Saturday, December 27, 2008

a review from Variety Benjamin Button

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

I saw The Curious Case of Benjamin Button on Saturday (following the aborted Thursday screening), and have been trying to sort it out ever since.

David Fincher and screenwriter Eric Roth (Forrest Gump) have delivered an historic achievement, a masterful piece of cinema, and a moving treatise on death, loss, loneliness and love. As the movie proceeds, and Brad Pitt as Button ages backwards, we know where he is headed: it's where we are all going. But he feels he has to go there by himself, without his loved ones. And nobody wants to die alone. (Here is Todd McCarthy's review.)

So when the movie reaches its climax, it is extraordinarily moving (although some find the movie cold and dispassionate). It may pack a more powerful punch the older you are and the more people you have lost. In that case it will score with the Academy, who will also recognize the skillful filmmaking on display.

The movie marks a seismic shift in terms of what is possible in moviemaking. What Fincher and his team have done is no small technological feat. Button starts off as a CG-aged baby, moves through CG-altered older Pitt faces superimposed on small bodies, and then proceeds to the "real" Pitt wearing makeup and then getting younger and younger. Thus the film's central performance is in great part a visual effect. (Blanchett is also made younger digitally, but aged with makeup.) That accounts in part for the movie's high cost (well above $150 million) but is also its primary limitation.

Thus, while I admire the film's amazing accomplishment--it's hard to imagine that anyone but the digitally sophisticated Fincher, who has become adept at "painting" his digital canvases, could have pulled this off--the movie is not entirely satisfying. But given what it is, it's hard to imagine it being done done any better. The actors are superb, especially Pitt and Cate Blanchett, who should earn Oscar noms. What's missing has partly to do with the limitations of the technology. Button reminds me of Peter Sellers as Chauncey Gardner in Being There. He's oddly passive and restrained, zen-like as he floats through all the decades, watching, listening, learning. He narrates the tale via his diary, along with his dying love Blanchett. We see him engaging with people, but he never says much. We see him from the outside; we never get under his skin, and we never learn the fruits of his wisdom. He stays much the same.

Still, the movie is sadly beautiful, of a piece, as impeccably wrought as its ornate clock that runs counterclockwise. Do Paramount and Warner Bros. have a prayer of making their money back? This movie needs all the help it can get, from anyone who loves movies and wants the studios to take more risky bets like this one.

Technorati Tags: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, David Fincher, Eric Roth, Paramount, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button



Andrew Schwartz / Miramax
RIVALS: Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman, headed for drama.
Suspicions flare as religion meets the real world in the film version starring Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams.
By KENNETH TURAN, Movie Critic
December 12, 2008

"Doubt" is a film with many fine elements, but its director, John Patrick Shanley, doesn't seem to trust them. Which is rather odd, because it was Shanley who wrote both the script and the play on which it's based.

That play, gripping enough to win four Tonys and the Pulitzer Prize and attract film stars such as Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams, is set in the pivotal year of 1964 in St. Nicholas, a Catholic church and school in the Bronx.

It details a conflict between the church's Father Flynn (Hoffman) and the school's principal, Sister Aloysius (Streep), about the direction of the Catholic faith in general and the fate of one 12-year-old altar boy in particular.

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Meryl Streep's IQ = 117
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Shanley the writer has carefully constructed this drama like the delicately balanced house of cards it is. On the stage as well as on the screen, "Doubt" is a highly polished piece of business, with every speech and every action calculated for maximum effect, a well-made play if ever there was one.

Although a did-he-or-didn't-he mystery is "Doubt's" central plot mechanism, the play and the film are about a whole lot more. Philosophical questions about conservative versus progressive religious values, about rigidity versus openness and suspicion versus proof, about how far it's appropriate to go when you are sure you are right, are what got Shanley to write the piece in the first place.

But in the process of opening this story up, of changing it from a four-actor stage play to a film with multiple characters and numerous extras, Shanley seems to have lost a certain amount of faith in what he'd written. As a director he's ended up pushing the drama harder than he needs to. He hasn't done anything fatal, but he has tampered with and hampered it.

For one thing, Shanley has chosen to bring too much of the outside world into St. Nicholas' cloistered halls. Having a cat physically catch a mouse at a key juncture is too literal a metaphor by half, and "Doubt" threatens to become meteorologically overwrought by putting all kinds of wind, rain and even thunder into the story whenever it feels the proceedings won't work on their own.

The only place where this kind of literalism works is "Doubt's" setting. Cinematographer Roger Deakins, production designer David Gropman and costume designer Ann Roth have combined to carefully re-create the look of the Bronx and the bonnet-wearing Sisters of Charity who call the borough home. An image of the nightgowned nuns coming out of their rooms en masse in the early morning is especially fine.

Inhabiting this world are two particularly well-matched antagonists. Streep's Sister Aloysius is the showier role, a literal holy terror who hasn't smiled since Pius XII was pope and inflicts old school discipline as disapproval and suspicion oozes from every pore. It's a part that verges on caricature, but Streep is adept at walking up to that line without crossing over.

In the other corner is Father Flynn. As played by Hoffman, who looks just fleshy enough to be Pat O'Brien's younger brother, Father Flynn is a priest who likes his pleasures, whether it be rare beef and red wine at dinner or three lumps of sugar in his tea.

These two are not just poles apart personally, they differ on the future of the church. Sister Aloysius is old-fashioned enough to consider "Frosty the Snowman" a pagan anthem (really), while Father Flynn thinks "It's a new time, Sister, the church needs to change."

This philosophical difference is heightened by a conflict over the situation of one particular boy, 12-year-old Donald Miller (Joseph Foster II), the school's first black student.

Father Flynn takes an interest, saying he just wants to protect the friendless boy, but Sister Aloysius suspects that something akin to molestation might be going on. Father Flynn has a plausible answer for everything, but just because we feel closer to his worldview doesn't mean he is without blame. As Sister Aloysius goes into overdrive, Hoffman's nuanced performance gives nothing away.

It means no disrespect to Amy Adams, convincing as the innocent Sister James, the new nun on the block, to say that if anyone comes close to stealing the picture from Streep and Hoffman it is the superb Viola Davis as Donald's mother, Mrs. Miller.

The scene between the concerned Mrs. Miller and the worried Sister Aloysius is "Doubt's" high point, largely because Davis, best known for "Antwone Fisher," brings a sense of decency, urgency and even fear to her rending performance. The concerns of the real world, not the cloistered one, walk into the film with her, and that makes quite a difference.

mutts goes Election

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008


Hard Knocks, Both Given and Gotten

Published: December 17, 2008
Everyone knows professional wrestling is fake. Everyone knows the same about movies. In both cases the eager spectators simultaneously admire the artifice and pretend it isn’t there, allowing themselves to believe that those people down in the ring or up on the screen are truly inflicting pain on one another.

“The Wrestler,” Darren Aronofsky’s fourth feature (and winner of the top prize at the Venice Film Festival this year), cannily exploits this parallel and at the same time shows that, in both movies and wrestling, the line between reality and play-acting may be less clear than we assume. Shooting his battered hero mainly in trudging, hand-held tracking shots, Mr. Aronofsky, whose earlier movies include the brain-teasing “Pi” and the swooning, fantastical, unwatchable “Fountain,” here makes a convincing show of brute realism.

The supermarkets, trailer parks, V.F.W. halls and run-down amphitheaters of New Jersey are convincingly drab, and the grain of the celluloid carries a sour and salty aura of weariness and defeat. But the story that emerges is disarmingly sweet, indeed at times downright saccharine — a familiar parable of squandered hopes and second chances. It’s a bit phony, perhaps, but to refuse to embrace the movie’s deep hokiness would be to cheat yourself of some of the profound pleasure it offers.

Randy (the Ram) Robinson, played with sly, hulking grace by Mickey Rourke, is anything but a phony, in spite of the fact that nothing about him is quite genuine. His real name, which he can’t stand to hear, is Robin Ramsinski; his muscles are puffed up with steroids, and it’s highly doubtful that his flowing mane is naturally blond. But this careful fakery is, to some extent, what certifies Randy as the real thing, an authentic, passionate, natural performer. The description fits Mr. Rourke as well.

Back in the 1980s, both the real actor and the fictional wrestler were superstars. (A monologue eulogizing that decade and cursing the one that followed has an obvious and piquant double meaning; that the speech is addressed to the character played by Marisa Tomei, whose career hit some snags of its own in the later ’90s, makes it all the more touching.)

Mr. Rourke was a tenderhearted tough guy with a crooked smile and a gentleness that came through even tough-guy poses and bad movies. Randy, meanwhile, was a giant in the world of pro wrestling, inspiring action figures and video games and plying his brutal trade in top arenas like Madison Square Garden.

Now, 20 years later, he — Randy, that is — has been relegated to shabbier halls. He has trouble making the rent on his trailer, and his health is failing. His professionalism, however, is undiminished, and the most moving and persuasive scenes in “The Wrestler” show the Ram backstage with the men who are his comrades and rivals, working out the finer points of their routines with a warmth and respect completely at odds with the viciousness they display in the ring.

With a younger wrestler, Randy is warm and avuncular, praising the kid’s ability and urging him to stay in the game. Others, many of them played by active or retired real-life wrestlers, he refers to without affectation as “Brother.”

While the fights are choreographed, the pain and the blood are frequently real. We are privy to tricks of the trade, like the tiny bit of razor blade that Randy uses to open a cut on his face in the middle of a bout. And we witness a horrifying match involving broken glass, barbed wire and a staple gun, all of it agreed upon by the combatants.

We also understand that every fight is a miniature morality play. At one point Randy and an adversary sit in chairs, trading slaps across the face. When the designated bad guy lands a blow, the crowd boos; when he’s on the receiving end, it cheers. The basic rule is laid out succinctly by an old nemesis of Randy’s: “I’m the heel, and you’re the face.”

About that face. Mr. Aronofsky takes his time showing it, trailing behind Mr. Rourke and allowing us sidelong glances for the first few minutes of the film, before disclosing the battered, lumpy yet still strangely beautiful wreck of what we remember from “Diner” or “The Pope of Greenwich Village.” Damaged, tired, ill used as he may be — or maybe not! movies aren’t real! — Mr. Rourke is still, in the wrestling sense of the word, the face, the magnetic pole of our interest, the guy we’re rooting for.

But Randy is also, outside the ring, something of a heel. He is estranged from his daughter, Stephanie, (Evan Rachel Wood), whose anger when he tries to reconcile suggests some major mess-ups in the past. He also has a crush on a stripper known as Cassidy (Ms. Tomei), whose lap dances and friendly chitchat he interprets as signs of reciprocated interest.

The news that Ms. Tomei plays a stripper may make you roll your eyes — it may, for that matter, make them pop out of your head — but her job is more than an excuse to get exposed flesh other than Mr. Rourke’s up on the screen. Randy and Cassidy (it’s not her real name, either) are both performers, both expert at faking something the customers desperately want to believe is real. The wrestlers don’t really hate one another, and the stripper doesn’t really love you.

The fact that Randy doesn’t quite get that when it comes to Cassidy — and yet senses that they do something in common — is part of his appeal. He’s not that smart, really, but he has a genuine gift. And parts of “The Wrestler,” which was written by Robert D. Siegel, are dumb in their own way, or rather in the way that so many movies are. The Randy-Stephanie subplot is unpersuasive, and the last few twists of the Randy-Cassidy romance verge on the preposterous. But like its hero, the movie has a blunt, exuberant honesty, pulling off even its false moves with conviction and flair.

“The Wrestler” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). It has fake bloodshed and real nudity.


Opens on Wednesday in New York and Los Angeles.

Directed by Darren Aronofsky; written by Robert D. Siegel; director of photography, Maryse Alberti; edited by Andrew Weisblum; music by Clint Mansell; production designer, Tim Grimes; produced by Mr. Aronofsky and Scott Franklin; released by Fox Searchlight Pictures. Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes.

WITH: Mickey Rourke (Randy), Marisa Tomei (Cassidy) and Evan Rachel Wood (Stephanie).

Sunday, December 21, 2008

running into people i know

I was surprised to find that Dave B from the Darlist years ago approached me at the Maggie Dixon Classic. He is a big women's basketball fan and was at the game. We chatted a bit and caught up.

I ran into someone I worked with at St Josephs at the ACS office. I never can remember names but remember stories about them.

I was at Walgreens and saw Lisbeth Torres from CMS at a distance. I helped support her get through her first graduate school class actually by having the agency pay for it and for her books. I was thinking about her alot lately and how no one knew how much i helped her and how much I went out on the line for her and other workers development. No one needs to know but I know

It really is a small world.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Capricorn Horoscope for week of December 18, 2008

Capricorn Horoscope for week of December 18, 2008

Four out of every five people testify that if such a thing were possible, they would buy more time. If you're one of those four, I'm here to tell you that conditions in the coming months will provide some interesting opportunities. While you may not be able to actually purchase more of that precious commodity, it's quite possible that you'll be able to legally steal it, barter for it, and even create it from scratch. I've got to be cryptic here, because the promise I'm hinting at is of course not true in a strictly literal sense: You'll have to tweak your imagination and think a bit sideways and upside-down in order to cash in on the temporal expansions that will be available.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Neil Young NYTIMES review

Near the midpoint of his sprawling, deeply satisfying show at Madison Square Garden on Monday night, Neil Young asked a simple question: “Where did all the money go?” He sang this line and repeated it, for emphasis or symmetry. And a few moments later he issued variations on the wording — “Where did all the cash flow?/Where did all the revenue stream?” — that confirmed that it wasn’t such a simple question after all.

Mr. Young and his Electric Band were kicking around a tune that made its debut recently, on another stop of the tour. Fans have taken to calling it “Cough Up the Bucks,” after its spoken refrain, though the title could double as a comment on ticket prices. It was one of more than half a dozen new songs in the show, and not remotely a good one. But it fell in line with a Neil Young tradition: the rushed-to-assembly, current-event song, created more for blunt efficiency than for subtlety or even style.

At 63 Mr. Young is a figure of blunt efficiency himself, and a man comfortable with his own contradictions. Here in the first of two tour-ending New York shows, he presented himself not only as a stubbornly craggy survivor but also as an avid early adapter, a holdout hippie idealist, an evenhanded pragmatist and a sharp-eyed cynic.

And that was just in the new stuff, which came with a disclaimer. “We’re auditioning for our old record company,” Mr. Young said after playing four unreleased pieces in a row, including “Light a Candle,” a hymn for the hopeful; “Fuel Line,” a paean to his electric-biodiesel car; and “Hit the Road and Go to Town,” exactly what it sounds like.

“So when you hear those new songs,” he prodded, “you make a lot of noise whether you like ’em or not, O.K.?” (He used saltier language, if only slightly.)

There were some obliging cheers. But biodiesel innovation wasn’t exactly at the top of the crowd’s agenda. The good news, then, was old news: songs from across Mr. Young’s career, with an occasional emphasis on the 1970s. “Heart of Gold” preceded “Old Man,” and both found Mr. Young singing beautifully, against a familiar, rustic backdrop distinguished by Ben Keith’s steel guitar playing.

There were other acoustic moments, most of them starker. For “Mother Earth (Natural Anthem),” Mr. Young backed himself on harmonica and pipe organ, underscoring both the solemnity and the simplicity of his message. He played his heartbreaking lament “The Needle and the Damage Done” alone with a guitar, the same format as on his new archival release, “Sugar Mountain: Live at Canterbury House 1968” (Reprise).

The show’s core, though, had more to do with heaving momentum, bruising riffs and brazen but unhurried guitar solos. Mr. Young made this output count, directing large reserves of energy through his guitars, including the 1953 Gibson Les Paul he calls Old Black. He stretched out at every appropriate juncture: with rampaging ease on “Cowgirl in the Sand” and then with anxious fire on the closer, “Rockin’ in the Free World.” His ramble through “Cortez the Killer” was a potent manifesto of slow-burn suspense.

There were traces of Mr. Young’s influence in the work of Nels Cline, the lead guitarist and chief galvanizing agent of Wilco, which played a solid but unimaginative opening set. The other opener, Everest, a five-piece from Los Angeles, went more for Mr. Young’s classic band sound, trying to pair frayed-edge vulnerability with a vintage haze.

They were no match for Mr. Young and crew: Mr. Keith, the bassist Rick Rosas, the keyboardist-guitarist Anthony Crawford and especially the drummer Chad Cromwell, whose time feel suggested the perfect blend of slouch and surge. Mr. Crawford sang background vocals with Pegi Young, Mr. Young’s wife, sounding strong on standards like “Cinnamon Girl” and fine on chugging new fare like “When Worlds Collide.”

That tune came after something known to Mr. Young’s more up-to-date fans as “Just Singing a Song Won’t Change the World.” On the surface it was an ode to skepticism, even a kind of disavowal. But on a deeper level it felt like a transfer of power from artist to audience.

“You can drive my car,” Mr. Young sang generously. “Feel how it rolls.”

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

January 14th

For the first time in 9 years, I am going away to celebrate my birthday. This year I chose Las Vegas. This trip came together with a cheap hotel room at Harrah's and cheap flight. The reason to see Bette Midler at Ceasar's for January 14th. The room and flights are booked. Tickets to Bette are procurred. I am tinkering with Love, Cirque Du Soleil 's Beatles because O the biggest show on the Strip is costly. I am thinking of filling the first night with either another Bette show or Tom Jones, Donnie and Marie...I think ill pass on them or some special cheaper show. Rita Rudner is at Harrahs. This trip planning is going smoothly and i still have to book car service to get me to and from JFK.

I have to pack, go to weight watcher and move my car and flight out. I return on Friday the 16th and then have a long weekend in NY to finish celebrating. School is out until January 26th.....

I will be 49 this year in Las vegas.

A Recap of the weekend

From last week when I saw Daniel Ratcliff and Richard Griffiths in Equus on stage, the week went down hill. Friday night I took it easy, doing my wash and grocery shopping.

Saturday, I had class and collected 30 finals. Students who showed up late, stayed in the library to work on the their paper or left class early will be downgraded. From class, I did some last minute shopping and headed home. I walked to Chris's hosue where we went to Gene and Isabel's for a house concert. Phil Missinale and We're about 9, with Abbie Gardner. It was good to see Gene and Isabel. Isabel make this award winning chili and there were way too many choices of sweet things to eat. Getting home and crashing was needed too.

Sunday, I got up and went to Manhattan for the Maggie Dixon Basketball Classic.

Margaret Mary "Maggie" Dixon (May 9, 1977 – April 6, 2006) was an American collegiate women's basketball coach. Maggie Dixon was born in North Hollywood, California, and played basketball at Notre Dame High School. Dixon graduated in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history from the University of San Diego, where she played for the women's basketball team. After an unsuccessful try out for the WNBA Los Angeles Sparks, she took up coaching, at the urging of her older brother. She became an assistant coach at DePaul University from 2001-2005.
In 2005, just 11 days before the 2005-2006 season, Dixon was hired as the women's basketball coach of the United States Military Academy. In her first year, they surprised the college basketball world by going 20-11 and winning the Patriot League conference tournament; she took them to 2006 NCAA Women's Division I Basketball Tournament as a 15 seed, where they lost to the University of Tennessee, 102-54. It was the first March Madness tournament appearance for any Army basketball team.
Her brother was Jamie Dixon, the head men's basketball coach of the University of Pittsburgh. In 2006, the Dixons became the first brother-sister pair to take teams to the NCAA basketball tournaments the same year, as Jamie's Pittsburgh Panthers also made the 2006 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament. Her brother lost in the second round to Bradley.

Just weeks after her appearance in the tournament, on April 5, 2006, Dixon was hospitalized at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, New York, after collapsing and suffering what her brother described as an "arrhythmic episode to her heart." Dixon died the next night at the age of only 28, a little over a month shy of her 29th birthday. An autopsy revealed that Dixon had an enlarged heart and had a problem with a heart valve.

Dixon was buried at the West Point Cemetery, an honor usually reserved only for high ranking officials.
On November 12, 2006 West Point held the 1st Annual Maggie Dixon Classic, a basketball mini-tournament in Dixon's honor. It featured two games, a men's and women's game. In the men's game Jamie Dixon's Pitt Panthers defeated Western Michigan and in the women's game the Army women's team lost to Ohio State. The games were televised by ESPNU.
In the 2007-2008 season the Classic moved to Madison Square Garden and featured the University of Pittsburgh women's team against Duke University and Army and the Rutgers Scarlet Knights

The Maggie Dixon Classic this year was Army Vs Rutger and then Uconn and UPenn...

I sat through both Basketball games.

I went home to do more errands and Monday, I could not get up. I refused to get out of bed so I called in sick. I spent the morning catching up and went to Manhattan for the Afternoon/ Night. Late night. I went to see the Rockerfeller Center Christmas Tree, to get a ticket to see Shrek the Musical. I passed the theater on 42nd that was having screening to the Adam Sandler Christmas Movie... Bedtime Stories so I went.
Dont pay to see this cute kiddie movie, wait for DVD or HBO.

I had tickets to Neil Young at the Garden. Everestt opened, Wilco played a respectable set and Neil started after 10pm. I left at 1145 with 7 songs to go. I missed Cowgirl in the sand but heard it last year at the United Palace.

Set list: Love And Only Love / Hey Hey, My My / Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere / Powderfinger / Spirit Road / Cortez The Killer / Cinnamon Girl / Oh, Lonesome Me / Mother Earth / The Needle And The Damage Done / Light A Candle / "Cough Up The Bucks" / Fuel Line / "Hit The Road And Go To Town" / Heart Of Gold / Old Man / Get Back To The Country / When Worlds Collide / "Get Behind The Wheel" / Just Singing A Song / Cowgirl In The Sand / Rockin' In The Free World // A Day In The Life

Neil was great and is in great voice. I like the acoustic stuff better than the louder electric but the rockers were out at the Garden. Neil plays again tonight to a sold out crowd.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Capricorn Horoscope for week of December 11, 2008

Capricorn Horoscope for week of December 11, 2008

In California's recent election, citizens voted to liberate poultry. Proposition 2 passed, mandating that from now on farmers cannot confine chickens in cages where they're unable to spread their wings. Meanwhile, in the same election, voters decided to make it illegal for gay people to be married, a right that had previously been granted by the California Supreme Court. How odd is it that chickens got a measure of freedom while gays had one of their precious freedoms cut away? I'm warning you to be wary of a metaphorically similar scenario looming in your personal life, Capricorn: in which one liberty is upgraded while another is sacrificed. Fight to make sure there's no net loss.

60th Anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

60th Anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Time to Deliver
10 December 2008

Amnesty International today called on governments to make the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) a time for action not just for celebration.

“The senseless killings in Mumbai, thousands of people fleeing the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, hundreds of thousands more trapped in dire conditions in Darfur, Gaza and northern Sri Lanka and a global economic recession that could push millions more into poverty creates a burning platform for action on human rights,” said Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

Against this backdrop to the 60th anniversary of the UDHR, Amnesty International warned that the world faces multiple challenges.

Denouncing the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, Amnesty International cautioned governments not to rollback human rights in the name of security. “Governments have a duty to protect people from terrorism, but detaining people indefinitely without charge or trial, condoning or conducting torture and eroding the rule of law does not make the world a safer place,” said Irene Khan.

Noting the impact of the global economic crisis on poor countries, which risks throwing millions more people into poverty, Amnesty International called on governments to protect economic and social rights with as much vigour as civil and political rights.

“The gift of the UDHR is universality and indivisibility. Human rights are universal – every person is born free and equal in rights and dignity. Human rights are indivisible – all rights, whether economic, social, civil, political or cultural – are equally important and there is no hierarchy of rights,” said Irene Khan.

“Despite progress in many areas in the past decades, injustice, inequality and impunity persist in too many parts of the world. The real problem is that governments make promises and adopt laws but fail to deliver. ”

“The time has come for governments to set right six decades of human rights failures and deliver on their promises.”

Maybe some respect for Social Workers

Where Are the New Jobs for Women?

Published: December 9, 2008

BARACK OBAMA has announced a plan to stimulate the economy by creating 2.5 million jobs over the next two years. He intends to use the opportunity to make good on two campaign promises — to invest in road and bridge maintenance and school repair and to create jobs that reduce energy use and emissions that lead to global warming.

Mr. Obama compared his infrastructure plan to the Eisenhower-era construction of the Interstate System of highways. It brings back the Eisenhower era in a less appealing way as well: there are almost no women on this road to recovery.

Back before the feminist revolution brought women into the workplace in unprecedented numbers, this would have been more understandable. But today, women constitute about 46 percent of the labor force. And as the current downturn has worsened, their traditionally lower unemployment rate has actually risen just as fast as men’s. A just economic stimulus plan must include jobs in fields like social work and teaching, where large numbers of women work.

The bulk of the stimulus program will provide jobs for men, because building projects generate jobs in construction, where women make up only 9 percent of the work force.

It turns out that green jobs are almost entirely male as well, especially in the alternative energy area. A broad study by the United States Conference of Mayors found that half the projected new jobs in any green area are in engineering, a field that is only 12 percent female, or in the heavily male professions of law and consulting; the rest are in such traditional male areas as manufacturing, agriculture and forestry. And like companies that build roads, alternative energy firms also employ construction workers and engineers.

Fortunately, jobs for women can be created by concentrating on professions that build the most important infrastructure — human capital. In 2007, women were 83 percent of social workers, 94 percent of child care workers, 74 percent of education, training and library workers (including 98 percent of preschool and kindergarten teachers and 92 percent of teachers’ assistants).

Libraries are closing or cutting back everywhere, while demand for their services, including their Internet connections, has risen. Philadelphia’s proposal last month to close 11 branches brought people into the street to protest.

Many of the jobs women do are already included in Mr. Obama’s campaign promises. Women are teachers, and the campaign promised to provide support for families with children up to the age of 5, increase Head Start financing and quadruple the money spent on Early Head Start to include a quarter-million infants and toddlers. Special education, including arts education, is heavily female as well. Mr. Obama promised to increase financing for arts education and for the National Endowment for the Arts, which supports many school programs.

During the campaign, Mr. Obama also promised that the first part of his plan to combat urban poverty would be to replicate a nonprofit organization in New York called the Harlem Children’s Zone in 20 cities across the country. The group, which works to improve the quality of life for children and families in the Harlem neighborhood, employs several hundred people in full- and part-time jobs. By making good on this promise, Mr. Obama could create thousands of jobs for women in social work, teaching and child care.

Unlike the proposal to rebuild roads and bridges, the Harlem Children’s Zone program is urban, and thus really green. If cities become more inviting, more people will live in them — and that means they will drive less, using less fuel. The average New Yorker’s greenhouse gas footprint is only about 29 percent as large as that of the average American; the city is one of the greenest places in America.

Maybe it would be a better world if more women became engineers and construction workers, but programs encouraging women to pursue engineering have existed for decades without having much success. At the moment, teachers and child care workers still need to support themselves. Many are their families’ sole support.

A public works program can provide needed economic stimulus and revive America’s concern for public property. The current proposal is simply too narrow. Women represent almost half the work force — not exactly a marginal special interest group. By adding a program for jobs in libraries, schools and children’s programs, the new administration can create jobs for them, too.

Linda R. Hirshman is the author of “Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World.”

Monday, December 08, 2008

In memory of John Lennon Imagine


Its time for Charlie Brown's Christmas

Lucy says snowflakes dont turn ripe until January. Schroder plays piano. Pigpen makes a mess and Linus explains Christmas to one and all

">Charlie Brown's Christmas Linus speaks

The Death and Life of John Lennon

The Death and Life of John Lennon

By Pete Hamill

*From the December 20, 1980 issue of New York Magazine.


Well nobody came to bug us,
Hustle us or shove us
So we decided to make it our home
If the Man wants to shove us out
We gonna jump and shout
The Statue of Liberty said, “Come!”
New York City . . . New York City . . .
New York City . . .
Que pasa, New York?
Que pasa, New York?
—John Lennon, 1972*

The news arrived like fragment of some forgotten ritual. First a flash on television, interrupting the tail end of a football game. Then the telephones ringing, back and forth across the city, and then another bulletin, with more details, and then more phone calls from around the country, from friends, from kids with stunned voices, and then the dials being flipped from channel to channel while WINS played on the radio. And yes: It was true. Yes: Somebody had murdered John Lennon.

And because it was John Lennon, and because it was a man with a gun, we fell back into the ritual. If you were there for the sixties, the ritual was part of your life. You went through it for John F. Kennedy and for Martin Luther King, for Malcolm X and for Robert Kennedy. The earth shook, and then grief was slowly handled by plunging into newspapers and television shows. We knew there would be days of cliché-ridden expressions of shock from the politicians; tearful shots of mourning crowds; obscene invasions of the privacy of The Widow; calls for gun control; apocalyptic declarations about the sickness of America; and then, finally, the orgy over, everybody would go on with their lives.

Except . . . this time there was a difference. Somebody murdered John Lennon. Not a politician. Not a man whose abstract ideas could send people to wars, or bring them home; not someone who could marshal millions of human beings in the name of justice; not some actor on the stage of history. This time, someone had crawled out of a dark place, lifted a gun, and killed an artist. This was something new. The ritual was the same, the liturgy as stale as ever, but the object of attack was a man who had made art. This time the ruined body belonged to someone who had made us laugh, who had taught young people how to feel, who had helped change and shape an entire generation, from inside out. This time someone had murdered a song.

And it had happened in a city to which that artist had come in order to be private, in order to be safe. It had happened in New York.

¿Qué pasa, New York?


If you had the luck of the Irish,
You’d be sorry and wish you were dead. . . .
—Lennon and Ono, 1972

So we all went to the Dakota. We had nowhere else to go. Yes: If you’ve been trained as a reporter, you’re supposed to go places with a cold eye. But I’m sorry; even as the flood tide of rage receded, the cold eye wasn’t possible. Not for John Lennon. Our lives had intersected at critical moments since the winter of 1963, that bitter season after Dallas when people my age realized that they would never again be young. We met in London, in an upstairs joint called the Ad Lib. I was with Al Aronowitz. Ringo and Paul were there too, and later the Stones came in, and we were all at a big table, with music pounding, and girls crowding around, and Brian Jones all blond and small getting drunk on whiskey in a pool of solitude. John Lennon came in after a while with Brian Epstein and sat down next to me. Aronowitz was telling them they had to listen to Dylan, and McCartney was nodding, agreeing with Aronowitz, while Mick Jagger got up to dance with a young blonde wearing too much makeup.

“To hell with Dylan,” Lennon said. “We play rock ’n’ roll.”

“No, John, listen to him,” Aronowitz said. “He’s rock ’n’ roll too. He’s where rock ’n’ roll’s gonna go. Listen.”

Lennon’s mouth became a tight slit, “Dylan, Dylan. Give me Chuck Berry, Give me Little Richard. Don’t give me fancy crap. Crap, American folky intellectual crap. It’s crap.”

He was snarling and bitter and hard. He didn’t want to talk about music. He didn’t want to talk about writing. He looked down the table at Keith Richard. “What the hell are the Yanks here for?” he said, Richard smiled and shrugged. McCartney reached over and touched John’s hand. “Ach, come off it, John,” he said. Lennon pulled his hand away and turned to me.
The Death and Life of John Lennon
“Why don’t you f - - - off,” he said. “Why don’t you just get the hell out of here.”

“Why don’t you make me?” I said.

“Hey, come on,” Aronowitz said. “Let’s just have a good time.”

“What?” Lennon said to me.

“I said you should try to make me get out of here.”

He stared at me, and I stared back. The Irish of Liverpool challenging the Irish of Brooklyn. The music pounded, and then, as if he had seen something that he recognized, he smiled and broke the stare and peered into the bottom of his glass. “Yeh, yeh, yeh,” he said quietly, and the moment of confrontation passed. John Lennon left with Brian Epstein. I left with the hatcheck girl. It was all a long time ago. That jagged London evening was part of the baggage I carried down to the Dakota, just as hundreds of others carried their own special visions of John Lennon with them to the high iron gates of 72nd Street. There was no plan, no public announcement of assembly: People just seemed to appear, as if taken through the soft night air by the tug of the past. These were not the people you see at plane crashes, or at giant fires, the injured geeks of the dangerous city. These were people who might come together to mourn the smashing of a work of art. They hugged one another, they shook their heads in sorrow, but, to be truthful, there was not much crying. As writer Peter Hellman said, “Beatle music is somehow just not made for tears.”

There was little rage either, as if the anger had been exhausted in those first shocking moments, and now there was only the need to express silent witness. By two in the morning, the crowd was singing: “All we are saying is give peace a chance.” It was the most simple statement to come out of a terrible time, and I’d heard it sung once by 500,000 people, covering the hills of Washington during one of the anti-war moratoriums, when Richard Nixon was barricaded in the White House behind a line of buses. Here at the Dakota, one woman even knew the verse:

Bagism, Shagism, Dragism, Madism,
Ragism, Tagism,
This-ism, That-ism, Is-m Is-m Is-m
All we are saying. . .

By morning, the gates of the Dakota looked like the wall of a Mexican church, or an instant Lourdes, covered with a collage of flowers, messages, photographs, drawings. The crowd had been brought together as if to some new Holy Place, expressing a deep primitive need to mourn. The mourners were not kids, either. I saw men in raincoats come by carrying briefcases, sealed into lives of business and marriage, the sixties part of some golden adolescence, and one at a time, they stood there on the corner, out of the vision of the TV cameras, and, unlike the people of the night before, wept openly while Beatles music played from dozens of radios. The music seemed elegiac now, all those songs that never went away and probably never will. But now one thing was absolutely certain: John Lennon was dead, and so were the Beatles. They would never come back now. They would never fill a stadium again, never journey all the way back to the years when they changed the English-speaking world and the rest of the world that didn’t know the meaning of “Yeh, yeh, yeh.”

“They were the first people I ever heard of who made me want to be a musician,” a young guitar player said to me. “I was about eight years old, and I heard them, and I knew that I wanted to do that. Maybe not that, Something like that.”

I looked up at the Dakota, its great bulk looming ominously against the rain-swollen morning sky. Up there, five years ago, I’d sat with John Lennon and talked away some hours. His feet were bare that morning, his arms thin under a rumpled T-shirt, his delicate fingers wrapped around a brown-papered cigarette. He was drinking coffee. There was a white Steinway baby-grand piano in a corner of the large living room, a drawing by de Kooning on the wall, some cactus plants; through the window we could see the Essex House, the Americana Hotel, and the spire of the Chrysler Building peeking over the top of the Pan Am Building.

“I never see myself as not an artist,” he said to me that morning. “I never let myself believe that an artist can ‘run dry.’ I’ve always had this vision of bein’ 60 and writing children’s books. I don’t know why. It’d be a strange thing for a person who doesn’t really have much to do with children. I’ve always had that feeling of giving what Wind in the Willows and Alice in Wonderland and Treasure Island gave to me at age seven and eight. Those books opened my whole being.”

The Death and Life of John Lennon
He had just come through a difficult personal time during which he had questioned everything about his life and his work and his celebrity.

“What is it I’m doing?” he said, dragging on the cigarette, explaining the questions he had asked himself. “What am I doing? Meanwhile, I was still putting out the work. But in the back of my head it was that: What do you want to be? What are you looking for? And that’s about it. I’m a freakin’ artist, man, not a f - - - - - ’ racehorse.”

Within months of that interview, the man who had said he didn’t really have much to do with children learned that he was going to be a father. And soon he disappeared, making no public music for half a decade, dropping out of the visible world to give his son, Sean, a childhood. Once, during that period, I dropped him a casual note, telling him that if he felt like talking, he should call. I got a form letter back.

John Lennon had silenced himself, perhaps for good. Then, last summer, the news broke that he was back in the studio. I was in London, and the session was over by the time I got home. I’m sorry about that. I wanted to see him one more time, and thank him for showing up. He wasn’t just another racehorse.


In case of accidents he always took his mom.
He’s the all American bullet-headed saxon mother’s son.
All the children sing
Hey, Bungalow Bill
What did you kill
Bungalow Bill?
—Lennon and McCartney

John Lennon was dead by the time Patrolmen James Moran and Bill Gamble got him to Roosevelt Hospital, but the doctors tried anyway. They opened him up. They massaged his heart. There was blood everywhere, but they tried. And while they worked, the scene outside turned into an obscene festival. The paparazzi, thieves of the mojo, arrived by the dozens, waiting to steal the spirit of anyone left alive; legitimate reporters and photographers were there too, and a lot of cops, and then, slowly, as the word spread, a few fans. Some of the reporters fought for the two telephones in the emergency room, while the usual assortment of damaged human beings—older black people, too many children, a Hare Krishna couple—waited to be helped. A woman TV reporter marched in with a crew and tried to walk through the doors to the room where the doctors had been working on John Lennon. She was stopped, of course, but tried to make common decency into a First Amendment issue by ordering the crew to turn on the lights and videotape the refusal of the hospital assistant to allow her to photograph the holes in John Lennon’s chest.

“You want me to tell you what happened, man?” an orderly said, standing outside on an overhang, looking at the crowd. A few fans had lit candles now. “Where’s $20? Come on. Why should I be doing anything for you for nothing?”

Another said, “They did more for Lennon than we normally do for anybody. They cracked his chest open and then tried internal cardiac massage. But nothing helped. He just bled to death.”

Somebody asked whether Yoko Ono was crying as she waited inside with record producer David Geffen and others for the inevitable to happen. “No, she wasn’t crying,” an attendant said. “She’s got $30 million coming to her. Do you blame her for being so cool?”

Inside, Stephan Lynn, the director of emergency services, finally gave up. The official moment of death was recorded as 11:15 P.M.

The body was wrapped and taken to the morgue wagon. When a police car came out of the basement drive, its lights twirling in the signal of distress, and the photographers saw the morgue wagon behind the squad car, there was another scramble. The photographers followed the wagon up the block and then stopped as it pushed out into the city. Yoko wasn’t in it. Got to get Yoko. Yoko’s grief. They did and then left. The parking lot seemed desolate. A man named Eduardo was among those left behind. He was well dressed, middle-aged, and someone asked him why he was there.

“If the Jews had a Christ, the Christians had John Lennon and the Beatles,” he said. “I’m proud to have belonged to the sixties.”

At the morgue, the entrance was sealed shut with a lock and chain. Attendants with green mortuary masks moved around in dumb show, their words inaudible, or typed out forms on grim civil-service typewriters. Behind them, in a refrigerator, lay the sixties.


The long and winding road that leads to your door,
Will never disappear, I’ve seen that road before
It always leads me here, lead me to your door.
—Lennon and McCartney

His name was Mark David Chapman. The pictures show us a suety little man, with a small nose, porky jowls, lank hair flopped forward. Those pictures, drawn on the run while Mark David Chapman was being arraigned for homicide, don’t tell us what was teeming around in his brain. Neither do the details of his life.

“He was a people person,” said Paul Tharp, community-relations director of the Harold Castle Memorial Hospital, in whose printshop Chapman had worked for two years. “He was a man who liked to be with people, and got along well with co-workers. He was a good worker and a go-getter. He was an all-around good guy.”

Yeah—and the details of his life tell us other things. That he was born May 10, 1955, in Fort Worth, Texas; that his father was named David Curtis Chapman, originally of Connecticut, then an air-force sergeant stationed at Carswell Air Force Base; that his mother was Diane Elizabeth Pease Chapman, from Massachusetts; that he was brought up in Decatur, Georgia; that his father left the air force to work for an oil company, then a bank in Atlanta, and that along the way he had taught his son how to play a box guitar.

The details tell you all of that, and how young Mark David Chapman collected Beatles records, graduated from Columbia High School in Decatur, Georgia, where he briefly played guitar in a rock band, went to work for the YMCA, and in 1975 traveled to Beirut at his own expense to work in the YMCA’s International Camp Counselor program, was caught in the Lebanese civil war, escaped death, and returned to Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, to help process refugees from Vietnam.

“The staff was pretty close,” said Gregg Lyman, who worked at Fort Chaffee with Chapman and now lives in Oak Park, Illinois. “We talked a lot about music, rock ’n’ roll. Mark came to my apartment and looked at my record collection and picked up an Allman Brothers album. I guess you can’t live in Georgia without being an Allman Brothers fan. But I can’t really recall any specific comments about the Beatles or John Lennon. Mark really wasn’t into the Beatles that deep.”

Chapman apparently used a lot of drugs in high school, but, according to Lyman, that phase was over by the time he got to Fort Chaffee. “He was the straight member of the group. I knew he had Christian convictions. We’d all be having drinks, and he’d be sitting there with a Coke.” Rod Riemersma, who was also at Chaffee and is now executive director of the Lamar YMCA branch, in Baton Rouge, agreed. “He was more straitlaced than we were,” he said. “If I told an off-color joke, he’d give me a little smile, and I’d lay off out of respect for his feelings.” Chapman had become deeply involved with Christianity in the last two years in high school, carrying around his own personal Bible and making entries in a “Jesus notebook.” Riemersma said that he and Chapman stayed in touch for a couple of years after the Fort Chaffee project, “and he concluded his letters to me with a quote from the Bible or a music lyric.”

Lyman said that Chapman grew very close with a young Vietnamese kid at camp. “The child would do what he could to help Mark,” he said, “sweep out his room, that sort of thing. Mark would sit him on his lap and talk with him, even though the child couldn’t understand what he was saying. Mark was very sad about the departure of that child. We let him lean on us that week.”

Chapman confessed some deeper troubles to another staffer named David Moore, now the 40-year-old executive director of the Duncan YMCA, in Chicago. They shared a room at Fort Chaffee.

“He was in the drug scene and had done some barbiturates and amphetamines and maybe even heroin,” Moore said. “But then he met this woman who changed his life. He was madly in love with Jessica, and she kind of straightened him around. She made him a Christian.” Under her influence, he enrolled in Covenant College, in Lookout Mountain, Tennessee. But he couldn’t hack it, either at college, where he flunked out after a semester, or with the girl, who soon left him. “He was a real bright kid who just didn’t have the discipline,” Moore said. “And he was in love with this woman. But he became unglued when he couldn’t cut it in school, and the girl told him to pack off.” Then he added, “He blamed it on himself, the breakup. He tended to blame himself for everything that went wrong. In clinical terms, he had a very low self-image. The girl was very nice: young, cute, a devout Christian. She is going through hell now more than anyone.”

Failure attaches itself to some people like an odor, and finally Mark David Chapman carried his failure with him to the sunny reaches of Hawaii. We know that in May 1977 he applied for a Hawaii driver’s license, describing himself as five-foot-eleven, 170 pounds, with brown hair and blue eyes. The 1980 Chapman is at least 30 pounds heavier. He was living then in Kaneohe, a bedroom community on the windward side of Oahu, about eight miles from Honolulu. Here the details blur: He appears to have checked himself into the Harold Castle Memorial Hospital, a small Seventh-Day Adventist institution nestled in a banana grove at the foot of the Koolau Mountains. The hospital has a catchall “human relations” unit to handle a wide range of psychiatric disorders, and there are some reports that Chapman came there because he was suicidal. (Moore saw him in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1978, and he told Moore that he had suffered a nervous breakdown.) By August 1977, Chapman was working at Castle Memorial as a maintenance man, mopping floors, tending the grounds, and then, after Paul Tharp discovered that the young man had a talent for art, he was transferred to the printshop. Most of the work was routine printing of hospital forms, but he also designed some posters. Sometimes, during lunch breaks, he would show his slides, proud of his travels.

By Christmas 1977, he was living in an apartment at 112 Puwa Place in a development called Aikahi Gardens, in Kaneohe, overlooking the Marine Corps Air Station, with a view of the Pacific beyond. The units had Mexican tile floors and, overhead, ceiling fans, and Chapman rented one with three bedrooms and then went around introducing himself as Mark from Fort Worth, Texas. His neighbors were mainly new arrivals, what Hawaiians call malihinis, or transients from the marines. Most were like Chapman in other ways; rootless, on the move, always searching for the one perfect place.

Meanwhile, other events were crowding in on Mark David Chapman. Nearly three years ago, his parents had divorced; he was reported to have been very upset by the news. His mother soon arrived in Honolulu; she was never to leave. During the same period, he met a young Japanese-American woman named Gloria Abe. She had graduated from Kailua High School in 1978 and gone to work in the Waters World travel agency in Honolulu. Chapman met her there. She was then a pretty, gentle girl who weighed about 90 pounds, and was described by a friend as “one of the world’s nicest people.”

They were married on June 2, 1979, at the Kailua United Methodist Church in a ceremony whose details were supervised by Chapman himself. One of the wedding guests remembered. “One funny thing we noticed was that he wouldn’t allow any chairs. He wouldn’t allow anyone sitting. Another thing that really kind of got me was that although it was a formal wedding his mother came in sports clothes. Mark and his mother seemed very close.”

After the marriage, Mark kept Gloria away from her old friends, then got her to quit her job at the travel agency, where she had risen to assistant manager. She took a job in the accounting department at Castle Hospital. In November 1979, Chapman decided to quit his hospital job, and the following month went to work as a $4-an-hour security man at 444 Nahua Street, a palm-encircled condominium between Waikiki Beach and the Ala Wai Canal.

In April, the couple moved to Apartment D2107 on the twenty-first floor of the Diamond Head tower of the Kukui Plaza condominium. They paid $425 a month for one bedroom. Each day Chapman went to work on the 7 A.M.–to–4 P.M. shift at Nahua Street. One of the people he worked for was a man named Joe Bustamante, who said later what everybody else said about Mark David Chapman. It’s what people always say when you knock on their doors after a homicide: “He was quiet. He never did anything unusual to make you think he would do something like that. You never had any trouble with him. I would have hired him again.” He thought for a moment. “He was a normal, regular guy. Everybody liked him.”

One day in October, Chapman told Bustamante he wanted to quit because he had to make a trip to London. He worked his last shift on October 23, breaking in his replacement, a tall, russet-haired man named Mike Bird. That day he walked through his rounds with another name on a piece of paper taped over his brown-and-white plastic name tag. He also signed that name into the building’s logbook, in high, angular letters that appeared to have been crossed out. The name was John Lennon.

On October 27, Chapman went to a Honolulu gun shop named J&S Sales, Ltd., a store whose slogan is: “Buy a gun and get a bang out of life!” He bought a five-shot 38-caliber Charter Arms revolver for $169 and added special rubber grips for another $35. The process of buying the gun was simple: He needed only to fill out two forms, one at police headquarters, a block from the gun shop, the second at the gun shop itself. He needed only to produce a driver’s license. No photograph was required.

He apparently borrowed some money from his mother and went to Castle Hospital, where his wife still worked, and borrowed another $2,500 from the credit union. By last Saturday, he was in New York. He had more than $2,000 in cash with him, fourteen hours of Beatles songs on tape, his personal Bible, a copy of J. D. Salinger’s novel The Catcher in the Rye, and the gun. He registerèd under his own name at the West Side YMCA, on 63rd Street, off Central Park West, and paid $16.50 for his room. Those are facts. It’s a fact that the following day he left the Y and checked into an $82-a-night room at the Sheraton Centre—the old Americana, visible from John Lennon’s living room—and said he would pay with a credit card. He went to Room 2730, high above Seventh Avenue. All facts.

But the facts don’t tell us what was in his head. Later, when it was over, psychiatrists theorized about what might have happened. They talked about a man who had been suicidal and then became confused about his identity (in this case thinking that he was John Lennon and that his own wife was Yoko Ono), a man who might, then, commit a murder that was actually a kind of suicide. They discussed a man who had suffered a loss of “ego boundaries,” with the blurring of lines between fantasy and reality that is the mark of the classic schizophrenic. They talked about a man who worshiped stars and could think of no way to become a star himself, except by uniting with a star in violence. They discussed the possibility of a man so crazed with love for John Lennon that the slightest rebuff—a curt word that afternoon, a scrawled autograph—might drive him to kill. They were all theories. Nobody knew for sure.

They did know for sure that Mark David Chapman left Room 2730 of the Sheraton Centre on that Monday, a day soft as spring, and went to 72nd Street. He had taken a long and winding road, from Texas and Alabama, through Lebanon and Arkansas, and all the way from Honolulu. But at last, that night, he arrived at the door. He was waiting there when John Lennon stepped out of his limousine. He was still waiting there when the cops arrived and John Lennon lay dying.


When they’ve tortured and scared you for twenty odd years
Then they expect you to pick a career
When you can’t really function you’re so full of fear . . .
—John Lennon

When it was over, when the shots had been fired and John Lennon fell out of the world, the life suddenly assumed the perfection of a novel. The novel would begin in Liverpool, a port city of Irishmen and black seamen and the music of the world, and it would end in another port, in New York, across an ocean.

“In Liverpool,” he said once, “when you stood on the edge of the water, you knew the next place was America.” And America was a specific city, as he once told Jann Wenner: “I should have been born in New York, I should have been born in the Village, that’s where I belong.”

But it was Liverpool that gave him life and shaped so much of his art and his person. “I’m a Liverpudlian,” he said to me once. “I grew up there, I knew the streets and the people. And I wanted to get out of there. I wanted to get the hell out. I knew there was a world out there and I wanted it. And I got it. That was the bloody problem.”

He was in New York when he talked about it, long after the Beatles, in some ways long after all the things that had made him unique. And still he went back in talk to Liverpool.

“Yeah, I’d sit in Liverpool and dream of America,” he said. “Who wouldn’t? America was Chuck Berry, the Leonardo of rock ’n’ roll. America was Little Richard, and ‘Johnny B. Goode’ and ‘Be-Bop-a-Lula’ and ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’ and girls with big tits. Now sometimes I walk around the docks on the West Side and I think about Liverpool. The people I went to school with. Lads full of talent and hope and all that crap. And even then, when we were just all startin’ out, they decided to go to work, to go to a job, to work in some bloody office, and I would see them, and they’d be old eighteen months later. Old. Just hunched up, like, walkin’ like their fathers, or if they were women, like their mothers. They were young, like us, and then—” he clapped his hands together sharply “—then they were old. And some of them were pissed at us, because they thought they could’ve become Beatles too. And maybe they were right. But they didn’t. They decided to die early. And I saw them, and I knew that whatever the hell happened, I wasn’t plannin’ on dyin’ in a bloody office.”

The Liverpool side of the story is now part of pop myth. John Lennon, in some crucial ways, was the center of the myth. He was the leader of the Beatles for most of their time together; he was the driving force, the hard guy who helped shove Paul McCartney, and to a lesser degree George and Ringo, past the adolescent stereotypes into a kind of music that dragged all other pop music along behind it. Lennon was the first to admit that he wasn’t a very good technical musician; he never did learn to read, and his guitar playing was as elemental as that of his early rock-’n’-roll heroes. He might agree that the Beatles were not ever the greatest rock-’n’-roll band of the era; reluctantly he might admit that such an honor probably belongs to the Rolling Stones. But the Beatles were something bigger than pop music, and John Lennon knew that better than anybody else. And it didn’t make him happy.

“We just wanted to play rock ’n’ roll,” he said to me once. “At least I did. I wanted to write something as simple and elegant as ‘Rip It Up.’ I loved it at the beginning. The Star Club in Hamburg was the best, eight hours a night, all you could drink and screw. It was bloody paradise, if you came out of Liverpool, the Liverpool Irish. We dressed like thugs, hair all grease, leather jackets; we fought with the drunks, or we went on in our drawers. And the drunks’d yell for ‘what I say,’ and we’d play it again and get pissed on this cheap German champagne. It was a good old time. Better than later. We were playin’ rock ’n’ roll.”

Hamburg was in 1960. John Lennon was only twenty years old, but he was already carrying around those things that, in Auden’s phrase about Yeats, hurt him into art. His father was a seaman named Fred Lennon who once worked on the Queen Mary but who abandoned young John shortly after his birth, while Liverpool was being bombed by the Nazis. The father later did time in jail for desertion, but when he came out, John’s mother, Julia, had already found a new man. John was sent to live with Julia’s married sister, Mimi Smith, whose husband was in the milk-delivery business.

“She just couldn’t deal with life,” Lennon said of his mother in an interview in the current Playboy. His mother lived nearby, at once a presence, a shadow, a badge of rejection. And slowly Lennon began to emerge from the loneliness and the Liverpool streets. He became a leader of a street gang, shoplifting, hitching rides on trolley cars. But he also began to draw, writing books at the age of eight, embracing Lewis Carroll; it was as if art helped him express his sense of absurdity about a world whose movies and pop songs spoke of perfect love while fathers took off for sea and mothers surrendered their children. By the time he was thirteen—in his second year at the Quarry Bank school—his report card said, “Hopeless. Rather a clown in class. He is just wasting other pupils’ time.”

Lennon himself was already feeling detached from most of the lives around him. “I felt different,” he said to me once. “I always felt different from the rest. But I didn’t know what the hell to do about it.”

Julia Lennon showed him the way. The year that he was thirteen, she arrived one day at her sister’s house with a gift for her son John. It was a guitar. She had learned a few chords on a banjo and taught him how to play them. The rage in England then was skiffle music, a casual, shuffling music that used one-string basses and washboards. Lennon began playing skiffle, but at the same time, coming across the Atlantic was Elvis Presley. Rock ’n’ roll soon entered the port of Liverpool and changed John Lennon’s life.

“Rock ’n’ roll was a place to put everything,” he told me in 1975. “You could have pictures in your head and make pictures into words, and the music would carry the words along, like a big bloody boat. And that’s what everybody started to do.”

In early 1956, John Lennon rounded up some classmates and formed his first group. They were called the Quarrymen. One night as they played a gig at the Woolton Parish Church, a left-handed guitar player showed up, looking for girls. He lived in council housing and dressed like a teddy boy.

That year, his mother had died of cancer. After the performance he introduced himself. His name was Paul McCartney.
“I showed them how to play ‘Twenty Flight Rock’ and told them the words,” McCartney told writer Hunter Davies. “I remember this berry old man getting nearer and breathing down my neck as I was playing. ‘What’s this old drunk doing?’ I thought. Then he said ‘Twenty Flight Rock’ was one of his favorites. So I knew he was a connoisseur.”

A week later, John asked Paul to join the Quarrymen. Within a month, the most successful songwriting team in pop-music history had begun to work together. John had taught himself to pick his way all the way through Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be the Day,” and their first songs were rehashed Holly. But they had begun. A year later, McCartney brought around a younger friend named George Harrison. He was only fifteen, a student at McCartney’s school, but he could play. As John Lennon entered the Liverpool Art College, Harrison joined the group. The Beatles were three-quarters there.

The Quarrymen became Johnny and the Moondogs; one of John’s fellow art students, Stuart Sutcliffe, sold a painting for $60, was talked into buying a bass guitar, and immediately joined the band, although he didn’t know how to play. They began to perform in a coffee bar called the Jacaranda Club in 1958, using a man named Tommy Moore on drums; then, changing their name to the Silver Beatles, they played their first tour outside Liverpool, wandering through Scotland. The tour was not a success; they worked in a strip joint; Moore went off to be a forklift operator. Then they picked up Pete Best on the drums, mainly because his mother ran a coffee bar called the Casbah and put them to work. Pete Best and Stuart Sutcliffe were with the band when it traveled to play the Kaiserkeller in Hamburg in the fall of 1960. That gig made them into the Beatles. Sutcliffe fell in love with a woman named Astrid Kirchherr and stayed behind in Hamburg when the job ended, and Ringo Starr later replaced Best. But the craziness had begun. Cynthia Lennon, John’s first wife, remembered it as a wild time.

One night in Hamburg, she wrote later, John “fell about the stage in hysterical convulsions with so much booze and so many pills inside him that he was no way in control. . . . That night ended with John sitting on the edge of the stage in a very unsteady manner with an ancient wooden toilet seat round his neck, his guitar in one hand and a bottle of beer in the other, completely out of his mind.”

Back in Liverpool, their playing seemed harder, more driven than anything else on the British scene. They were in the Cavern Club when Brian Epstein walked in to see their lunch-time show on November 9, 1961. Epstein was then the 27-year-old owner of the Nems Music Store; he was homosexual; he had failed as an artist and had failed during eighteen months as a student at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. But he became the manager of the Beatles, and his gift for promotion and packaging made them into gigantic stars. He had them clean up their act. He had them trim and shape the long, unruly haircuts, and wear those silly collarless suits (which John hated). He encouraged them to write their own songs. In one sense, John looked at Epstein and found the father he had never had.

“Brian was the only person I ever saw dominate John Lennon,” said attorney Nat Weiss, who later worked for the Beatles. He also thought that Epstein had a crush on Lennon: “I’m convinced that this was the strongest single reason for him wanting to manage the Beatles in the first place. At first, he was very attracted to John.” Later, John would say that he and Epstein never sexually consummated their relationship, but in 1971, four years after Epstein’s suicide, he still talked about him with strong feelings:

“We had complete faith in him when he was runnin’ us. To us, he was the expert. I mean, originally he had a shop. Anybody who’s got a shop must be all right. He went around smarmin’ and charmin’ everybody. He had hellish tempers and fits and lockouts, and y’know he’d vanish for days. He’d come to a crisis every now and then, and the whole business would f - - - - -’ stop ‘cause he’d be on sleepin’ pills for days on end and wouldn’t wake up. We’d never have made it without him and vice versa. Brian contributed as much as us in the early days, although we were the talent and he was the hustler. He wasn’t strong enough to overbear us. Brian could never make us do what we really didn’t want to do.”

The Death and Life of John Lennon
What John Lennon wanted to do was leave Liverpool, make music, get rich and famous, and he did them all. After 1964, his name was known all over the world, and his life was increasingly lived on a public stage. “You see,” he said later, “we wanted to be bigger than Elvis.” They were, but part of John Lennon wanted something else: a purer vision, a harder art, the solitude of the creator. He could never do that as a Beatle, and as their lives careened along, as the touring stopped with the last concert (San Francisco, August 29, 1966), as first John and then the others tripped on LSD, dabbled in mysticism, made elaborate acid music in the studio, and tried to adjust to incredible wealth and fame, Lennon seemed to drift away. He met Yoko Ono, seven years older, a conceptual artist, a challenge, and eventually they all drifted away. After 1970 the Beatles were finished. And John Lennon, of course, continued to make music on his own.

“Everybody wants to blame someone for the Beatles’ breaking up,” he said to me once. “They want to blame Yoko most of all. But it was already over musically before I met her.”

Lennon worked on alone, making some good music, making some bad music, dropping out for five years, becoming a father, coming back. In some of the records with Yoko, he seemed to be pushing against the limits of the pop-music form itself. But now, writing these fragments, I somehow most clearly remember him at the One to One concert at Madison Square Garden on August 30, 1972. He came onstage with Yoko, wearing a helmet, striking a guerrilla pose. And most of the music was an attack, Yoko’s shrieks piercing the crowded arena, and John standing back, allowing her room, and then singing “Come Together” and later “Give Peace a Chance.” He was all tangled up then in radical politics, a court case, hounded by the Nixon crowd and the immigration people. But there was a moment when he did what he had always wanted to do, and I wanted him to do it all night long. He stepped forward, a small smile on his face, and he started to sing “Hound Dog.”


Imagine there’s no countries
it isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
and no religion too . . . .
—John Lennon

In the crowd outside the Dakota on the third day after the murder, someone held up a small sign. JOHN LIVES, the sign declared.

There was, of course, nothing else to say.

December 1980

I remember being in Salem Massachusetts. Each afternoon we would get news from Newport and the Claus Von Bulow trial. Every day we learned what tie Claus wore and what he ate the deli. We heard testimony after testimony until the hero, the housekeeper, a small old lady of European decent and accent who spilled the beans, she saw a shadow of a person. A shadow hovering over the body of Sunny Von Bulow, who received an overdose of insulin. We cheered.

Earlier in my college career, I came home from school and found my roommates stoned on the couch eating cereal and waiting for the wedding of Princess Diana to Prince Charles. All London and England was lit up and it was early US time. Grace and Mary chose to get stoned most of the year and didnt pass but I went to swimming class and Basic Math and worked on Winter Island to pay my rent. I made it through the year and the wedding of Princess Diana

Lastly, I was in salem when i learned that John Lennon was shot on December 8 1980. I was a sophmore in college, living in own apartment with friends and I remember picking up the Globe and reading the news again and again. John Lennon was a hero and still is. Since his death, I have come to see the artist, activist and father who was John Lennon. John spoke truth to power and took stands even when he did so accidently ( beatles more famous than jesus) or by taking on Nixon. I never saw John Lennon live but i treasure his work almost everyday.

Sunday, December 07, 2008


I ran into Eric from my Weight Watchers meeting on the street last Wednesday night. He was going for Red Mango and I was leaving after using the bathroom before I went home on the F train

I finally upgraded one of my TVs to HDTV, I got a great deal on the day after Thanksgiving. I have mixed feelings about not needing the TV as my two old TVs still work. I know that my 20 year old bedroom TV is old and I dumped it and moved my larger one in the bedroom. I was able to change my cable box for a DVR (finally) and then when i was hooking up the bedroom cable box, I couldnt get it to work. I have a signal and power but the box is dead. Cablevision has to come out to look at it. So i am off from work tomorrow afternoon.

Tonight I am seeing the John Lennon Tribute at City Center. Its cold and I am thinking that I would do errands before. It is also Bank of American free museum day so maybe Ill go to the American History Museum.

Tuesday night I am see Equus with Daniel Ratcliff and Richard Griffiths on Broaday. Next Saturday has finals being due, Gene and Isabel's house concert. Sunday is the Maggie Dixon Fundraiser Basketball Tournament at MSG and Monday night is Neil Young. These things should keep me busy for a while. I will be off from work on December 19th and plan to got Philly to see World Cafe Live at Lunch with Mary Chapin Carpenter.

I have so much to do before the holiday season and seems like I have to carve in the time to do it. Missing the holiday party at work on 12/19 is helpful. I have a party on December 22nd and thats about it, except for random food stuffs that are around.
we are having lunch as a unit next week and I can get a salad or food that fits my eating.

I also have to stick to my exercise and food regime.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Capricorn Horoscope for week of December 4, 2008

Capricorn Horoscope for week of December 4, 2008

From 1987 to 2006, Alan Greenspan was Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve and a major force in shaping the world's most powerful economy. When the recent troubles hit, Congress called on him to testify. With shocking humility, he confessed that there had been a flaw in his model of reality. All those years he'd believed that "free, competitive markets are by far the unrivaled way to organize economies." Now he saw he was wrong. While I'm sorry for the collective pain his mistaken ideas have unleashed, I'm elated for him personally: How many 82-year-old men are open to the possibility that their philosophy of life needs adjustment? For that matter, how many people of any age are receptive to changing their ideas about how the world works? I invite you to take your inspiration from Greenspan, Capricorn. Be curious about how your own major theories might need revision. Doing this heroic deed will energize you with good karma and fresh mojo.

Still Proud, Still Kicking, Still Nice and Rough

ic Review | Tina Turner
Still Proud, Still Kicking, Still Nice and Rough

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Published: December 2, 2008

Several times during Tina Turner’s show at Madison Square Garden on Monday, Ms. Turner sang to the audience from on high. First she stood on a riser, later a scaffold, then a crane. It was a decent visual effect, but anyone can be imperious when she’s 30 feet above you. Her genius took hold after she was lowered to the stage.

On solid ground in high heels, she was a ferocious, shaky blur. If Motown choreography intimates the smooth stroke of a cello, hers is the sound of an outboard motor. That strobing physical language, heavily borrowed by Mick Jagger in his youth, was what stuck in your head as you left.

Nothing could outdo it: not more than 40 years’ worth of hit-song melodies, not the shamelessly extravagant stage show, which involved ninjas, flash pots and dancers in flesh-colored lamé shorts. When Ms. Turner did her farmerlike dance — palpitating with slightly bent knees, kicking out one lower leg and then the other as she grimaced and smiled at once — that was a kind of music too, and it was her gift to you.

The screaming wasn’t bad, either. Ms. Turner, who is 69, fattens her voice with emotion whether she’s singing songs of dominators or the dominated. It’s a hopeful voice; it connotes ambition and longing, never misery. But over the course of a night, she had an evenness, even a flatness. It took screams to pierce through that, and she used them pretty often, considering that this was the 30th show in a world tour that will run through April.

As Mr. Jagger has borrowed from her, she has borrowed back. This concert bore strong vibes of a Rolling Stones show: the cherry picker that swung her out in a semicircle over the first 20 rows; the insistence on playing songs with the same original arrangements (particularly “Proud Mary,” with its opening soliloquy about “easy” versus “rough”); the museumlike, video-enhanced emphasis on a back catalog of recordings, film roles and television appearances, rather than the living performer herself, as the entity to be worshiped; the carnivalesque elder-sexpot game, at which she is totally credible. And she did play a few Stones songs outright — “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “It’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll.”

Often the show felt like a sampling of MTV from about 1989. An acoustic, “Unplugged”-like section started the second half, with Ms. Turner sitting on a stool and singing a reharmonized version of the Beatles’ “Help.” (It gave her a necessary rest, and offered a better view of the lacquered red soles on her black Christian Louboutin shoes.)

She performed her version of Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love,” backed by screen images of models vamping with guitars, similar to the ones in his video. And there were high-camp interludes more properly suited for television awards shows: ninja masters fake-fighting with security guards; armored post-apocalyptic warriors (for her song “We Don’t Need Another Hero,” from the “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” soundtrack); an absurd James Bond sequence to go with her song “GoldenEye” (from the 1995 film of the same title, if you don’t have a keen memory).

As opposed to her dancing, Ms. Turner has finishing-school manners. She thanked her sound and light engineers by name; she sang “Happy Birthday” to one of her backup singers. And she told the audience, in a way that was so nuanced and artful that I can’t quite remember how she put it, to be aware of how excellent an audience it really was. Underneath the imperiousness and gloppy show business there seemed to live a decent person. She sent you home with that in mind too.

Tina Turner appears on Wednesday and Thursday at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., and on Saturday at the XL Center in Hartford;

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Tina Turner set list

Set list:
Get Back
Steamy Windows
Typical Male
River Deep, Mountain High
What You Get is What You See
Better Be Good to Me
Acid Queen
What’s Love Got to Do With It
Private Dancer
We Don’t Need Another Hero
Undercover Agent for the Blues
Let’s Stay Together
I Can’t Stand the Rain
Jumpin’ Jack Flash/Only Rock and Roll
Golden Eye
Addicted to Love
The Best
Proud Mary
Nutbush City Limits
Be Tender with Me Baby

She has one name TINA

Tina on video

70 years old and she owns the stage. Madison square garden was eating out of her hand. Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes was in the audience and when she swung out on a cherry picker over the stage she called for Tom to sing NUTBUSH. She taunted him almost to join her. Tina brought a big band, backing vocals, dancers, pyrotechnics, mulitple sets, many outfits, hair, a pinball wizard, metronome, and her 50 year old dance steps. Her singers, dancers and full out stage show pulled out all the stops and rocked the garden. Covers of the beatles, rollingstones and Tina Turner classics.

I spoke to Al Roker as he and his wife were leaving the garden. it was a night to remember.....