Thursday, March 31, 2005

Hitchcockian Evening

Random notes from the Robyn Hitchcock show at T.T. The Bears Place in Cambridge.

I think only Robyn Hitchcock could get away with walking into the crowd doing a medley that included When Your In Love With a Beautiful Woman by Dr. Hook, Sound And Vision by Bowie, and end it with a Kung-Fu Fighting crowd sing-along (complete with "woah, oh, oh , ohs"), without being hokey.

Sitting at the bar toward the back and looking around at the crowd and there was a lot of gray hair. It dawned on me that a a lot of the bands/musicians that I like to go see are now those shows that are filled with the 40+ crowd. At first that depressed me, but then it made me happy because it means concert life doesn't have to end in middle age.

So I was at the show by myself as my wife couldn't go because for some odd reason he was playing at an ungodly early 7:00pm show. This being Boston, whenever I go out around here I've pretty much given up on the possibility of striking up a conversation with anyone. People here don't talk to people they don't know in bars like they do in, well, everywhere else. It's one of the things I miss about Chicago. But toward the end of the night there was a couple of people who sat next to me and I actually did end up chatting with them. After talking about how many times we've seen Robyn one girl asked me where I had seen him and I mentioned Seattle and Chicago shows. She asked me why on earth I would move to Boston and talked about how she hated it here too. She was also from Chicago and has plans to move back. This seems to be a recurring thing in Boston, every time I meet someone who seems really nice they turn out to be from the Midwest.

Robyn also covered Roxy Music's Oh Yeah(On The Radio) and the Beatles' Dear Prudence and ended the night with A Day In The Life.

I actually hung around long enough that I got to hang around Robyn at the end of the night with just a couple of other people. I like to do this even though it actually makes me feel like a nerd instead of cool. I just shut up and listened to him talk. His description of his music: "What I do is what everyone does in their dreams, I just do it while I'm awake". I found that so cool. I'm such a geek.

I then called my friend Mike to brag when I got home.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Rude Awakening

Still giddy from going to the Robyn Hitchcock gig last night and talking to him after the show....

But then I turn on the news this morning and the first thing I see is that ass-hole Randall Terry, founder of the violent Operation Rescue, holding another press conference outside Terri Schiavo's hospice and my giddy is in danger of disappearing. He's railing against activist judges for doing such evil things as taking the ten commandments out of the courthouse, an assault on "under god" in the pledge (don't know why he's bitching about that, his side won), creating gay marriage "out of thin air", and now for starving a woman to death. He says something about the judiciary must be stopped or told no or some other stupid shit. No wonder this guy's kids hate him. I mean seriously, a big family values guy's answer to his children making decisions he disagrees with is to disown them. So this divorced guy who doesn't speak to his children is telling the rest of the world what their moral values should be. He's using this family and their daughter to return to the prominence/notoriety he once enjoyed and to push his misogynist homophobic agenda. What an ass. I fucking hate this guy.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Dr. Evil

I really, really, really don't want to write about the Terri Schiavo case. This thing is being beat to death by every media outlet and blogger out there. Some of the best stuff written about this case and the right-wing political agenda behind it can be seen in these links:

The God Racket, From DeMille to DeLay by Frank Rich

DeLay, Deny and Demagogue by Maureen Dowd

Whose Right to Life? by Marjorie Cohn

The Amazing Hypocrites by Cindy Sheehan

When congress decided to butt their noses in to this there was no surprise that the usual suspects (DeLay, Dubya, Santorum) were involved, you come to expect stupid things from stupid people. And of course I don't expect them to feel any shame. Just this morning I heard that the Schindlers' lawyer is claiming that Schiavo tried to say "I want to live" during their last visit. That's about as shameless as you can get. But one person should be very, very ashamed of himself: Bill Frist, M.D. (R-TN).

As I'm sure you all have seen by now, Dr. Frist stood on the floor of the Senate and proclaimed that, based on watching about an hour of video footage supplied by Schiavo's parents, all of the doctors who examined her were wrong and she is not in a persistent vegetative state. The good doctor made no statements about having talked to her physicians or seen her medical records, just a videotape edited by her parents.

Now all evidence points to Bill Frist being a very smart man. Undergraduate degree in health care policy from Princeton, graduate of Harvard Medical School, surgical training at Massachusetts General Hospital, and a successful career as a heart-lung transplant surgeon. So why would he diagnose a patient he has never seen, in an area of medicine that is not even close to his specialty? For the same reason he tried to defend the administration's abstinence-only education program that claims HIV can be transmitted through sweat and tears, he's going to run for president in 2008 and needs the right wing base of his party to win. So he has decided that the letters "R-TN" and "GOP" are more important than "M.D." But then he should stop making statements as a doctor and give up his medical license, as he is now an embarrassment to his original profession. The height of this embarrassment so far was his interview with George Stephanopoulos, when he refused to say that HIV cannot be spread through tears or sweat, first saying "it would be hard" before finally just saying "I don't know". If that's true, that he really doesn't know, then someone hasn't been reading his weekly copy of The New England Journal of Medicine since about 1982.

As I've written before, my wife is a physician. We often get phone calls from my family and friends asking her for help on medical issues, and she is always generous with her knowledge. Often it is merely helping them understand something their doctor told them, or they haven't gone to the doctor yet and want to know if they should, or just give her a list of symptoms and want to know what she thinks. She will listen to them, ask them a load of specific questions, and offer some advice. How it usually goes is that she will tell them her general impressions based on the info and tell them whether they should see a doctor, what kind of specialist to see, or if they might want to get a second opinion. Never does she tell anyone that their doctor who examined them is wrong and that she knows exactly what is wrong with them and to ignore what their doctor said. Especially when it is not her specialty. That would be a serious breach in ethics, and she knows better. Even when it is something involving her specialty she tells them to go see a specialist where they live and doesn't diagnose them over the phone. She gives them her impression based on the info they provide, and then offers some general advice to steer them in the right direction.

My wife is also a dedicated vegetarian. Her specialty is nutrition. Sometimes these two things collide with one another. My wife cannot push her political/social agenda on her patients under the guise of medical advice. If studies suggest things like fish oils having health benefits, my wife can't tell her patients the opposite because the truth doesn't jive with her beliefs. The facts are the facts. And even though she wishes the world was vegetarian, she knows she can't hide the facts from her patients or twist them to fit her agenda. Again, she knows better.

Bill Frist should know better, too. I would bet he'd be mighty pissed if a neurologist told him how to perform transplant surgery, so he shouldn't be telling neurologists how to diagnose brain injuries. Both the Schiavo case and Frist's comments about the possibility of spreading HIV through tears and sweat show his complete disregard for public health when it gets in the way of his political agenda. And he should be stripped of his medical license.

I'm trying to figure out how to file a formal complaint with his state's medical board, and if anyone can file one even if they were never his patient. Hey, if he can diagnose a person who was never his patient, why can't I make an official complaint against a doctor I never went to? Only seems fair.

Until then, you can let Dr. Frist know what you think by clicking here or sending a fax to 202.228.1264 or calling his office at 202.224.3344

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Equal Time

As a final installment of my celebration of my own made-up International Women's Week, which has now kind of become a week and a half mostly because of my laziness and not writing my blog every day, I will give equal time to the women that I think, instead of our praise, deserve our scorn and if given the chance I would kick dirt in their faces. So as not to end on a sour note, I'll end today's blog with a final group of women I think rock, though this time they are of the non-famous variety and happen to be people I know.

So let's get the ball rolling on the Women's Hall Of Shame.

Nancy Grace - Guilty guilty guilty! Everybody's guilty until proven innocent to this mean mean woman. A supporter of the death penalty no matter what the circumstance, even defendants who are retarded or 15 years old, or whose defense attorneys slept through the trial. And she doesn't see a need to alter the system even though so many people on death row have been exonerated. I saw her in a discussion on CNN about the death penalty and her defense of the death penalty was ridiculous. Another guest on the show was a guy who spent years on death row for something he didn't do, railroaded by cops, but finally let out thanks to DNA evidence and the tireless work of pro-bono attorneys and students. The guy was on death row for something like 12 years and Grace actually claimed that was a sign of the system working, so no fixes needed. Innocent man on death row for double-digit years and the system is fine to her. I found out that she will be coming out with a book and get a load of the title: Objection! : How High-Priced Defense Attorneys, Celebrity Defendants, and a 24/7 Media Have Hijacked Our Criminal Justice System. Can you believe the balls of this woman? She fucking works for Court TV! She is on every single Larry King Live (don't even get me started on that ass-hole) as the "legal analyst"talking about Michael Jackson, Scott Peterson, Robert Blake, etc. Hey Sneery McSneer, guess what? You are the 24/7 media that hijacked the system you stupid bitch.

While we're on the subject of CNN women, does CNN hate women so much that they purposely find the stupidest ones they can so that the male journalist actually look reputable by comparison? From Jeanne Moos to Carol Lin to Soledad O'Brien, they are loaded with the biggest airheads in the media, not counting Deborah Norville of course, who is on a whole other plane of stupidity all her own. Beauty contests seem to be how female "journalists" are found now.

Beverly LaHaye and every other woman who belongs to the organization she founded, Concerned Women For America (or see their creepy scary official site). What concerns these women you ask? Well, apparently gender equality and seeing it crushed. They are against just about everything positive women have achieved over the last century. Birth control, abortion rights, equality in the workplace and everything defined as "feminist" they are against. Like those idiotic Southern Baptists, they believe women are secondary citizens to men because the bible tells them so. Their mission statement is a hoot: "to protect and promote Biblical values among all citizens, first through prayer, then education, and finally by influencing our society, thereby reversing the decline in moral values in our nation." Of course they also hate gay people, sex-education, and women in the military much the same as LaHaye's husband Tim's organization The Moral Majority. And of course they are in favor of forced school prayer.

Star Jones from The View. Besides the members of the Bush regime, she has got to be the most arrogant person in America. After the tsunami disaster she made a remark about being in one of the areas hit only a month earlier and that god was watching over her. Despite the fact that thousands of others died, god was "watching over" her. As John Stewart said on the Daily Show, I'm more likely to think that it was an oversight on god's part.

Oh yeah, and all those other annoying limousine liberals from The View. They succeed not just in being an embarrassment to their gender, but also to liberals. Way to go girls!

Mother Theresa. Her actions in India helped to keep oppressed several generations of some of the poorest people in the world while helping the spread of AIDS by teaching Catholic doctrine. Her preaching against things like responsible family planning to the people who could benefit from it the most, the poorest of the poor, hopefully has earned her a special place in Hell. And that's not even taking into account her being a traitor to her gender by supporting a patriarchal misogynist organization. She would have made a great member of Concerned Women For America.

Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Nicole Ritchie, Jessica Simpson and her even less talented sister, Christina Aguilera, the Olson twins, Anna Nicole Smith, etc, etc....... This needs no explanation, right?

OK, that's enough evil-woman bashing. Now lets celebrate the positive, at least to my life. Since I'm doing this without asking them first, no full last names.

Barb E. of Chicago, one of the coolest chicks around. Cares deeply about social issues like gay marriage, the war, and Israel-Palestine. Hates George W. Bush. Also loves a good cocktail, a night out on the town, good food, and Annie Lennox. Has a career running a training center for med students, and is involved in running a readers theatre company that performs for free. Also laughs at my jokes.

Martha A. of Seattle and the S.F. Bay Area. One of the hippest people I know (in a good way not the yuppie way), and also one of the most generous. Doesn't think twice about floating a friend a loan if said friend is short on rent money. Also a talented theatre artist and singer. We share a love of Ani Difranco and she turned me on to the films of Jacques Demy.

Nicole A. of Chicago. Not only a wonderfully talented actor and singer, but one of the funnest people to be around with the goofiest sense of humor. Overcame a diagnosis of a chronic illness with her dignity and humor intact and keeps working her ass off at her craft. She should be famous instead of people like Paris Hilton.

Sandy W. of Seattle. Schoolteacher, mother of a cool kid, lover of Wilco and the Indigo Girls, and one of those friends who you can't call on the phone unless you know you've got about two hours to spend. One of the most supportive friends a person can ask for. She and her husband, my good friend Trevor, are always ready with an offer of a place to crash if I need it.

Megan J. of New York. If you read my good friend Joe's blog, then you've already seen his writings on why his wife is awesome. She is one cool chick. A great photographer, Megan also just finished law school and plans to become an environmental lawyer. Gotta admire someone who spends all that money on law school to become one of the few kinds of lawyers that don't make any money, but just want to do good.

Jessica G. of New York. One of my wife's best friends since high school, Jessica is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn and has been published in a wide range of publications, including the Village Voice. An accomplished chef, Jessica also creates recipes for a line of kitchen products. And she baked the most delicious cake for our wedding.

Just a few of the women I admire and respect. You may not know them, but they are sooooo much cooler than the women on the first half of today's blog/rant. Trust me.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Talkin' About My Girl

Today's continuation of my week long salute to great women, my own International Women's Week, must begin with a disclosure of potential bias. Tomorrow will mark one year that I've been married to today's subject.

My wife, Lisa, is one of the most amazing women in the world. For starters, she's a physician. If it ended there, well, then I've already married above myself. But it doesn't. Her specialty, nutrition, might just be the most important medical specialty in the new century, with the obesity epidemic working its way up the list of top causes of death. She even has another specialty in endocrinology, doing a combined fellowship after completing a residency in internal medicine. Oh, and she's doing it at the top medical nutrition program in the country, where they only accept one fellow a year. And they asked her to be the editor of the magazine they put out. I'm convinced she's going to be one of the experts that the media calls on all the time for their reports about nutrition. ("Coming up next on Anderson Cooper 360, we'll ask Dr. Neff why we shouldn't eat a whole roll of raw cookie dough") She is one of the smartest and hardest working people I've ever known. I mean, while I was majoring in Theatre and partying (redundant?), she was doing Biology and German. Oh yeah, she's fluent in German. Which, besides being impressive, is damn sexy too. She plays the flute (though not enough I tell her), has a great eye for taking great photographs, and loves the opera. But also loves to go see rock bands and singer-songwriters and jazz.

And she loves animals. Boy does she love animals. When animals get hurt or killed in movies, she will burst out crying, like when the mouse got stomped on in the Green Mile. We were at a bullfight in Madrid once (really the wrong place for her top be) and after a huge cheer of "Ole!", we heard my wife shout to the bull "Run Sweetie!" So cute. It's the same thing that I'm sure makes her a great doctor. And such a great person to be around. And also gives her the patience to listen to Wilco over and over and over, or put up with my weird fascination with public transit.

Yet somehow she fell for me. Smart, independent, successful, beautiful, animal loving doctor for some reason likes to hang out with me. She can diagnose diseases and talk to Germans, I can quote the Simpsons and tell you everything you never wanted to know about Chicago's "L" system. Hopefully more will rub off onto me than onto her over the years. A few years ago she did start saying "D'oh" when the situation called for it, like I do and Homer before me. But that one I'm glad rubbed off.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Keep On Rockin' Girls

So many great women I want to salute this week, so I'll throw a bunch out there with links to read more about them and just a little blurb from me on why I admire and or respect them. Some are women of history, others are out there making a difference today. Some are activists, some are artist, some are both. They are/were all cool ladies.

Jane Addams(1860-1935) - Founded social settlement Hull House in 1889. Served on Chicago Board of Education, helped found NAACP, labor mediator and activist, child welfare advocate who lobbied successfully for the passage of America's first child-labor laws, helped found the ACLU, active in women's suffrage movement. A life long pacifist and peace activist, she founded the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi - Leader of the democracy movement in Burma, now called Myanmar by the ruling military junta. When elections were held in 1990, Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party won in a landslide. The ruling government refused to recognize the results and placed Suu Kyi under house arrest, as well as several other leaders of the pro-democracy party. She has lived most of the last 14 years restricted from leaving her home. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.

Ani DiFranco - A kick ass singer/songwriter, folk/punk goddess. She has sold millions of records without ever signing a contract with a record label, as she sells all her music through her own Righteous Babe Records. She can write songs about politics, love, rape, forgiveness, female stereotypes, and corporate control of the media. And she rocks. She also campaigned for my man Dennis Kucinich in the Democratic primaries.

Emma Goldman(1869-1940) - One of my biggest heroes. At the turn of the 20th century she was one of the highest profile advocates for free speech, labor unions, gender equality, the right to birth control, and even gay rights. For her ideas, such as speaking out against the draft, she was imprisoned on several occasions. The U.S. government had her deported in 1919.

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn(1890-1964) - Organizer for the International Workers of the World (IWW) by the age of 17, founding member of the ACLU, fighter for the cause of women's rights. Jailed for her political activities under the evil Alien Registration Act.

Sister Helen Prejean - I never thought in a million years I'd put a nun on my admired women list, but here she is. A tireless advocate for abolishing the evil that is the death penalty and a member of Amnesty International, this is one Catholic who's found a better way to spend her time than bashing gay people.

Sinead O'Connor - Yes, I really mean this. She rocks my world. A voice unmatched in modern music, several of her albums rank in my list of best ever. But she really solidified her place in my heart with two great statements. First, her refusal to allow the U.S. national anthem to be played over the sound system before one of her shows. And of course, the tearing up of a picture of that misogynist Pope John Paul on SNL. I loved that so much.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Justice For All

Continuing my own International Women's Week, which so far has a very Muslim feel...

Mukhtar Mai's (born Mukhtaran Bibi) story is tragic and inspiring all at the same time. She was sentenced by a self-appointed tribal council in her small Pakistani village to be gang raped. Her crime? Her brother had brought shame to a tribe by allegedly having an affair with a high-status woman from that tribe. It was decided that the way to restore honor to their tribe was to bring shame to his tribe by gang raping his sister. And that's what happened. Four volunteers inflicted the "punishment" while a large crowd of men watched and cheered. She was then thrown out on the street, naked. This kind of attack, as well as "honor killings" of women, is not rare in Pakistan and other mideast countries. Many of the women feel such shame that they end up killing themselves, and Mai thought about doing just that. You know what she did instead? She fought back. When the local police ignored her, she went to the media. Imagine, a Muslim woman went to the press and told the world she was raped and she demanded justice. Eventually the political pressure was too much for Pakistan's government, and 14 men were put on trial. Six were convicted and sentenced to hang (I'm no fan of the death penalty, but at least it is a sign that gang-raping and beating a woman should be treated as seriously as, say, pre-marital sex or stealing livestock).

Mai was also awarded about $8,000. Now you would expect that, after all she's been through, Mai would do something nice for herself with that money. Car, a vacation, shopping spree at The Gap, 2600 pints of Ben & Jerry's, or ever so many Wilco concerts.

What did she do? She built a school. For girls. The first one in her village. She has dedicated her life to educating the next generation of women, so maybe the same thing won't happen to them. She is still in danger of retribution attacks, both for fighting to have her attackers arrested and the school. An educated woman is dangerous to such misogynist patriarchal assholes. But she stays in her village anyway, and does important work at great risk to herself. Heroic. What an extraordinary person.

There has been bad news recently in her case. Seems that a different court, called the Lahore High Court, has overturned the convictions on five of the men and commuted the sentence of the sixth. Pakistan's Supreme Court decided to take over the case, but the Lahore court ordered the men released anyway. Four of them have been let out of prison and have returned to the village. She is appealing to have them sent back, hopefully she will be successful.

You can read more about Mai at a her website (apparently very low bandwidth, goes down often), and also make donations of money or materials to her school.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Woman's Work

International Women's Day came and went last Tuesday with very little coverage in the media, what with all the time needed to discuss Michael Jackson's kiddy porn and whether or not Mark McGwire took steroids (fucking duh). About the only coverage on TV about the day at all was of Turkish police (allies of the U.S.) beating demonstrators at a rally for gender equality two days prior. Love those democratic Turks!

Well, one day is too short of time to focus on the struggle for gender equality anyway. So I'm making it International Women's Week here at Out Of Tune. I'll use this space to highlight extraordinary women, personal heroes, and women I just plain admire.

We'll start with a woman I just found out about last night on 60 Minutes. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a member of the Dutch parliament. She immigrated to the Netherlands at the age of 22. Well, more like escaped to the Netherlands from a marriage arranged by her Muslim Somali parents. They were sending her to Canada to marry a cousin and when the plane made a stop in Germany she got off and caught a train to Holland, where she asked for asylum. She decided as a young child she rejected the ideas of Islam, especially the ideas about the place of women in the religion. She has made it her life struggle to speak out against the misogynistic culture of Islam, and the violence that happens against women. In this vein she conceived a short film called Submission: Part I directed by controversial Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, who was brutally murdered (shot twice, stabbed in chest, throat slit) by a religious fanatic. In the 12-minute film, a Muslim woman is forced into an arranged marriage, abused, and then punished for committing adultery after she is raped by her uncle. The woman wore a transparent burka and had verses from the Koran written all over her body. Powerful message. Pissed off a lot of people who see it as there god-given right to treat women like animals and servants. It's why Theo van Gogh was killed and Ayaan Hirsi Ali lives under around the clock protection. The murderer pinned a note on van Gogh's body addressed to Hirsi Ali, and she has received many other threats. But she fights on and continues to speak out on the horrible treatment of women in the name of religion. After getting herself out of that world she could have just left it behind her and lived her life, but instead she has dedicated herself to helping more women get out from under that same horrible oppression. And she's risked her life to do it. I admire her, and more people should know her name than Paris Hilton's.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Information-less Age

So I'm sure everyone saw this image yesterday.

Police in Chicago yesterday pretty much closed the double murder case involving the family of a federal judge and it was trumped in the media by Michael Jackson in pajamas. Now there are a lot of things that could be said about the Jacko circus, and Jon Stewart did a great job poking fun at it last night, as he always does. But one thing struck me as I watched this on the "news". While freakboy walks into the courthouse he has somebody holding an umbrella to protect him from the harsh Southern California elements (low-80s, partly cloudy yesterday). I couldn't help but wonder, what horrible sin you have to commit for your lot in life to be Michael Jackson's umbrella holder? What do you think it pays? Health benefits? How many sick days does it come with? Number of weeks paid vacation? 401(k)? I just don't think I could fall low enough to do that for a living. Even if it came with both vision and dental plans. I'd rather eat out of a garbage can than be that guy. And I thought the worst job in the music industry belonged to Jerome, Morris Day's mirror holder. I stand corrected.

Here's an item none of the 24-hour "news" channels had time for this week:

US Bars Nicaragua Heroine as 'Terrorist'
Dora Maria Tellez was a leader in the revolution that overthrew the brutal dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle and brought Democracy to Nicaragua. Along with free education and health care. Reagan and his minions did what they could to destroy it and were pretty successful. But they do still have free elections, thanks to people like Ms. Tellez. And she has visited the U.S. on many occasions, but has now been barred from entering our country for "terrorist activities". It just so happens that the man Bush named as the new intelligence Director, John Negroponte, was the man running the illegal war against the freely elected Sandinistas in the 1980s. This should be bigger news and it's not. A hero of democracy is being labeled by the Reagan...ooops, I mean Bush regime as a terrorist. People should know this. Tell everyone you know, because CNN and MSNBC sure don't seem to want to do it.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

This Train Is Bound For Liquidation

I'm a train nut. Love 'em. I love long distance trains, commuter trains, subways and "L" trains, street cars, even monorails. I even have a subscription to Trains Magazine. So let's get that admission out of the way. Full disclosure and all that.

Amtrak. Is it a great train system? Not at all, as anyone who has ever taken a train ride in Europe will tell you. It had its problems. Trains run late, equipment is outdated and in short supply, and there are not nearly as many routes as there once were. This is mostly due to under-funding over the years. Amtrak has received about $30 billion since its creation 34 years ago. A little under a billion a year for a national passenger rail system in a country as big as ours is not a bad deal. If we want more we need to spend more. It is our only national rail system, and it should be preserved and fully funded. George W. Bush doesn't think so. Bush's budget proposal for 2005 includes these two items for the national transportation budget-

Highways - $35 Billion
Amtrak - $0

So the Texas oilman wants to spend more this year on a free ride for SUVs than has been spent on passenger rail in the entire history of Amtrak. He and his little flying monkey Norman Mineta keeping singing the same tune about Amtrak being self-sufficient and turning a profit, despite the fact that nowhere else in the world does the passenger rail network turn a profit. And I've never once heard that same demand of the highways, "If I-80 doesn't start making money we're going to take away all its funding". It's just a ridiculous proposition. If my taxes have to go to free roadways for SUV driving yuppie ass-holes, then we should get our trains. At a time when just about every city in the country has finally realized you can't base your entire transportation network on cars and is building some sort of Subway/light rail/commuter rail to stop the gridlock and free flowing of oil, Bush is running the opposite direction. Even L.A. has a decent public system now. And Phoenix is building one. Dallas has exceeded all ridership expectations for both its commuter and light rail and is rushing to add more miles to the system.

And it is such a great way to travel. There is no better way to see this beautiful country than on a train. One great example is the Empire Builder. There is so much to see on this train that runs between Chicago & Seattle/Portland. The Empire Builder includes a trip through Icicle Canyon, running alongside the Columbia River through the river basin, not one but two stops at Glacier National Park (east & west entrances) and some of the most amazing scenery in Big Sky Country. And of course the trip involves two major mountain range crossings (Cascades & Rockies) that include traveling through the two longest tunnels in the western hemisphere. And there is even cute things like the owners and guests of the Izaak Walton Inn in Essex, Montana coming out to wave at the train as it goes by (yes they do it every time). This is just one train route, and only a fraction of the sights.

And you can see all this while sitting in the Sightseer Lounge Car sipping on a cocktail chatting it up with a schoolteacher from Havre, Montana. Or while having lunch with a couple of hippy college guys from U of Montana. Or drinking a beer with a couple of Amish brothers from Indiana. Or playing Euchre with a gay Australian guy as you partner. Nobody ever gets off a plane with that kind of experience. You get crushed in a little seat with no leg or elbow room that has a tiny window next to it, and there's no room to walk around or anything interesting to walk to. And if the person sitting in the seat next to you sucks or is in anyway uninteresting, well, that's your only person to talk to. On a train you can just get up and go find someone else to talk to. Like if your talking to the weird Vietnam Vet with the plate in his head showing you his Thai Chi moves you can politely excuse your self.

"Hey that's great! Oh, I'm out of beer. I gotta go to the lounge. I'll talk to later."

Easy as that. Then you go get your Australian buddy you met three hours earlier and bitch him out for leaving you there alone. Good times, good times.

So don't let Bush kill my Amtrak. He's trying to kill a federal agency that had a record breaking year for ridership, despite the fact they have less routes/miles/stations than in the past. And more could be done with proper funding and upgraded equipment. The results from the investment in California Amtrak have been amazing and ridership is passing all expectations. And more ideas. A great one would be for them to invest in European style couchette cars so that more people could take an overnight train and have a bed without the cost of Amtrak's "roomettes" which are too pricey. They should make it so people with modest income should be able to pay a little more and not sleep in a coach seat (though the seat is quite comfy).

A lot of small towns have no Greyhound service or commercial airport nearby. That's true for every stop in Montana on the Empire Builder except for Whitefish. And you want to talk hurting local business? In Havre, Montana there is a longer stop for servicing the train. So you get about 30-45 minutes to get out and walk around. Right across from the train depot there is a building that has a sign that says "RESTAURANT CASINO CIGARETTES LIQUOR". You can run into this place and get a bottle of booze and a couple packs of smokes, order some jalepeno poppers to go, have a beer, and throw some quarters in the slots while waiting for your poppers. And then jump back on the train.

I don't think he will succeed in killing it all together. Amtrak has just enough friends in Congress to keep it running on fumes another year. But I think it's worth a quick email to your Senator or Congressperson. Check out Save Amtrak or Friends Of Amtrak for more info. If we get rid of Amtrak the only long train rides will be on those damn luxury carriers that cost as much as a cruise and has the same annoying wealthy bankers, lawyers and others that I can't stand talking to. So do it for me.

Better yet, take Amtrak. Use it whenever you can.

Monday, March 07, 2005


So I just finished a whole blog for today and it got lost when I went to spell check. Shit!!!!

Check back later.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

My Dick Is Literally 12 Feet Long

Has anyone noticed lately that a lot of people use the word "literally" wrong and too often.? Someone will say "He's literally ten years old" when talking about , say, a mentally disabled person or Michael Jackson. I mean, if someone is literally ten years old....well......that means they're ten years old. Someone who is "like" a ten year old (either mentally or creepily), is not "literally" a ten year old. I'm just sayin'....

That's about the only thing bugging me today. Other than not being able to be in Chicago this weekend for the two Jeff Tweedy solo shows at the Vic Theatre in Chicago. The last shows he played at the Vic, which I attended (brag brag brag), are legendary. Well, at least I'll be able to get recordings of both since he lets people record.

Coming soon --- My plea for everyone's help to save Amtrak from being erased from existence by that evil moron Dubya. Literally.