Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Zombie Party Candidate

When I first added an Election 2008 section to my cafepress store, I added a spoof section featuring Zombies, Vampires, Bigfoot, and Cthulhu. I never for a minute, well...maybe during some disturbed sleep moment or something...ever imagine it was real. Until Ralph Nader announced he was once again running for President.

I once dated a guy like Nader. I suspect most women have. And like most women I discovered a thing or two about the Ralphie in my past. The first one being is that such men are relatively clueless about anything that takes place outside their heads. They're the kind of men who go to the store and drive off with the coffee cup on the car's roof. They're the kind of men who put up ads on the dating sites with a long list of absolute requirements for their partners, but consider themselves perfect even if they are missing several teeth and never graduated the third grade.

They have these elaborate visions of the world formed from books and discussions and philosophizing, but rarely if ever put in the effort to test out these theories on real world places and people. Nothing can interrupt their fantasies, especially reality. And nothing can challenge them because their egos are so strong, so artificially propped up by words instead of deeds that they actually believe their own myths.

And they have a knack for finding enablers to keep them from ever finding out the truth. Usually these are people with little experience with the real world and are easily taken in by egomaniacs like Nader who paint the dreamland they all want to see. They fail to see they are just pawns in one man's delusional world. They really do believe he can deliver what he envisions because HE believes it.

This ability to see only what they want to see is what allows people like Nader to ignore the effect his run in 2000 had on this country. Unless he is a total moron, he couldn't fail to see how important that election was and how necessary it was to set aside his own ambitions for the greater good. He gave us Bush because as much as he'd like to blame the Supreme Court for it and yes, they did go against the will of the people and install a puppet for their own masters, they would have been unable to do so if the election results weren't so close.

And what made them close? Ralph Nader, the guy who walked into a room, failed to notice there were already conversations going on and because they weren't about him, shit in the middle of the room so everyone would notice him.

And yes, the argument could be made that no one really knew how bad Bush would be as we'd never had anyone so inept, so cruel, so corrupt before. We knew Gore would be a better President because Bush already had a reputation built on years of fucking up everything he was ever part of, whether it was an oil company, a baseball team, or a state.

But the second time? Nader knew how bad things were. He knew we were in a war that only a solid Democratic majority would extract us from. He knew our civil liberties were being stripped away by a lockstep Republican stockade of blackmailed and intimidated sheep who didn't dare confront the Bush-Cheney-Ashcroft-Gonzales Junta or they would find their wide stances all over the evening news. He knew the rampant corruption that was bankrupting every facet of our government. Even the dumbest of Fox News morons knew the country was in trouble.

So what does Nader do? He runs again and revels in the role of spoiler and fails to see why Republicans would give him money or vote for him. He throws his giant tantrum of wanting the world to be exactly how he wants it to be on his own timing and terms or else.

Or else...that's the big part. It's the part that says he has the blood of every one who died in Iraq on his hands since he chose to run for the second time. It's the part that bankrupted American families and threw them out on the street because he wanted to make a statement with his run, just like the statement he made saying there was no difference between Bush and Gore. If that's the kind of judgement he has, if that's the depth of his wisdom and perception, then he would have been an even crappier president than Bush if he won.

And now he's running again which brings me and a lot of women back to the Ralphie days. We were the ones who left Ralphie out of boredom and/or disappointment that his fantasies failed to match our realities. But the one thing those men and Nader have in common is that they would go away for awhile and then out of nowhere, for no logical reason, would call us and act as if we should somehow be honored to hear from them. Most of the time our responses were "Oh yeah, now I remember you and the answer is still I'm busy and will be busy and will continue to be busy when you call, because I'm dating two hunks named Hillary and Barrack. If I have a hard time choosing between them, what makes you think I care that you even exist?"

Go home Ralph. The bar's closed and all the hookers are with other clients. There's nothing here for you.

Flies On The Wall #37


Friday, February 22, 2008

The Cult of Obama

After being faced with a lineup of religious crazies like Huckabee, lobbyist boinkers like McCain, finding out that a lot of the GOP base think Mormons like Romney are a cult, and that whacked out nut job Ron Paul who is the Republicans Ralph Nader and Ross Perot all rolled into one refusing to go away, the only thing the party Kool-Aid dispensers have left is to refer to those who are Obama supporters as cultists. Uh, excuse me...but if I recall correctly it was the Republicans in Congress who didn't dare vote outside the party line or their wide stances would show up on the evening news, who made the word "cult" into an everyday phenomenon.

Like most people who can still think instead of bleat, and who support Obama for President, I dedicate this design from my Cafepress shop Ursine Logic:


Sleeping With the Bosses

I'm taking a break from the family chronicles to mention some of the latest implosions by the Republican party. Oh my it does my heart good to see these hypocrites finally pay for their sins. And as always the ick factor is really high, especially for the McCain in bed with lobbyists story. You have to wonder what she got for that creepfest. Uhmmm...didn't we just have some kind of vote or something about immunity for some telecoms or other? Now that couldn't possibly be related now, could it?

Another story is surprise! Karl Rove turned out to be the slimebag we (except for the mainstream media) always knew he was.

And in a cherry on top type of moment, Tony Snow, AKA as Press Room Bob, will continue the charade of pretend journalism over at Faux News instead of the previous fantasy land gig at that big old white house in DC. Wonder if he'll get his own set of mouse ears.

Flies On The Wall #36


Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Perils of Memory

In the next few weeks I'm going to continue the exploration into the European side of the family by adding some sound files so you can hear my aunt and uncle, Guido and Silvia Roetter, playing the piano. This part of the story cannot be told without music because it is essential to it, it is the base on which it was built.

They also need a wikipedia page so that means I need to get people involved who knew them, who studied with them, and who can help edit this growing project that I haven't even started yet. Here is the page of one of their friends who also spoke and played at my uncle's memorial service. He is part of their story too as are hundreds of people who knew them, who were part of the music culture, all aspects of it, in both Las Vegas and Trieste.

For the last year I've been working on a book about their lives, but it is a slow going project because so many of the people who knew the stories are now gone. Many of their students are scattered all over the world. It is my hope that this blog and the wikipedia site will serve as a gathering place for information that can then be added to the book.

For now I'm writing short stories from each memory. It is my solution to the lack of precise dates and memories. Fiction maintains the integrity of the story without having to be exact in what is remembered and how the story was told.

As with many worthwhile projects, this one will take time to complete and because they had so many students and friends, it will be a project that grows throughout time.

So, if you knew my aunt and uncle, please do leave a comment and I'll see how I can weave it into the fabric of two very remarkable lives.

Flies On The Wall #35


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Rhapsody in Trieste 1945

Third from the top left, my uncle. On the pillow is my mother. Third and fourth from the top right are my grandparents.

The Story Begins.

When you try and tell a story that lives in the past and has shifted and changed in memory, you risk getting a few facts wrong, a few dates out of place, a few pieces that don't belong but were inserted because the storyteller needed some message to come through from that time. But underneath, the story remains and that's what I choose to focus on for now. I'll be telling lots of family stories here and the facts may change as I learn them more completely, but at the roots, the seeds of the story will remain the same. Here is the first one.
This is a story my cousin recorded from my mother talking about the end of the war in Trieste. If you want to know more about what was ending, check out this vivid and concise account of just one small part of what it meant so you can understand how beaten down and demoralized the people were at this point in time. War always counts among its victims those who survived.

My uncle was born in 1912, about ten years before my mom. He was a pianist, a brilliantly talented artist who early on gained a reputation as a rare musical genius. It's hard to know exactly what his politics were before the war, other than to suspect they began as something quite different than what they became. I suspect his politics, if you consider that he was always so totally submerged in his art, were an intellectual exercise that he amused himself with at times. As a musician, he saw only one truth and that was music. It was pure. It was apolitical. It was his soul.

And even though he was perfectly and superbly classically trained and was a talented composer whose works still have the power to astonish, he was a child of the Jazz Age and that too was part of his soul. He could move from Chopin to Ragtime to improvised Jazz with an effortless flow from one to another as if they were one piece. And considering his fierce passion for music in all its forms, you can probably understand how the moment impacted him the first time he heard Gershwin's music.

And from there you can understand what it did to this musical purist, this classical idealist with a jazzman's soul when the Nuremberg Laws were passed and he was forbidden to play or listen to Gershwin because he was Jewish. In Trieste during the occupation, the only music allowed was German, Italian and French. No Jews. No Blacks. No Slavs. No Americans.

My uncle taught himself to play Rhapsody in Blue in secret froms sheet music he managed to get hold of during the war. He never heard it except from his own hands. He played it until it was perfect and then he played it some more. I imagine it became a sort of rebellion for him, a musical fight against the horrors going on outside his world.

How he survived is another story, but this one today ends with the day Trieste was finally liberated. I don't know the exact date of the concert this story is about, but it was sometime in 1945. After the horrors, after the celebrations, a concert was scheduled to help heal Trieste, to let it know it was finally free. And my uncle was chosen to play the piano, to begin the first baby steps toward healing a devasted city.
The music he chose to play was proof that the war was finally over. He played Rhapsody in Blue to a stunned room of people that I've been told listened in tears to this magnificent piece of music, this symbol of a new beginning after so much sorrow and pain.

But what they did not know as they listened to him play was that a couple hours before, my grandfather had died. My mother's responsibility was to keep my uncle from finding out before the performance, and to keep my grandmother from falling apart during the performance. When my cousin asked how she could do this she said that it was more important for Trieste to heal and the concert would have been cancelled if my uncle knew. She felt it was n't about them, about individuals. It was about a community who needed the healing power of music in its purest most powerful form. They needed this proof the war was over so they could go on with their lives.
Yes, this was a powerful and unselfish moment, a moment of pure altruism and caring for something beyond one's own needs and desires. It was a patriotism that is rooted in the very soil because the ground was still wet with the blood of those who weren't there.

But as future stories will show, one moment of humanity, one remnant of altruism does not erase the horrors of war and eventually the bad memories win. The war, as it did to many people, left my mother with a sort of functional insanity that is commom to a lot of war survivors. I'll write more on that in the next installment.


Flies On The Wall #34


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Gathering Family Histories

I'm one of those people who never knew ordinary. Even the most degenerate of my ancestors had some shining quality that made them stand out among the rest--usually long enough to get singled out by those organizing such things as firing squads. I'm not saying that many of them didn't have it coming, but I also know that a lot of the fire in my political soul was birthed in the foolish and passionate idealism of those who shaped my genes.

So I'm doing what a lot of people do at my age. I'm trying to put together a family history of the European side of the family. It's proving far more difficult than I ever imagined because I'm running into the classic problems of memory, facts, how we remember because we have something at stake in the final memory, and facts as mutable and passionately birthed isms.

Tomorrow I'll post the first story about a concert my uncle gave at the end of the war in Trieste. He played Gershwin.

Flies On The Wall #33


Monday, February 04, 2008

The Art of War In The Arena

I've never been one of those people whose life revolved around a sports identity. It's true that I enjoy a good sporting event in the same way that one enjoys watching two sets of ants battle for territory, but the emotional involvement just isn't there for me. However, if it became more like politics where a representative from each side was offered as the potential sacrifice, I think my interest would increase.

I'd pay good money to see the losing side get eaten by the winners, and I'm willing to bet that politics would become far more interesting and draw huge groups of voters hoping to see the losing side get eaten by the winners if it was extended to politicians.

I know that huge crowds would pay to watch Ghouliani roast up on a spit as the grease splattered into the flames and created a huge backdrop of smoke and flames with some dramatic military music playing in the background, and maybe a siren or two.

There could be categories such as Huckabee Shepherd stew for all the bible-thumping illiterates, but it would have to be highly seasoned because the flavor would be dull as the meat would be mostly pale, white, and lacking in muscle tone.

Or how about skewered pig meat that would consist of fleshy chunks of bitter and nasty hate radio host heavily salted to keep the flesh from rotting too quickly from the bile sauce. Just as the stench of certain cheeses become their signature flavor, so too could this Rovian pig meat stew feed those who would elevate holding their noses while they ate into a lock-step agreement that it really didn't taste all that bad if you really believed it tasted good.

Of course, no meal would be complete without troll barbecue made from those poor Rapture expecting trailer denizens who wait for either a hurricane or Jesus to free them from their misery, and who spend their time leaving comments about Clinton and the red scare in language taken straight from an old propaganda poster on liberal blogs.

Dessert would have to be McCain crazy cake liberally dosed with fruits and nuts, kind of like of a fruitcake left too long in the cupboard and then taken out to run for President one more time. No one would actually eat it but everyone would make rude jokes about it.

And there could always be the ceremonial canning and burying of the fetid remains of the Bush administration. No one would eat any of it because it would be too toxic, too vile, and cause intense diarrhea for generations to come.

Flies On The Wall #32