Every time every year, the travelers come and go; you see them landing with their pale wings and flying back to the snow.
"He had a theory that musicians are incredibly complex, and know far less than other artists what they want and what they are; that they puzzle themselves as well as their friends; that their psychology is a modern development, and has not yet been understood." – E. M. Forster

Archive for the 'News commentary' category

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

PIPA/SOPA: Seriously?

Just popping in to ask anyone monitoring this site to (1) be aware of PIPA/SOPA (the PROTECT-IP Act and the and U.S. Stop Online Piracy Act), if you’re not already, and (2) join the protest against this proposed legislation. If you are in the U.S., do you know if your U.S. senators and House representative support or oppose the bills?

I’ve blacked out my site for 24 hours for the Jan. 18th strike — not just this creaky old blog but all of my old pages, which still get some random traffic. So if you’re reading this, it’s either a snippet of the RSS feed, or you arrived after the blackout ended; also, if you’re reading this blog entry, chances are that you use the Internet heavily. Do you have your own blog? Do you link to YouTube videos in blog posts or in your emails? Do you use services such as Dropbox to store files? Do you read or participate in any online community sites, or other message boards or forums?

PIPA and SOPA are supposedly about protecting intellectual property/copyrights of content owners, but the methods proposed to “protect” them go way beyond that, and will institute serious measures for all sorts of websites and Internet services, big or small. Take five minutes to check out a summary video (autoplays), and please email or call your senators and rep and let them know that you urge them to vote against PIPA/SOPA. The Senate votes on PIPA on Jan. 24th.

P.S. Thanks for reading, and I hope you are well.

Posted at 12:35 am | Filed under News commentary, Tech/geek | 1 reply »

Thursday, 1 September 2005

Chuck Taggart’s New Orleans

I just mentioned Mr. Taggart in my last post. He currently hosts Down Home, a New Orleans-focused music program every Thursday night from 7 to 9 p.m. Pacific time on KCSN 88.5 FM (public radio station at Cal State Northridge). I hope he won’t mind me quoting one his blog entries from earlier today:

I have to go into KCSN tonight and do a radio show that consists primarily of New Orleans music. It’s what I do every week, but for the last few days I wondered if I was going to be able to do it. I was particularly worried about having to something overly strenuous, such as actually talking on the air without breaking down.

But I think I really need to do this. I’ll have some New Orleans friends with me, and that’ll be a comfort. And it’ll be additionally comforting to know that some of my friends out there are listening too.

We’ll let Kermit do the talking, all about “what is New Orleans”; we’ll listen to Jack Fine and his Palmetto Bug Stompers; we’ll listen to Louis singing about knowing what it means to miss New Orleans. Let’s do it together.

As I write this, tonight’s show will start in one minute.

For those folks who aren’t in the L.A. area to tune in via the radio (or get a weak signal like I do at home), tune in to a live online audio stream. KCSN offers MP3, Windows Media and RealMedia streams in broadband and dial-up flavors.

Posted at 6:59 pm | Filed under Music, News commentary, Radio, NPR, etc. |  

Stay safe

I’ve been avoiding TV news. Instead I’ve been listening to updates on NPR and keeping tabs on what’s going on via the Web, especially reading the Survival of New Orleans blog, a Live Journal written by Michael Barnett, the crisis manager at He’s holed up in the skyscraper that houses the DirectNIC offices, and he’s making these updates describing what he’s experiencing, observing and dealing with in terms of survival, damage and lawlessness. Some of the news he posts is just frightening or otherwise stomach-knot-inducing.

When I first learned of how bad Hurricane Katrina would be, I tried to think of anyone I knew in the area. AFAIK, I don’t know anyone there directly, but you never know. We’re all connected somehow.

I ended up visiting Chuck Taggart’s blog…he used to host a great music show on KCRW a long time ago, and I remembered that he had roots in New Orleans. I also checked because I’ve been one of its customers for a number of years now, and knew the company was based in New Orleans.

I don’t have much to say here right now, other than that it’s hard to process just how devastating the aftermath of the hurricane is and will be. Donate what you can: time, money, both. As always, research charities (, Charity Navigator) and beware of the middlemen scum that will scam you out of your money.

If I keep writing, I know I’ll end up on some sort of rant, so I’ll stop now.

Posted at 6:00 pm | Filed under News commentary |  

Thursday, 7 July 2005

The Lehman legacy

"Silly, only grown-up men are scared of women!"

That’s my favorite quote from one of my favorite movies. Duane Chase (playing a boy named Kurt) said it, but Ernest Lehman wrote it.

The movie? The Sound of Music.

Not a big fan of the schmaltzy Julie Andrews movie about nuns and Nazis?

How about…

Hello, Dolly!
The King and I…or…
West Side Story?

Not a fan of musicals?

How about Sabrina?

Not a fan of fluffy movies?

How about…

North By Northwest?

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Ernest Lehman wrote the screenplays for all of them.* He died on Saturday at the age of 89.

I suspect that most people won’t know that unless they’re film buffs or otherwise pay attention to the writing credits for movies. I considered myself a film fan and I’d seen three of those movies, but the name "Ernest Lehman" didn’t stick in my brain until a number of years ago, when I read Charmian Carr’s autobiography (as any The Sound of Music fan knows, she played Liesl in the film). Lehman appeared often in her book, which I recommend to anyone interested in films/film history — especially, of course, SOM fans. Around that time, I also listened to Lehman’s interesting audio interview included among the special Sound of Music DVD supplements. And last year, I listened to his running commentary on the DVD for North By Northwest (which had an original screenplay), and felt like I’d spent a lovely afternoon with him while listening to his insights and asides. From those accounts, and from the films he wrote or adapted, he seemed like an amazingly talented, funny and friendly guy. I have no doubt that he was witty — his writing demonstrates that well.

Lehman left behind a diverse and prestigious mark in film and cultural history. (He even has a connection to tech history, thanks to Photo Matt and his first — and now default — WordPress plugin, Hello Dolly.) I can’t think of any current screenwriters who are responsible for such a range of revered and successful movies. I’ll have to check out the rest of the films he worked on. A few of his own print stories were adapted by other writers and produced for the screen.

In 2001, he received an Oscar "in appreciation of a body of varied and enduring work." It was the first honorary Oscar bestowed to a screenwriter. During his speech at the awards ceremony, Lehman said:

I accept this rarest of honors on behalf of screenwriters everywhere, but especially those in the Writers Guild of America. We have suffered anonymity far too often. I appeal to all movie critics and feature writers to please always bear in mind that a film production begins and ends with a screenplay.

However, this glorious night is demonstrating that film belongs to many — to the creators of original works, to superbly talented actors, directors, producers and to gifted collaborators. Had it not been for all of them, I certainly would not be up here having one of the most exciting nights in a long lifetime.

You have my admiration, Mr. Lehman.

[*He shared the writing credit for Sabrina with Billy Wilder and Samuel A. Taylor.]

More info:

Posted at 6:28 am | Filed under Film, News commentary |  

Wednesday, 25 May 2005

Goodbye, Ismail Merchant

I’ve just read the news that Ismail Merchant, of Merchant Ivory Productions, died today in London. He was 68. (Here’s the AP/Yahoo news report.)

I’m very saddened, and at this point, I can’t form the words to write everything I want to write. I will say that his death is a great loss. He, James Ivory, and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala formed the filmmaking team that made me a fan of E. M. Forster and deeply influenced my life. The Merchant-Ivory-Jhabvala adaptation of Howards End still ranks as my all-time favorite movie, 12 years after I first saw it. I am sorry that I did not get to meet Mr Merchant to thank him personally, and that I did not write him the letter that I’ve meant to write for years.

I met James Ivory at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books last month…he made over 40 movies with Ismail Merchant. My sincerest condolences to Mr Merchant’s family and friends, including James Ivory and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala.

I have a lot more to say, but I’ll have to come back when I’m better able to communicate my thoughts.

Posted at 2:54 pm | Filed under Film, News commentary | 2 replies »

Monday, 28 March 2005

I’ll be your little boy running with that egg on his spoon

[cover art of Crowded House's first album] I read the news about Paul Hester‘s suicide last night on MetaFilter and couldn’t believe it. He was probably best known worldwide as the drummer for the Neil Finn-songwriting-driven band Crowded House, one of my all-time favorite groups.

I was just listening to the album Woodface for the gazillionth time the other day. It’s a great CD — my favorite CH album, and I highly recommend it. Hester wrote perhaps one of the most fun tracks, "Italian Plastic." The title for this entry is a line from his wonderful lyrics. He also wrote/co-wrote a few other songs during the band’s history.

If you’re not too familiar with the band but you at least have its self-titled debut album (i.e. the one with "Don’t Dream It’s Over" as shown here), Paul Hester is the winged man flying away on the album cover art (painted by the third core Crowded House member, bassist Nicholas Seymour).

I’m going to listen to some Crowded House now.

Posted at 1:49 pm | Filed under Music, News commentary | 2 replies »

Friday, 31 December 2004

Gmail invites for helping disaster relief

I’ve been puttering around this week and wondering how I could possibly help the huge disaster left by the tsunamis in southeastern Asia. I came down with a cold a few days ago…and I was thinking, I have more than enough to combat the silly cold: water, food in the fridge, warm clothes, plenty of tissue, a place to sleep, and medicine if I need it. There are hundreds of thousands of people, adults and children, who have lost their entire families and homes, and are struggling to survive. No one could have prepared for this kind of catastrophe.

I’d like to do something, though, however small. So I will send you a Gmail invite if you donate to a charity supporting the disaster relief and then e-mail proof of the donation to me. I currently have 10 invitations to offer.

How to get an invite:

  1. Send in an online donation to a charity. Any amount qualifies, but donate as much as you can. Every bit helps.
  2. Post a comment here (don’t forget to include your first and last names — I need them to send the invitation — and use an e-mail address that you actually check). If you don’t want to leave a comment, you can send me a message with your info via this form.
  3. I’ll reply via e-mail, and you then forward the donation receipt. (Don’t worry, you can delete any personal info such as your address and phone number before forwarding it.) Then I’ll send you the invite.

That’s it. Simple. Each person who donates receives one invite.

I’ve donated to Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), one of my favorite charities. (Here’s the direct donate page, so you can find the national office in your country, or the country closest to you.)

Of course, it’s perfectly okay if you’d rather donate to another charity. Google has a list, and there’s also the American Red Cross, which I mentioned earlier. But please make sure you read up about the charity and check it out — at the very least, look up any organizations on (American Institute of Philantrophy, a charity watchdog). Especially take a look at the links labeled "top salaries" and "top-rated groups."

I know I’m not the only one to do this — a quick Google turns up the same concept on yesterday (and, as noted in the comments, the blogger there got the idea from ChasingDaisy). That’s A Good Thing, because it means the idea is spreading when it counts. I’ve had these invites for a while now and wasn’t sure what to do with them (even Gmail4troops isn’t accepting them anymore). If you have extra invites sitting around, why not give them away for a good cause?

(This offer is open until I run out of invitations.)

Posted at 2:39 am | Filed under News commentary | 3 replies »

Wednesday, 29 December 2004

Donate to the Red Cross Disaster Relief

If possible, please donate to help the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami. I’m still confounded by the magnitude of the disaster.

Many organizations are collecting funds; one is the Red Cross. You can donate directly to the Red Cross. The link is for the American Red Cross (, but you can Google for your country’s organization…most of them will have .org in the domain somewhere, but not all of them do.

The site may be a little bombarded right now, so an alternative is to donate to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief fund via (Thanks to scottandrew for that tip.)

Also beware of scammers posing as Red Cross agencies and other charity organizations. If you donate anything, first make sure that the place is legit.

Posted at 5:13 pm | Filed under News commentary |  

Friday, 1 October 2004

Polly want a new drug

From NPR’s The Tavis Smiley Show: Connie Rice: Top 10 Secrets They Don’t Want You to Know About the Debates. An important read.

And, for something a little different…from MAD magazine’s issue #446: The GWB campaign’s commercial, if Bush were running against Jesus. (Saw the link on a number of sites, including J-Walk Blog)

Posted at 8:41 pm | Filed under News commentary | 1 reply »

Wednesday, 22 October 2003

Elliott Smith’s legacy

I just saw this, much to my sadness:

Songwriter Elliott Smith Dead at 34.

Posted at 12:34 pm | Filed under News commentary |  

Sunday, 6 April 2003

NBC’s David Bloom dies covering Iraq war

I read the above headline from the AP wire and my reaction was simply, "Oh, no."

[Image of David Bloom, with the 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq, reporting for NBC News] Bloom died of a pulmonary embolism that was not (directly) combat-related. According to the Yahoo/AP report, the close-quarter conditions of traveling (immobilized legs) may have been a factor in the clot.

I always liked David Bloom. When I first saw him on TV a few years back, I learned that he was a Pitzer College graduate, and thought the Claremont Colleges connection was pretty cool (even though he was a Pitzer Sagehen, he was still a fellow Sagehen). Last fall he even wore a Pitzer shirt on the air and talked a bit about college as a part of a special college weekend broadcast. Never met him, but he seemed like a genuinely nice guy who was very enthusiastic about his work as well. I hadn’t been watching much war coverage on TV, but I did see some of his reports early on — about a week or two ago. I’ll remember him best as both an NBC News reporter and anchor/substitute anchor for Weekend Today and Today. He was 39, and is survived by his wife and three young daughters.

Bloom is the second U.S. journalist to die in this Iraq war, following Michael Kelly from the Washington Post and the Atlantic Monthly.

[Read more about:
David Bloom’s life and career
Memories and thoughts from the Pitzer College (and Claremont Colleges) community, including notes from Bloom’s friends, former classmates and professors
Newsweek/MSNBC’s David Alter remembers Bloom
Tim Russert and Katie Couric remember Bloom (video)]

Image of David Bloom from

Posted at 3:26 pm | Filed under News commentary |