Christina Aquilera, trading vocals

with Jagger on "Live With Me," is a powerhouse, a hurricane,

always blowing audiences away. (Wish they'd brought her

on for the Merry Clayton part of "Gimme Shelter,"

not played here.)

This is a concert film with spliced-in archival footage

that is often hilarious and rare while heavily favoring

self-promo bits in which Jagger one-ups various

interviewers -- as opposed to the Maysles brothers's

"Gimme Shelter," which shows Jagger at both his wittiest

and unwittiest (remember the "philosophically trying"

remarks?). Though the film doesn't pretend to be any

sort of definitive docu on the Stones, one still wonders

where Brian Jones is in all the vintage footage;

Jones has gone from being wildly overemphasized as a Stones

member to, today, being almost completely erased from the

band's history. That said, it's telling that the group

got only better in the years after Jones's death (see:

"Exile," "Sticky Fingers," "Some Girls").

They performed almost half of the "Some Girls" CD,

likely to remain their best-selling studio album of

all time, now that the dust has settled, though at

the time who'd have guessed that its unlikely combination

of disco and punk, warring genres in their day, would

have eclipsed both "Sticky Fingers" and "Exile." But it's

the closest the Stones have come to a diamond seller

like "Nevermind" or "Boston," which they've never had,

even if their cultural influence has been far greater

than all but a few in the rock era. Today, it's easy to

see that "Some Girls," released 30 years ago this June,

had a sort of shock jock element that made it popular

among millions of non-Stones fans, though that

element was partly excised in this film, with the

deletion of an explicit verse from the title track,

a song rarely (if ever) performed by the Stones.

I was lucky enough to have heard the very first public

performance of "Some Girls" material by the Stones, on

the first night of their "Some Girls" tour, June 10, 1978,

a couple days after the album's release, at the Lakeland

(Florida) Civic Center -- and I saw the group from only

several feet away.

As I recall, the new album was erupting unexpectedly,

so the band was in an extremely good mood at this

kick-off gig in '78. In fact, they seemed

downright giddy and manic and drunk on (among other

things) their own effortless rock 'n' roll mastery.

I remember seeing Jagger take the stage to the

opening chords of "All Down the Line," as flashing

lights briefly illuminated his leap into the air

(he looked just like a whip or a lightning bolt) and

remember seeing him physically and playfully

push Ron Wood to the side of the stage at another point.

And I remember how eerie and spooky it looked and

sounded to see Jagger right in front of me singing that

falsetto part of "Miss You" -- and he was singing it

live for the first-time ever.

A year later, with those songs still ringing in my

head, I moved to Manhattan, where I lived for years at

the Beacon, 25 floors above the theater where the

concert in "Shine a Light" took place. In those days

I used to travel to the Beacon Theater by...taking

the elevator!

Which is part of what makes that final shot of "Shine a Light"

(in which Scorsese directs the cameraman to film from

above the Broadway marquee to the rooftops of the Upper

West Side, literally between the moon and New York City) so

magical to me. And it suggests an even better flick: a

movie of a concert on the Beacon roof, a la "Let It Be," in

which the Manhattan skyline co-stars.

the Stones's bestseller, released 30 years ago this June

But I digress. Paul



for April 24, 2008

I was reading a transcript of the latest

audio recording from Osama bin Laden the

other day and wondering: is he dating? Does he

have a lover? Would bin Laden be a less violent

person if he had a sexual partner? Could we save

the world from his destructiveness by simply...setting

him up on a date?

Hence the origin of my screenplay, "Play It

Again, Osama," presented below:

Play It Again, Osama

By Paul Iorio*


OSAMA BIN LADEN (to himself): What's the matter with me?
Why can't I be cool like the Prophet Mohammed?
What's the secret?

An imaginary Prophet Mohammed, wearing a fedora and looking
and sounding like Humphrey Bogart, appears from the shadows.

PROPHET MOHAMMED: There's no secret, kid.
Infidels are simple. I never met one that didn't understand
a slap in the mouth or a slug from a .44.

OSAMA BIN LADEN: Yeah, 'cause you're Mohammed.
I'm not like you. When you lost Aisha, weren't you crushed?

PROPHET MOHAMMED: Nothing a little bourbon and soda
wouldn't fix. Take my advice and forget all the romantic stuff.
The world is full of infidels to fight. All you have to do is whistle.

OSAMA: He's right. You give the unbelievers an inch
and they step all over you. Why can't I develop that attitude?
[mimicking Mohammed] Nothing a little bourbon and soda
couldn't fix.
[He swigs a shot of Old Crow, gags.]



LINDA CHRISTIE: Osama's calling again. We've got to find him a girl.
Somebody he can be with, get excited about.

DICK CHRISTIE: We'll have to find him a nice girl.

LINDA: There must be somebody out there. Someone to take his
mind off losing Mohamed Atta. I think he really loved Atta.

DICK [picking up phone]: I know just the girl for him.



Osama is preparing for his date, which is in an hour or so.
Again, from the shadows comes an imaginary Prophet Mohammed.

MOHAMMED: You're starting off on the wrong foot.

OSAMA: Yeah, negative.

MOHAMMED: Sure. They're getting the best of you
before the game starts. What's that stuff you put on your face?

OSAMA: Canoe. It's an aftershave lotion.

MOHAMMED: You know, kid, somewhere in life
you got turned around. It's her job to smell nice for you.
The only bad thing is if she turns out to be a virgin --
or an agent for the JTTF!

OSAMA: With my luck, she'll turn out to be both.

TITLE CARD: Later That Night....


The doorbell rings and Osama opens the door. It's Linda.

LINDA: How did the date go?

OSAMA: It never would have worked between us.
She's a Shiite, I'm a Sunni, it's a great religious abyss.

LINDA: [laughing]

OSAMA: You're laughing and my sex life
is turning into the Petrified Forest.
Millions of women in the Northwest
Territories and I can't wind up with one!

Osama takes a seat on the couch and Linda sits next to him.

OSAMA: I'm turning into the strike-out king
of Waziristan!

LINDA: You need to be more confident, secure.

OSAMA: You know who's not insecure?
The Prophet Mohammed.

LINDA: That's not real life.
You set too high a standard.

OSAMA: If I'm gonna identify with someone,
who am I gonna pick? My imam?
Mohammed's a perfect image.

LINDA: You don't need to pretend. You're you.

Osama nudges closer to Linda on the couch.

The imaginary Mohammed appears and speaks.

MOHAMMED: Go ahead, make your move.

OSAMA: No, I can't.

MOHAMMED: Take her and kiss her..

LINDA (getting up to go to the kitchen): I'll get us both a drink.

MOHAMMED: Well, kid, you blew it.

OSAMA: I can't do it. We're platonic friends.
I can't spoil that by coming on.
She'll slap my face.

MOHAMMED: I've had my face slapped plenty.

OSAMA: But your turban
don't go flying across the room.

Linda returns with two drinks.

LINDA: Here we are, you can start on this.

MOHAMMED: Go ahead, kiss her.

OSAMA: I can't.

The phone rings and startles Osama, as he answers it.

OSAMA (into phone): Hi, Dick. Yes, she's here.
I was going out -- I had a Polish date.

He hands the phone to Linda.

MOHAMMED: Relax. You're as nervous as Abu Jahl was before
I beat his brains out at the Battle of Badr. All you've got to do is
make your move.

OSAMA: This is crazy. We'll wind up
on al Jazeera!

LINDA (into phone): OK, goodbye.

LINDA: Dick sounded down. I think
he's having trouble in Karachi. I wonder
why he never asks me along on his trips.

OSAMA: Maybe he's got something
going on the side. A fling.

LINDA: If I fell for another man,
it'd have to be more than just a fling.
I'd have to feel something more serious.
Are you shaking?

OSAMA: Just chilly.

LINDA: It's not very cold.

MOHAMMED: Move closer to her.

OSAMA: How close?

MOHAMMED: The distance of Flight 175 to the south tower..

OSAMA: That's very close.

MOHAMMED: Now, get ready for the big move
and do exactly as I tell you.

Suddenly an imaginary Mohamed Atta appears and
confronts the Prophet Mohammed.

ATTA [to Mohammed]: I warned you to leave my ex-lover alone.

Atta draws a pistol and shoots Mohammed.

Osama looks a bit panicky now that Mohammed is gone.

LINDA: I guess I'd better fix the steaks.

OSAMA: Your eyes are like two thick juicy steaks.

Osama kisses Linda, who recoils, pushing him away.

OSAMA: I was joking. I was just testing you.
It was a platonic kiss.

LINDA: I think I'd better go home.

OSAMA: You're making a mistake.

Linda waves goodbye and leaves the apartment.

OSAMA: I attacked her. I'm a vicious jungle beast..
I'm not the Prophet Mohammed. I never will be.
I'm a disgrace to my sex. I should get a job at an Arabian palace
as a eunuch.

The doorbell rings.

OSAMA: That's the vice squad. [He opens the door, and Linda is there.]

LINDA: Did you say you loved me?

Osama and Linda embrace and kiss and the scene fades.


MOHAMMED: That's all there is to it.

OSAMA: For you, because you're Mohammed.

MOHAMMED: Everybody is at certain times.

OSAMA: I guess the secret's not being you, it's being me.

MOHAMMED: Here's looking at you, kid.

*with massive apologies to Woody Allen.


But I digress. Paul



for April 21, 2008

Oh! Ye bitter Pennsylvanians, come 'round to the polls,

but drink not from the chalice of disappointment and

woe, or seek succor by clinging to thy religion and

thy guns, when ye cast ye ballots in the Primary of

the Greatest Publick Importance, at least this week,

until next month, when the next state decideth.

Thou must not delayeth thy journey to thy polls with vain

prayer or the reloading of thy guns. Thou must not

cling to that which provides false solace in grim

times. Thou must not pray out of bitterness in thy

voting booth upon the altar of discredited touch screens,

or place thy bullets amidst the paper ballots that have

largely replaced thy touch screens. Oh, ye bitter

Pennsylvanians, put aside thy clinging and loading and

praying to dodge the sniper fire on the way to the

Primary of Publick Importance!

But I digresseth. Paul