Monday, August 29, 2005

So Cindy Sheehan doesn't think this country is worth fighting for. The USA, one of the freest and most just nations in the modern world let alone history (compared to reality not a utopia), a country that lets her spew filth without a governmental bitchslap in response, is not worth fighting for. Makes me wonder what kind of country she does think is worth the fight. How about North Korea Ms. Cindy Sheehan? Let's take a look at that country. Following are highlights from a Touchstone Magazine article on this evil regime:

German activist Dr. Norbert Vollertsen was one of the first to
mobilize American advocacy for human rights in North Korea. In 1999,
volunteering as an emergency-room doctor in Pyongyang, he donated skin for a
graft for a burn victim. The North Koreans rewarded him with a “Friendship
Medal,” a car, and a V.I.P. passport, affording him the kind of access never
given to those on state visits. Vollertsen was undone when he saw the real
North Korea: the country of mass starvation; villages with no sanitation or
running water; no medical care; and orphanages full of dying children
. Since
that time, he has devoted his life to efforts to bring freedom to that country.
He and other heroes regularly risk their lives helping North Korean


A 2004 BBC documentary, Access to Evil, provided another shocking revelation. A producer and an investigative journalist were invited to North Korea to film a political documentary in which the regime offered its perspective on the nuclear crisis. Undeterred by the propaganda the authorities organized for them, the filmmakers interviewed several defectors now living in Seoul and ended up revealing North Korea’s gas chambers and chemical experiments to the world.
The witnesses included a former prison-camp security chief who had watched parents and children die by poisonous gas injected into a small glass cubicle, and a doctor who had actually performed the experiments. Those the regime considered enemies of the state, including Christians, were selected for the experiments.


Christians and other political prisoners receive life sentences of hard labor, tantamount to a drawn-out, torturous death sentence. Soon Ok Lee, a former North Korean government worker and prisoner, witnessed the persecution and death of many Christians. She saw prison officials pour molten lead over one group of elderly believers. The uncompromising faith of Christian prisoners deeply moved Mrs. Lee, who has become a Christian and a tireless activist.

What would Cindy Sheehan say if her son died to liberate the North Koreans? How can one so weak raise one so strong? I must believe that he grew into a man despite his mother and not because of her.

Andre Kertesz Photos

I found this photo simply breathtaking. The trees look so delicate and so like pressed seaweed. Yes, that was my first thought that his photo looked like my pressed seaweed.

Words that came to mind from the simple elements of a stark building and a shadowey figure: drama, suspense, foreboding, intrigue.

Elegant and restful.

A Perfect Day

I slept until almost eleven and didn't feel a moment of regret either. The only reason I got up then is that the bedroom was slowly roasting me. I then made myself some Cameron Highlands tea my sister picked up for me in Malaysia, two pieces of toast buttered with raspberry jam, and a sliced peach. Ah the decadence of buttered toast. Butter is one of my favorite foods (or is it a foodstuff? what's the difference?). As a child, I'd savor slivers of butter I shaved off the stick. Now and again you can catch me eating butter especially when I'm baking. But I digress.

I lingered over my tea reading G.K. Chesterton's What's Wrong with the World. I find his diatribes against the Reformation and Martin Luther hilarious. If I was Catholic I'd probably feel the same way. In fact many Protestants think the Catholics are seriously misguided and all going to hell. So he's really just the flip side of the same sentiment.

After breakfast I puttered around in between bouts of lethargy spent lounging on the sofa reading catalogues, magazines, and the book Answering Islam. I then trolled through various books copying passages into my ideas notebook that I wanted to ruminate on at a later date. We batted around the idea of seeing a movie, but tired of the discussion and instead pulled up a Pat Novack for Hire radio detective show from the 1940's starring Jack Webb and Raymond Burr as Inspector Hellman. You can find MP3's for a few of the shows here. The writing's smooth, the humor dry, and the delivery laugh-out-loud funny. I love it. Agnes Bolton is my favorite episode so far.

Needing to escape the heat, we decided to see the Tim Hawkinson show at LACMA (after five is free!). But not before I insisted we stop at Canter's for a bowl of Kreplach soup (with an extra kreplach) and a cup of coffee. Strangely enough I get cravings for soup even when it's 98 degrees outside. But I can only eat it if I'm in an air conditioned restaurant or it's 10 o'clock at night otherwise I perspire. Back to Tim Hawkinson. From LACMA's website (which is hideous):

The central subject of Hawkinson’s work is often his own body,
whose likeness he inflates, measures, weighs, reflects, and animates. Eschewing
conventional self-portraits, Hawkinson uses his own physical form as a starting
point for investigations into material, perception, and time. His analytical
approach is often balanced by a suggestion of spirituality, as in Balloon
Self-Portrait (1993, refabricated 2004), a life-size, inflated latex cast of the
artist’s body that has been inflated and hovers over the gallery floor like an
apparition. In other works, though, Hawkinson reduces his self to a simple
machine effect, as in the kinetic sculpture Signature (1993), which ceaselessly
inscribes the artist’s own signature.

Creepiest piece was a small sculpure of a bird skeleton made from his fingernail clippings. If I could buy one of his pieces it would be his elephant "skin" made from aluminum foil and something else. For being made from foil it looked remarkably real, but not at the same time. Intriguing. It'd look fantastic hanging in a hunting lodge.

Next, we popped into view Andre Kertesz's photography which was breathtaking. I love his eye! I'll post a few of his photos in my next posting.

After LACMA, we dined with my sister and her husband on tri-tip and champagne with Cassis.

A perfect day from start to finish.

My Friday

If not for the heat (and the lack of air conditioning in our wee apartment), my weekend would have been perfect. Friday wasn't auspicious. I laid off an employee, a very agreeable and likable fellow I'll call Mark. I've laid off employees before, but in that instance I was happy to see them leave. Not this time.

My goal during the last three (or is it now four) years as Manager has been to create a department that is highly functional and works well together. It required letting people leave for the competition without making a counter offer, laying off two others (one who was a trouble maker and another who was incompetent) and not hiring ex-employees who left on their own accord but then wanted to return to their old position. Which wasn't as simple as it sounds since I couldn't always pay my first choice candidates what they deserved or what they wanted. Yet despite the obstacles Corporate has thrown along the way, I've developed a great department. All of which to say I'm sad to see Mark leave. He was dependable, honest, intelligent, and unflappable. He made a good foil to the other more high strung tempraments in the office.

However, Mark made one egregious error in handling a large client of his. The client then threw a temper tantrum which ended with him sending an email to Mark (and copying the rest of my department--very bad form) berating him for his lack of customer service skills and ranting about all that Mark had done wrong in handling his problem. It was ugly. Unfortunately for Mark it made him the layoff target since the incident put him on my two bosses radar. And yet, it may have been the best thing for him. Mark wasn't happy; he aspired to be a scriptwriter (this being hollywood) but wasn't motivated to move on from here to pursue his dream. He also wasn't promoted like most others in the office and now wouldn't be because of losing his biggest client. Basically he was in a dead end job. So perhaps the layoff (which gave him three weeks severance) was ultimately an act of mercy to push him into his dream. Mark being Mark handled the layoff with his usual aplomb. I thank him for that.

I'm afraid there may be more lay offs in the near future. For all I know, my own.

Friday, August 26, 2005

How Hot?

I'm melting. At 11am this morning it was 90 degrees in the shade and I'm not talking about Valley temperatures which reached 100. Now, at 8:15pm it's so still and sultry I belong in a Tennesse Williams' play as the woman desperate for her man yet frigid with unresolved sexual tension. Or a dame in a Raymond Chandler novel sipping a shot of whiskey to stay cool while perched on the porch waiting for her crooked boyfriend. Yep, it's that hot.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Bangledesh Bombed

200 bombs exploded in Bangladesh last week all over the country in a well-planned attack of psychological and physical terrorism. The bombs were not intended to kill civilians....yet, but to show the terrorists power. The Islamists in Bangladesh have thrown down the gauntlet and chances are no one will challenge them for fear of deadlier destruction. I remember, before we went in to liberate Iraq, there was a lot of talk about the compatibility of Islam with Democracy. A lot of pundits were skeptical that countries with an Islamic majority could ever transition to Democracy. However, to prove the naysayers wrong, other pundits cited Turkey and Bangladesh as functioning Democracies with large Muslim populations. Bangladesh, a country that's barely on the radar of news agencies let alone the American public is the third largest Muslim nation in the world behind Indonesia and India and yet it has (had?) an established parliamentary form of democracy. But Islamists are now holding the nation hostage threatening further destruction and mayhem if they don't win enough votes to take over the Parliament and enact Sharia law. The group who planned the bombs appear to have many members who used to work in Saudi Arabia where they were indoctrinated into Wahhabism. Bangledesh is becoming the new breeding ground for terrorists. How will this effect the rest of muslim SouthEast Asia like Indonesia and Malaysia? How will these governments respond? How will or should WE respond?

Friday, August 12, 2005


I hate needles. As a child I loved getting shots. At least that's what my mom tells me. I do have a recollection of being four or five with my bum in the air getting my monthly shots for living in the tropics. My memory isn't one of trauma so it must be true that I liked them at some point. No more. Every time I get a shot I ask the nurse if it will hurt. They usually think I mean the after effects or the internal pain, but I don't. I mean the literal needle poke into the arm. And the answer is always no and they're always right, but I always keep asking. There's one notable exception. The most painful in all my history of getting shots is the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella booster (also known as the MMR in doctor lingo). Tetnus, GammaGlobulin, antibiotics, none of these even register as shots compared to the MMR. The liquid burns as it enters your arm and is so thick it takes a good minute before they remove the needle (that might be an exaggeration, but it's hard to know when it feels like you could've written a novel in the amount of time it takes) . But the pain doesn't subside since the vaccination juice continues to swirl and sting. I nearly passed out after leaving reception.

I received one other traumatic shot when I went under the knife to get a cholesterol bump removed as a wee eight year old. For years I had a small bump at the corner of my mouth growing larger and larger with each year. We were afraid it would ruin my chances of marriage if left to itself so the decision was made to Remove It! To numb the area, they slid a needle through the layers of skin between the inside and outside of my mouth starting at the corner of my mouth. Despite being one of the most painful experiences of my life, I never cried, but I squeezed the nurses hand so hard she cramped. (The other painful experience was smashing my finger in a door, having it swell to three times its natural size, and my parents saying it would heal in a day or two. Yes, they never took me to the doctor to get the finger drilled to relieve pressure and to this day it aches in humid weather (actually that's not true about humid weather. But I've always wanted a body part that augurs weather conditions)).

Why am I sharing needle memories? I had to get blood work done today to determine if I have high cholesterol or a thyroid condition. The first sentence out of the nurse were words of horror to anyone with a fear of needles. "Oh dear. I can't find your vein." AAAAAAGH. Such words immediately conjure up visions of vain (no pun intended, ok pun intended) poking and prodding with a needle to find the vein. My fears were groundless. The nurse found a plump vein in no time, filled the vial, and sent me on my way in five minutes. Ah, competency.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Those Dang Presbyterians

The PCUSA (Presbyterian Church, USA) once again thinks it's a political organization rather than a church. They'd been toying with the idea of divesting PCUSA investments from companies who work with Israel, but now have started the process. Here's Lileks risible take on the decision of the Elders of PCUSA:

The Presbyterian church - not the members, but the learned elders - has announced it will use the church’s stock holdings to target Israel for being mean to the Palestinians. But they’re not anti-Semites. Heavens, nay. Don’t you dare question their philosemitism! No, they looked at the entire world, including countries that lop off your skull if you convert to Presbyterianism, and what did they chose as the object of their ire? A country the size of a potato chip hanging on the edge of a region noted for despotism and barbarity. By some peculiar coincidence, it just happens to be full of Jews.

Doesn’t matter that one side is a liberal democracy that grants rights to women and non-Jews, and the other side has thugs and assassins for rulers and sends its kids to summer camps where they learn the joys of good ol’ fashioned Jew-killin’; doesn’t matter at all. According to the script of the hard left, Israel was created when some Europeans (hisssss) invaded the sovereign nation of Palestine, even though we all know the Jewish homeland is somewhere outside of Passaic. Then for no reason Israel invaded the West Bank and Gaza – which for some reason had not been set up as New Palestine by the Egyptians and the Jordanians, but never mind – and made everyone stand in line and get frisked. Those who joined the line in ‘67 are just getting through now. Evil Zionists.

The companies the church wishes to pressure include Caterpillar, which makes bulldozers purchased by the Israelis for the sole purpose of knocking down innocent homes of gentle lamb herders; Motorola, which among other things sells night-vision goggles that give the IDF an unfair advantage over people who want to smuggle in bombs to encourage the social-justice dialogue. The church will probably get around to boycotting Cuisinart, if the imams suggest that Jews use Cuisinart products to grind up Gentile bones for Passover pastries. Of course it’s not true, literally, but in the culture of the occupation and resistance, we must understand these things as potent metaphors. False, yes, but potent! Perhaps they could just boycott Cuisinart’s cookie-sheet division.

Check out all of Lileks' screedblogs here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Steven Vincent

I'm sure by now that most people have heard about the murder of Steven Vincent in Iraq last week. The chatter is that his NY Times opinion piece made him a prime target. I was not very familiar with his work having read only one piece of his prior to his death. But after reading that he journeyed through Iraq alone relying on his wits and contacts he made on the go, I knew I needed to read more.

Following are bits and pieces taken from his blog and from an Interview with Frontpage that will hopefully pique your interest for more. I found his style engaging and credible since he wasn't sent by any media outlet with a particular perspective. I also found his voice refreshing for he doesn't shy way from the topics no one is discussing in the mainstream media like the evil effects of multiculturalism, the continuing oppression of Muslim women, and the compatibility of Islam and democracy. If you like what you read here buy his book In the Red Zone from his blog site.

From his blog, talking about the disaster that is multiculturalism:

I'd wanted to introduce Layla to the Gary Cooper side of America, and I felt I'd succeeded. Instead of the evasive, over-subtle, windy Iraqi, fond of theory and abstraction, here was a to-the-point Yank, rolling up his sleeves with a can-do spirit of fair play and doing good. "I want to have a positive effect on this country's future," the Captain averred. "For example, whenever I learn of a contracting firm run by women, I put it at the top of my list for businesses I want to consider for future projects." I felt proud of my countryman; you couldn't ask for a more sincere guy.
Layla, however, flashed a tight, cynical smile. "How do you know," she began, "that the religious parties haven't put a woman's name on a company letterhead to win a bid? Maybe you are just funneling money to extremists posing as contractors." Pause. The Captain looked confused. "Religious parties? Extremists?"
Oh boy. Maa salaama Gary Cooper, as Layla and I gave our man a quick tutorial about the militant Shiites who have transformed once free-wheeling Basra into something resembling Savonarola's Florence. The Captain seemed taken aback, having, as most Westerners--especially the troops stationed here--little idea of what goes on in the city. "I'll have to take this into consideration..." scratching his head, "I certainly hope none of these contracts are going to the wrong people." Not for the first time, I felt I was living in a Graham Greene novel, this about about a U.S. soldier--call it The Naive American--who finds what works so well in Power Point presentations has unpredictable results when applied to realities of Iraq. Or is that the story of our whole attempt to liberate this nation?
Collecting himself, "But should we really get involved in choosing one political group over another?" the Captain countered. "I mean, I've always believed that we shouldn't project American values onto other cultures--that we should let them be. Who is to say we are right and they are wrong?"
And there it was, the familiar Cultural-Values-Are-Relative argument, surprising though it was to hear it from a military man. But that, too, I realized, was part of American Naiveté: the belief, evidently filtering down from ivy-league academia to Main Street, U.S.A., that our values are no better (and usually worse) than those of foreign nations; that we have no right to judge "the Other;" and that imposing our way of life on the world is the sure path to the bleak morality of Empire (cue the Darth Vader theme).
But Layla would have none of it. "No, believe me!" she exclaimed, sitting forward on her stool. "These religious parties are wrong! Look at them, their corruption, their incompetence, their stupidity! Look at the way they treat women! How can you say you cannot judge them? Why shouldn't your apply your own cultural values?"
It was a moment I wish every muddle-headed college kid and Western-civilization-hating leftist could have witnessed: an Air Force Captain quoting chapter and verse from the new American Gospel of Multiculturalism, only to have a flesh and blood representative of "the Other" declare that he was incorrect, that discriminations and judgment between cultures are possible--necessary--especially when it comes to the absolutely unacceptable way Middle Eastern Arabs treat women. And though Layla would not have pushed the point this far, I couldn't resist. "You know, Captain," I said, "sometimes American values are just--better

And from his interview with Frontpage, talking about the importance of words:

The most despicable misuse of terminology, however, occurs when Leftists call the Saddamites and foreign jihadists “the resistance.” What an example of moral inversion! For the fact is, paramilitary death squads are attacking the Iraqi people. And those who oppose the killers--the Iraqi police and National Guardsmen, members of the Allawi government, people like Nour—they are the “resistance.” They are preventing Islamofascists from seizing Iraq, they are resisting evil men from turning the entire nation into a mass slaughterhouse like we saw in re-liberated Falluja. Anyone who cares about success in our struggle against Islamofascism—or upholds principles of moral clarity and lucid thought—should combat such Orwellian distortions of our language.

Here he talks about the effects of tribal Islam on women:

My experiences in Iraq, together with what I witnessed in Iran in 2000, led me to wonder why the civilized world doesn’t rise up en masse and say Enough! We will no longer tolerate the way that Muslim nations in the Middle East treat women! Alas, in today’s multicultural world, such outrage is impossible.

Meanwhile, in Iraq the compass of women’s lives—their legal and social rights, hopes and dreams and image of themselves—slowly constricts. Criminals prey on females, forcing them to remain indoors after dark. Islamic clerics pressure them to don black abiyas—even when the heat tops 140 degrees. Tribal leaders and Shia imams agitate for shari’a—misogynistic Islamic law—to regulate every aspect of a woman’s existence. Polygamy, honor killings, divorce by repudiation, temporary marriages (essentially religiously-sanctioned adultery) have returned, at least as matters of serious discussion.

What I learned from Nour—and what I discuss in much of In the Red Zone--is the psychic claustrophobia of Iraqi society. Reputation and virginity are everything—should a woman lose the first, she is ostracized from “good” society; lose the second before marriage and she risks being murdered by her “shamed” family. On the street, in restaurants, taxi cabs, mosques, and public place, men (and women) stare at females, waiting—hoping—they will do something that will disgrace themselves and fuel invidious gossip. “The relationships between Iraqi men and women are sadomasochistic,” Nour told me. From what I saw, she is right.

More discussion of liberating muslim women from oprression by applying Western standards of freedom, equality, and human rights to their situation:

As I’ve noted here and elsewhere, suppression of the feminine—whether it be feminine sexuality, freedom or laughter—is the foundation upon which the death-cult of Islamofascism rests. Undermine that foundation, and the entire edifice, from al-Sadr to Zarqawi to bin Laden will collapse.

But for the West to encourage such an event, we must overcome our own fears of liberated women. By that I mean, the Left must discard a multicultural mindset that refuses to use Western standards to criticize other cultures, even when Western values—such as feminism--are clearly more beneficial to those cultures. As I describe in my book, one afternoon in Baghdad I listened to a group of Western anti-war activists complain that the American invasion of Iraq was an imperialistic attempt to crush the country’s native culture. When I suggested that some aspect of this “native culture” should be crushed—like forcing women to wear black sacks in blistering summer weather—one of the activists looked at me with a shocked expression. “But feminism has brought such destruction to the American family, do we want to wish that on Iraq?” And she was no post-feminist youngster, but a woman from the anti-Vietnam War days!

This—along with an unwillingness to support the Bush Administration in anything—explains in large part the silence of the Left as Islamofascists repeatedly violate their core beliefs of secularism, human rights and creative freedom (where are the outcries about the murder of Theo van Gogh? They come mostly from the Right). I remember my Iraqi friend Naseer telling me how impressed his mother was to see American women soldiers. His mom didn’t realize such gender equality was possible, or that women could interact so easily with their male counterparts—and millions of other women across Iraq are learning similar feminist lessons. The Left has got to accept one fact that has stuck in their craw since the Vietnam War: where the American military goes, so goes human freedom.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Great Pick Up Line

So I'm hanging out with Steve, my husband, and a friend at an art opening this weekend that included work from another friend of Steve's. As we're talking, an older man in sports attire looking a little worse for wear approaches me and says, "Excuse me Miss but are you for sale?". Uh, what's that grandpa? At least that's what I'm thinking in my head. Out loud I simply say, "Excuse me?" He continues, "I ask because you are the most beautiful work of art here." HIGH-larious. I respond, "Oh, you're too kind." To which he replies, "No, I'm not Too Kind, I'm Guy Rex." Uh, ok. Now, if he were 40 years younger that would be a great cheesy pick up line that would most likely start a conversation since I'd be laughing wine through my nose. From an old geezer it was slightly creepy since I first thought he was propositioning me. After that I just thought it was funny. Perhaps I have a nostalgic look for them, but for whatever reason I could always count on the oldies to chat me up and never the guys my age.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Deny Yourself Something

Cathy Seipp, a Silver Lake writer with a highly entertaining blog about LA social circles and much more, inadvertantly made a most profound statement about the current state of our postmodern culture:

A few weeks ago I came across an old World War I poster that announced, "Deny Yourself Something: Eat less of the food fighters need." Deny yourself something. What a curious and forgotten concept. The poster might as well have been 1000 years old instead of less than 100, so bizarre was its message to modern eyes. Contemporary citizens are far more likely to deny reality than deny themselves anything. (emphasis mine)

She's absolutely correct. You hear that sort of denial all the time. Lefty liberals would rather deny that the Iraqis are better off now than under Saddam, than deny themselves the satisfaction of hating Bush for waging "a war for oil". Men and women would rather deny that random sexual hook ups affect their soul (meaning their spiritual, mental, and emotional selves) and their bodies (STD's, abortions, sterility), than deny themselves momentary gratification. Many parents would rather deny the detrimental effects of full time daycare on the emotional and physical health of their children, than deny themselves a fancy home in a prestigous neighborhood.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Dahlias from the LA Flower Market