Archive for the ‘History’ Category

LA Riots as Seen from Maximum Security Prison

Saturday, April 29th, 2017

You’d think someone would have covered what it was like to experience the LA riots behind bars in the past 25 years. Something. Anything. But nope.

Then again, with Netflix’s Orange is the New Black ranking just below LA LA Land in grounded reality, such coverage probably would have been twisted into the taffy of a Broadway musical anyway.

So while a mention would’ve been interesting, I have my own view…


Obama’s Prison Visit

Friday, July 17th, 2015

THERE BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD GOES THE PRESIDENT_Where Excuses Go to DieNever mind that President Obama’s prison visit was a public relations handshake event on par with a disaster relief stop by:
I’ll take it. 

The man did, after all, pull off a first-ever presidential prison tour without a GOP push-back accusing him of somehow assisting Mexican druglord ‘El Chapo’ Guzman’s recent escape. With adversaries like Obama’s, it’s a downright miracle he hasn’t been vilified for cozying up to his convict martyr buddies. (more…)

Zamperini and Me

Monday, August 4th, 2014

"During the Olympics, I tore Hitler's swastika flag off the Reich Chancellery. I thought, 'Boy, what souvenir!'"

Seriously, shoot me if I ever name-drop –– except this once…

“Zamperini and Me” is simple to explain; the late Louis Zamperini had been my neighbor.

I didn’t know he was my neighbor until we were introduced through a mutual friend, Dena, who’d petered out beneath a big tree while jogging one day. A chainsaw firing up above her head caused her to spaz and discover a then 90-year-old Louis Zamperini, 15 feet up and clinging to branches. He guided the saw through a thick limb and only took notice of her when it fell at her feet. Or so she thought.

“Hello!” he shouted, repositioning himself to see her better.

“Hi!” she answered. “Need any help?”

“Nahh, been doing this since I bought the place, thanks. Besides, young lady, you need to keep running. Your form could improve.”

And there it was: constructive criticism from a famed Olympic athlete, a veteran of the men’s 5000 meter race. Apparently, he’d watched her flail all the way up the hill.

He climbed down to meet an equal of sorts; Dena is a short, hugely stubborn Italian. The two hit it off, and before long were enjoying tea as the sunset’s glow reached Zamperini’s collection of Olympic torches in the living room of his hillside post-and-beam home.

Now, I’m already convinced that Dena’s soul is on loan from WWII infantryman turned B-movie filmmaker, Sam Fuller, but she was really on fire after that. “You’ve got to meet Louis,” I heard again and again. “He’s so great and his story is incredible. You’ll really like him.”

I didn’t know the half of it. (more…)

There’s No Excuse for Limiting 9/11 to Hero Worship

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

Are 9-11 Remembrance Festivals really latent Islamophobia picnics?

Those that serve only to indoctrinate – yes.

NintendoYou’ve got your 9-11 ceremonies and your 9-11 family fun runs, silent auctions, parades, Karaoke, walkathons, crafts for the kids, food, refreshments, and for some groups, even mock CSI investigations with clues, evidence, and presumably “perps.” (I wonder what they look like at a 9-11 festival.)

You can be outraged at my questioning this stuff, but you can’t be offended by my asking why these events rarely include educational opportunities to broaden our understanding of cultures other than our own. Yes-yes, I understand it was Western culture that took a hit that morning, but number one, ours wasn’t the only culture to be irreversibly affected, and number two, not every follower of Islam is hiding Boeing 747 wiring diagrams. So what’s the excuse? Where’s the booth that explains to young people what the Koran is, and who reads it?

Of Connecticut’s Wethersfield 9-11 memorial picnic, a Richard M. Keane Foundation spokesperson told a local paper, “It’s a nice family evening, and a time to remember in a positive way. It’s a looking-for-the-light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel kind of theme. I think it’s a great way for people to share the day and remember, but also enjoy their families.”

Absolutely. And familiar sentiments all –– the physical and emotional scars of 9-11 are indeed part of America’s social fabric. I’m just asking why it has to be limited to only those. Why can’t it also be used as a teaching tool (and an ounce of prevention)? Limiting these festivals to only “our side” and our understanding is dangerously restrictive in terms of dealing with those suspicious or distrustful of our way of life. Even from a tactical military standpoint, a soldier would question why we’re dismissing “the other guy.” Must hearts and minds always be won after America has put itself above those with whom it seeks to gain favor? (more…)

I Can’t Always Avoid U.S. Foreign Policy

Friday, August 30th, 2013

Where’s this pressure to open another theater of war coming from?

Who would actually benefit besides those in our government bought off by defense contractor lobbyists?

Who says Attack Syria_Where Excuses Go to DieAmericans like me aren’t indifferent to innocent men, women, and children being killed with chemical agents, but we’ve grown increasingly wary of the distractive properties of a constant, multi-front war. After all, between the money spent on the aforementioned contractors and the banks backing them, America itself has been ransacked and destabilized. And who’s looking out for us while we go acting abroad on behalf of others? In fact, how can the United States authentically serve as peacekeeper, lead by example, or stand up for the little guy if we’re too busy forcing this world police thing down everyone’s throats — including those of our own majority? The credibility of American might (and ethical standards) exists not because our elected leaders keep insisting on it, but because we’ve won a few; because we’ve overcome some. But now America’s foreign policy feels like we’re still pulling the trigger, but the chamber is empty.

President Obama feels strongly that America needs to “send a message” to brutes like Bashar al-Assad. Yet if we target and destroy Assad’s chemical weapons stockpiles in a “limited” and “narrow” attack that in no way demands regime change, won’t the message be: Use chemical weapons and we’ll shoot some missiles at your bunkers but not remove you from power? This kind of shock and awe sounds more like shove ‘n shoo.

If, on the other hand, Obama & Co. stick to humanitarian aid  –terrible as that may seem–  might we instead finally send the message that America won’t be baited into intervention? Won’t it signify our intention to start holding our cards closer to our chest? Might that not help us be taken even more seriously in the long term?

Less isn’t more, you say?

Fine. But isn’t it smarter to avoid military engagement with Syrian Opposition Forces made up of jihadists and fighters about whom we know so little? Before you answer that, scroll down this long list of those groups who make up the opposition.

One last question: Does America represent the power of unilaterally exercised principles, or the principles of unilaterally exercised power?

Peckinpah Would Approve

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

When I first heard about Django Unchained, I was overjoyed at Tarantino’s taboo choice of a slavery/revenge storyline ‘cause I remember what adults used to say about the movies that inspired it back when they were “new”. Those days – without the Internet – things didn’t move as quickly and movies stayed fresher longer, so “new” would be roughly the equivalent of 2008’s Iron Man or Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino. Catching a Shaft marathon five years after the release of Shaft in Africa was seeing Shaft when Shaft was “new.” 

In addition to the usual back ‘n forth about Tarantino movies’ racism, violence, denigration of women, and dialog-heavy scenes, Django has inspired talk of whether or not it’s okay for whites to laugh at certain jokes (Djokes?) or revel in a fictional, slavery-themed film. And people should hear themselves talk! The fact that they could be taking a Tarantino movie seriously enough to assign blame, find fault, claim victimhood, and make false conclusions is asinine. Some of these cabbage heads are actually saying they enjoyed Django while walking out of the theater in protest against it. So while that’s all very pious, Django Unchained made me want to give my mom a big hug.

On Saturdays, my mom would announce to my brother, me, and any other neighbor kid within earshot that we were all going to the movies. Every child that could fit in her car was headed for the Holiday Cinema, which we knew as the “The 49¢ Theater” because the top of the marquee read, “ANY SEAT 49¢.” If you got into the car, you knew you weren’t coming home until that evening.

“It isn’t so terrible,” our parents must’ve been thinking. The place was only blocks away; it was cheap as hell and supervised; and it was located in what then passed for a respectable shopping center — if you looked at it through a bad hangover. Some of our parents qualified, so the Holiday was aptly nicknamed. (more…)

Making Room for Goosebumps

Saturday, October 13th, 2012

My nominal cynicism was extinguished when friends started callin’ with reports of a Space Shuttle on the 405. For months, we’ve known about Endeavour being hauled from LAX to the California Science Center, but it wasn’t ’til it jumped into the mosh pit of Los Angeles and became “one of us” that my heart started racing. Forgive us, but we don’t have a football team and we’re too busy acting all been there, done that to feel “a part of” something very often. So when Angelenos do come together, particularly in celebration of a worthy contribution to the world, I get happy for my hometown. 

I wish Americans had more reasons to look at each other with goosebumps on our arms and say, “Damn! That’s fuckin’ COOL!” But for everyone right now braving the schlep, the crowds, the cops, and the unfamiliar neighbors, that’s just what’s happening: folks are sharing the sidewalk and making room for goosebumps. For what it’s worth (and cursing aside), God bless the parents who’re bringing their kids. They may not understand it now, but later they’ll feel lucky and proud that their parents made the effort to share in something bigger. Right there is where excuses go to die: at the point of getting over your reasons for not trying.

If there’s one thing our country doesn’t need, it’s people claiming to be more patriotic than the next guy, and that’s so abundant now it can be difficult to stomach having “USA! USA!” screamed into my ear. This event is opposite of that. This is for those us who are proud of where country can go when it wants to, not in how much we’re entitled to get.


Associated Press | Photo By Mark J. Terrill


Awed Portrayal – RIP Gore Vidal, 1925 – 2012

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Gore Vidal - Associated Press

“Andy Warhol is the only genius I’ve ever known with an I.Q. of 60” – Gore Vidal

Few writers wrote more conversationally (or were meaner) than Gore Vidal. Of the obituaries I’ve read so far, this one is the most compelling. Reading it, you realize that with the disappearance of delayed gratification, men like this will not be made; prolificacy and achievement at this level isn’t possible.

Vidal was of an era when big-name writers fought each other literally with their fists, often repeatedly and on camera. Oh, what I would give to sprinkle the media with his kind today.