Monthly Archives: October 2012

Rebutting Mr. Peterfly

Thomas Peterfly has an ad on TV which is also available as a video on the internet. He is associated with Interactive Brokers and Freedom to Succeed. He accepts responsibility for the contents of the ad which is all about how America is on the slippery slope to becoming a Socialist nation because so many people are becoming dependent on the government for assistance. This is clearly a page from the book the Republicans have been writing because rich people are feeling put upon. They are contributing far more to taxes that our budget relies on, they say, than the other 99% of Americans, and their monies are paying for other Americans to be idle.
Mr. Peterfly tells us that he grew up in a Socialist nation and that this is why he can see what is happening when we cannot. However, it is just possible that he is focusing on fears from his own experience that are not appropriate in America. It is a good thing for people to be ambitious and to strive for the American Dream and if some have given up on this perhaps it is because they have found it too hard, or they have already failed at a few attempts to be successful. Making them jump in the deep end without water wings may produce a eureka moment and turn them into successful little engines of Capitalism, but they could just as easily drown.
I don’t believe that it is honest to pass off a man full of fears that he acquired in a different culture, and who has every reason to believe the “bogey” man has followed him to America, as someone with a realistic view of America. We are not a Socialist nation. Big government has not turned us into a Socialist nation. We are not going to be a nation where unregulated Capitalism is the order of the day either. If the American people choose to spend the money of the American people to help the poorest among us then that is our right in a Democracy. If a majority of people say they no longer want to spend money this way, then that will also have to pertain.
 But in this case, the people at the top, who are clearly a minority of citizens want to have a say proportional to the amount of money they feel that they contribute. This is not how America works, although if they really are paying so much then adjustments may have to be made. And while they may be paying more money, they are not paying a larger percentage of their money. Perhaps they are paying so much and the rest of us are paying so little because the economics of Capitalism and taxation and loopholes have gotten out of kilter in America. When all the wealth of a nation collects in the hands of a few it opens the door to hunger, disease, and unrest. It is also the exact recipe for revolution. (I am not making a threat, just an observation based on history.) It gives an advantage to a culture when the rich are willing to contribute to civil society. If we have too many “freeloaders” at the bottom then our government or our private sector needs to study why that is so and come up with ways to reverse the trend. As to whether or not we are becoming a Socialist nation, don’t ask a man who grew up in a Socialist society. He will see his worst fears everywhere he goes. I like your ad Mr. Peterfly; it is well done but it is not necessarily true and just repeating it over and over does not make it so. I am sorry you have nightmares, but, America is in far more danger of becoming an oligarchy than it of becoming a Socialist state. Don’t worry, Mr. Peterfly, we’ll protect you. The love of freedom runs deep in America.

Note:   Mr. Peterfly got very wealthy in America. On the left at the top is a photo of Mr. Peterfly in full riding regalia. On the right is a picture of a blue collar Peterfly as he appears in his ad against Socialism. He is a member of the 1%.

In case you have not seen this ad, here’s the link:

Sandy

Hurricane Sandy (Tropical Cyclone Sandy) dominated our thoughts yesterday while we waited for it to arrive and now it is again foremost in our minds as we watch the parade of the damages on the media. It seems to me that the NYC area has been hit by storms an inordinate number of times lately, but it is a coastal city on a huge ocean and sources seem to suggest that it has always been a target. NYC, usually such an exciting destination, sounds sadly lacking in creature comforts at the moment. Now I know New Yorkers are tough and will make the best of things. Eventually they will get the electricity back on and they will clean up the evidence of the flooding and life will go on, but I bet right now spirits might be lagging just a bit and at least half of New Yorkers are cold this morning. Queens was hit hard with a number of devastating fires. And when New York is hit, New Jersey is also hit. This time New Jersey took the direct hit. Lots of New Jersey is much more suburban than NYC so individual homes and businesses are hit rather than high rises. In high rises only the lobby may be involved in the flooding, but in more suburban areas more families will be homeless and will have to rebuild. Our thoughts are with all of these people today.

Snow is a really unusual outcome in a hurricane or tropical cyclone and yet West Virginia and North Carolina are fairly deep in snow. As someone who lives in a very snowy northern city these snowfalls don’t seem particulary problematic, but as someone who once spent a snowy week in Greensboro, North Carolina, I now understand that snow removal equipment is scarce in North Carolina and that cleaning up after 2 or 3 inches of snow is a much more difficult operation than it is here.  Perhaps snow removal is not so slow in W. Virginia, but in both cases melting snow often turns to ice which is far more dangerous than snow. These states do not have salt available to melt ice.

Yesterday I waited for Sandy to arrive in my part of New York State, but it never really did. It is moving very slowly and is still centered in Pennsylvania. It also seems to be taking a track that will take it west of me into Buffalo, NY and Toronto, Canada. How often does a tropical storm take a track like this? Almost never I would guess but of course if we really want to know we have the internet to tell us.

I am technologically challenged and have yet to learn the full capabilities of my camera, but I did attempt to make two movies of wind yesterday but so far I cannot get them to load. I’ll update this later if I figure it out.

In the New York Times this morning there is a slide show of past hurricanes that hit the NYC area. Here’s the link:

http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2012/10/30/nyregion/30history-slide-show.html?smid=pl-share

Well, I never was able to figure out how to load my “wind” videos, but we didn’t have much wind so all you would have seen is two different groups of trees with colorful leaves blowing around. But after watching all the footage of the damage I can see that it will take time to fix the damage this storm brought with it. We will be watching to see when you get your lights back on and as you deal with the messes Sandy has made. Please keep us all posted. We wish you warmth and comfort.

Bamboozled by Political Invective

I am very disappointed that the American people are so susceptible to political propaganda. The Republicans have played us like violins. They have supported the most strident pundits on the FOX network for most of the past 4 years. They also have bombarded radio audiences and the internet with every kind of technique ever invented to sway public opinion and they have done it endlessly and unrelentingly.
Name calling has been one of their favorite devices. They have called Obama a “Socialist”, Hitler, a Nazi, a Muslim, a terrorist, an alien (not the space kind, the non-citizen kind). They have used repetition as a sledge hammer. Say the same thing, say it over and over again, repeat it at every interview, in every newspaper and magazine article, and it will start to ring true. It will create a self-fulfilling prophecy and sweep their party into office on rhetoric alone. They have used the “I’m rubber, you’re glue; everything you say bounces off me and sticks to you” technique over and over with issues like women’s rights and the issue of divisiveness. They turn what we thought we knew inside out and upside down and people are buying this.
It makes me sad to see people being “brainwashed” by those who know what strings to pull. They prey on people’s fears of terrorism which are relatively new to us and they prey on our fear that white people are losing control of America and that America will become a nation in which white people, as the new minority will have little or no say about what will happen in America. Of course they do not state it so baldly but they want to make us believe that America will become a Spanish nation or a nation of color and the Constitution will no longer call the shots in America even though all of these groups are proud American citizens. They remind people that their hard-earned dollars are paying for people who have been institutionalized by government handouts and people start bellyaching about that until it makes them almost physically ill or so angry they start oiling their guns.
The pundits are whipping up these frightened white guys and even some white women who have perhaps already been displaced at their jobs by a new policy that favored diversity in the work place and which replaced expensive workers  with seniority and no college with college educated and perhaps minority “youngsters” who could be offered starting salaries. The pundits are using the residual anger of middle-aged white men who were forced out of their jobs during their peak earning years to elect the Republicans, who are laying claim to the Conservative grounds of a fundamentalist Constitutional interpretation. They insist over and over that America is on the wrong path without specifying exactly what the wrong path is beyond saying that government is too big and too invasive because if they spelled it all out they would be properly identified as bigots. They try to distract us from noticing that they have actually come to espouse some even nuttier ideas on science and social issues.
 We have let these fear-mongers pull our chains and blow air up our skirts and any other invasive clichés we can think up. They have treated us like puppets by finding our fears and playing on them. They have identified the buried anger in displaced workers and have been happy to subtly kick it up a notch or two. They have blamed other Americans for simply going after the American Dream and they have diverted anger from the real culprits who shipped the jobs overseas. Those new workers often did not get to enjoy their promotions for very long. None of us realized that we were going to be caught up in a global economic tsunami. We should feel embarrassed that we are so easily led by stirring speeches that are oh so wrong in content and intent. Drama may be fun; it may wake us up and make us feel alive, but it is not necessarily true or real.
What people think they long for is no longer possible. The world is changing and the changes cannot be stopped and they cannot be reversed without genocide, environmental disaster, or divine intervention. We can try to build a wall all around America to keep out the future but I hate to think about what we will become if we take this path. We will be living in a global world unless all engines cease working and people can no longer travel long distances quickly. Diversity is unavoidable. Dealing with the baggage of other nations is unavoidable. The fears that these tricky talkers are riling up are dinosaurs from a past to which we no longer have access. The future will find us no matter how hard we try to regress. Will we like the future? I think the chances are greater if we stay in the game and try to help design a future we can accept than if we wail and moan and go to the trenches to escape the changes that are already in process. One way we can keep ourselves present in inventing the future is to refuse to elect the party of propaganda, the party of sleight of speech, those carnival shills, the Republicans. Elect Democrats to disperse the cloud of obfuscation. They have a more understanding approach to the future.

Protecting the Grid

Recently we were warned once again about possible terrorist attacks on the grid and the internet. Shutting off our electricity in almost any season would be uncomfortable and difficult but with winter coming it could be deadly. Given that our grid has become increasingly centralized in interdependent districts which, if disabled would affect huge areas of the United States, the possibility of outages caused by hacking or similar tactics is intimidating and could have very serious outcomes. Similarly disruptions to the internet, on which we have grown increasingly dependent, would be equally daunting.

The dangers are spelled out in an article entitled DOD official:  Vulnerability of U. S. electrical grid is a dire concern, by Dan Merica.

Speaking candidly at the Aspen Security Forum, one defense department official expressed great concern about the possibility of a terrorist attack on the U.S. electric grid that would cause a “long term, large scale outage.”
Paul Stockton, assistant secretary for Homeland Defense and Americas’ Security Affairs at the Department of Defense, said such an attack would affect critical defense infrastructure at home and abroad – a thought that Stockton said was keeping him up at night.
“The DOD depends on infrastructure in order to be able to operate abroad. And to make those operations function, we depend on the electric grid,” Stockton said.
The concern, Stockton continued, was that America’s adversaries would avoid attacking “the pointy end of the spear,” meaning combat troops, and would instead look for homeland, possibly non-military, targets.
“Our adversaries, state and non-state, are not stupid. They are clever and adaptive,” Stockton said. “There is a risk that they will adopt a profoundly asymmetric strategy, reach around and attack us here at home, the critical infrastructure that is not owned by the Department of Defense.”
But Stockton’s concerns were not solely limited to terrorist attacks. Other concerning scenarios, said the assistant secretary, include geomagnetic disturbances, earthquakes and other natural disasters that could take down the grid.
According to Stockton, a recurrence of a massive earthquake, like the New Madrid earthquake of 1812, “would cause a power outage for weeks to months across a multi-state area, rolling blackouts in the East Coast…”
What are our options? How do we defend ourselves against cyberattacks that would be designed to disrupt the American economy and could possibly be quite effective in accomplishing such a goal?  Decentralization might be one obvious choice. Divide the large grid districts into the smaller districts we used to have. This would make it difficult, however, to direct power to where it was most needed. So if giving up huge grid control centers is not desirable then we need some other solution. So we need an interconnected grid that operates like a parallel circuit rather than a series circuit, in other words, it is connected but also separate. And of course, we might be able to section off parts of the internet, but this also seems counterproductive to me, unless there is a way to minimize the separations for legitimate users.

Discussions for making a smart grid are not designed to protect the grid from terrorist attacks but they are designed to make the grid easier to maintain. Using smart grid methods is problematic because there are privacy issues. If there is a meter that can communicate to the grid from inside our homes without being read by a physical person, people worry that other info could also be gathered in this manner without our knowledge. The following explanation is from the energy.gov web site:

Smart grid” generally refers to a class of technology people are using to bring utility electricity delivery systems into the 21st century, using computer-based remote control and automation. These systems are made possible by two-way communication technology and computer processing that has been used for decades in other industries. They are beginning to be used on electricity networks, from the power plants and wind farms all the way to the consumers of electricity in homes and businesses. They offer many benefits to utilities and consumers — mostly seen in big improvements in energy efficiency on the electricity grid and in the energy users’ homes and offices.
For a century, utility companies have had to send workers out to gather much of the data needed to provide electricity. The workers read meters, look for broken equipment and measure voltage, for example. Most of the devices utilities use to deliver electricity have yet to be automated and computerized. Now, many options and products are being made available to the electricity industry to modernize it.
The “grid” amounts to the networks that carry electricity from the plants where it is generated to consumers. The grid includes wires, substations, transformers, switches and much more.
Much in the way that a “smart” phone these days means a phone with a computer in it, smart grid means “computerizing” the electric utility grid. It includes adding two-way digital communication technology to devices associated with the grid. Each device on the network can be given sensors to gather data (power meters, voltage sensors, fault detectors, etc.), plus two-way digital communication between the device in the field and the utility’s network operations center. A key feature of the smart grid is automation technology that lets the utility adjust and control each individual device or millions of devices from a central location.
Wikipedia summarizes the arguments for decentralizing the grid into Micro grids:

Decentralization of the power transmission distribution system is vital to the success and reliability of this system. Currently the system is reliant upon relatively few generation stations. This makes current systems susceptible to impact from failures not within said area. Micro grids would have local power generation, and allow smaller grid areas to be separated from the rest of the grid if a failure were to occur. Furthermore, micro grid systems could help power each other if needed. Generation within a micro grid could be a downsized industrial generator or several smaller systems such as photo-voltaic systems, or wind generation. When combined with Smart Grid technology, electricity could be better controlled and distributed, and more efficient.
These would be great areas on which enterprising young internet wizards could focus their attentions. Designing useful national security approaches for both our electrical grid and for any computer sites that need to be absolutely “unhackable” would be worth the offer of a government prize or prizes to the winning creator or team of creators. However, the real problem, besides a need for someone to create the technology, would be finding the money to implement the plan once it is designed. Money, in fact, will be a consistent litany keeping us from the future we need to build and the availability of funds will rely on rebuilding our economy.

The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling – Book

Pagford is the pretty English village which, upon the death of Barry Fairbrother, finds itself with “a casual vacancy” on the village council. It is a tiny town that represents a microcosm of human interaction and of modern culture. J.K. Rowling, author of the instantly beloved Harry Potter series, has a tough “row to hoe” here because she has decided to settle down and write grown-up books. The books she writes now may not be the megastars that turned her into a household name, but it looks like she has the goods to cross-over into the adult market.

When Barry Fairbrother dies in the very first chapter his vacancy on the Pagford council awakens the seeds of ambition in the unlikeliest people – people who have more reason to keep their business on the “down-low” than they have to run for an election. I found it a bit difficult to keep all the couples and their offspring straight. What wife belongs to what husband? Who are their children? It might actually help to make yourself a little list. When The_Ghost_of_Barry_Fairbrother hacks into the Pagford Village web site and starts to reveal the secrets kept by various applicants for Fairbrother’s seat (and one of the council members) people rush to push everything back into the secret places it is oozing out of.
Pagford, a nearly perfect English village (not), has one eyesore and blemish which is an area of housing for the poor, the addicted, the jobless, and the uneducated, called The Fields. The Weedon family – Terri, Krystal, Robbie, Nan Cath – represents the problematic interactions between Pagford and The Fields. Krystal gets to attend the school in Pagford, St. Timothy’s, because of zoning technicalities that require Pagford to provide services to the residents of The Fields. Krystal is the pivot point, the fulcrum. Will she break free of her awful legacy and soar above The Fields, or will she be pulled back down into the fray that is daily life in The Fields?
Half of the Pagford council wants to take advantage of an opportunity to divest Pagford of its responsibilities in The Fields; half are opposed to giving up on the people. Half want to renew the rent for the Bellchapel Addiction Center so that it can continue to administer methadone and otherwise help residents fight addiction; half are opposed. Barry Fairbrother, who coached the rowing team which was helping Krystal imagine a different life, was in favor of keeping The Fields as a part of Pagford and of renewing the lease on the building that houses the clinic. In addition to the very real grief his death causes, he has left an empty seat on a council that is in the middle of a very emotional decision.
The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling is a thriller because we get invested in the people and in the outcome and we want to know how it will all turn out. What is also interesting is that we follow both the parents and their adolescent offspring. These parents think they are arguing about “what would be the best for our children” when they are really just acting out their own adult delusions, egos, secret shames, jealousies, and fears. This is another novel that sets its characters down in a fairly isolated setting, snug in a little valley. The nearest town and London seem far away, although people sometimes move about and the council is virtually at war with the nearby town of Yarvil. This novel also begins and ends with death. It’s complicated, but worth it, because it is a thinker, and it is a microcosm of the issues we are all dealing with now and have dealt with since the beginning of time. We are so flawed! This is a novel that suggests that our only hope as human beings lies in taking the high road, if we can find it.

Libya on 9/11

The dialogue around the events in Libya on 9/11/2012 is troubling and brings to mind more questions than answers. We were told that the devastating attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi which resulted in the assassination of four Americans including Ambassador Chris Stevens was inspired by a movie trailer that was not respectful of Muslim beliefs. Now we are informed that this was a planned attack by Al Qaeda terrorists (Ansar al-Sharia, a group which now denies involvement) and that both the FBI and the State Department knew about this almost immediately. We don’t know what to think or what to believe. There is an article today at CNN.com called Don’t rush to join Benghazi blame game, in which Tara Miller, an ex-CIA analyst, talks about the nature of modern intelligence which is flooded with information from around the world. She says that the analysis of any given situation is often something that takes painstaking work and that evolves over time. What follows are some of the questions we have all heard being asked in the news, either as outright or implied accusations. Perhaps it really was all just a sign that our intelligence system is a rhinoceros and needs an “intelligent” overhaul.
The questions:
Did our government mislead us for reasons of national security?
Did our government mislead us to preserve the message of 9/11?
Did our government mislead us because they were worried about the effects on the election?
Did our government mislead us to because they did not want to give more power to Al Qaeda which would allow them a win and help them with their recruitment?
Did our government simply share with us whatever verified intelligence they had at the moment?
Did Mitt Romney’s comments about these events interfere with an anti-terrorism agenda or just a political agenda?
I’m sure there are more questions to ask than this, and, of course, we would rather hear the real answers sooner rather than later, unless national security actually is involved. Whatever the answer, it appears that for the present we have to learn to live with terrorists. I hope this will not always be the case. The last kind of war I expected in the 21st century was a religious war, although that was because I was lost in dreams of progress and tolerance and world peace. Paying attention has sort of dispersed that rosy haze, although I will never stop wishing that more energy will go towards winning a better life for all the people on our planet and less energy will go into seeking to fight about our differences.

Looper – A Movie

Sunday afternoons are such a good time to go see a movie. This Sunday I saw Loopers, a sci-fi time travel tale which had a creative take on heroism, which was not where I expected this movie to go. The Mob is still active in 2044, but tight regulation makes it impossible to dispose of those who “disappoint” or try to hide from it. The Mob, in control of time travel which is illegal, has solved their execution dilemma by sending offenders back in time to 2014, where they are assassinated by a hired looper who is paid with bars of silver. When it becomes time for the looper to retire, his future self is sent through time for him to assassinate. He is paid in gold for his services and is given 30 years to live on with his ill-gotten gains. Most of these poor, deluded assassins are executed by their devious boss before they ever get any enjoyment from their retirement.
We are focused on one particular looper, Joe “Watch”, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. We see him execute one hooded hood after another on the stark white sheet at the edge of a cornfield just beyond the city. We see him try to help a fellow looper who refuses to assassinate his future self and we see him punished for his reluctant act of brotherhood. We learn that there is a new maniacal leader in the future, called the Rainmaker, who has decided to end the looper program by assassinating all the future incarnations of the loopers that he can find in 2044.
When Joe Watch’s future self, Old Joe, played by Bruce Willis, shows up he intends to kill this future self and take his 30 years. But something has happened to Joe in the 30 years of his retirement loop that was unforeseen. He apparently fell in love. He wants to find his way back to his love (Summer Qing) and so he has a huge incentive to break the loop and change his fate. How does this create a hero? Is he able to cut the loop? That I cannot tell you. But I believe you will enjoy finding out for yourself. Good movie!

The Great American Divide

Ages and ages ago when this election began, the split between Democrats and Republicans was 47%/47%. Now after months and weeks and days of campaigning, after billions of dollars in ads, after weeks spent cramming for debates and after three televised debates, we, the American people have not budged. We are still facing the same great political divide we have faced for the past 4 years. How will we ever resolve our differences? We will have to depend on that little 6% in the middle, the 6% that can’t decide which way to go or that has no interest in the election and therefore will not vote. In fact we really don’t know how many of each of the 47% groups will vote. Does everyone feel a sense of urgency about this election? It seems that way if you watch CNN or FOX all day, but if you listen to family and friends on Facebook, the election is not as important as sports or their everyday lives. People who plan to vote seem to have already made a decision about who they will vote for and they are done with that. They will go vote on November 6th or not, but their attention has moved on to other interests and entertainments.
Will Democrats stonewall Republicans if Romney is elected? Well they won’t be able to unless the House changes hands and the Senate stays as it is. But they can sure try and I think they should. If we are truly evenly divided we should not allow the opposition agenda to go forward. The Democrats should cause just as much frustration for the Republicans as they have caused for us. Even though Romney is so squishy about his agenda, he still wants to do things that I don’t agree with such as overturn the Affordable Care Act and appoint Supreme Court judges who may overturn Roe v. Wade, defund Planned Parenthood, send Medicaid to the states, make 5% cuts to all discretionary items in the budget except Defense and not raise taxes on anyone at all. He implies that Obama does not take enough pride in America or beat the drum loudly enough in his foreign policy stands. While it is true that Obama didn’t call anyone the “axis of evil”, he does understand that people all around the world are interested in the same rights and privileges we treasure in America and that, when push comes to shove, he is on the side of people fighting for their rights. He also reminds us that he has gone to our allies around the world, those allies who do not favor aggression and tyranny, and that he has created a coalition of powerful nations who will at least cooperate to limit access to nuclear weapons and to help keep Iran, in particular, from making a nuclear weapon. Since Romney has moved himself to a place where he sounds far less extreme than his base, and since his foreign policy is almost exactly the same as that of Obama, I really don’t understand why we need to change horses in midstream so to speak.
If the election ends in a tie, rather than appeal to the Supreme Court for a decision, I would prefer to have 2 Presidents and 2 Vice Presidents. Maybe co-Presidents could get the job done. I am sure they would not want to turn the oval office into a boxing ring. I know this makes me sound nutty, but I prefer to categorize it as “thinking outside the box”. I am not, in any way, abdicating my preference for Obama. I just don’t ever want us to do what we did in the “hanging chads” year. The resolution to that election left almost no one happy except the Republicans in Washington. To knit the American people back together we need meaningful and carefully crafted compromise; or we need Obama!

Coffee Table Books, 2012 Just in Time for Christmas

A new coffee table book is a Christmas gift that keeps on giving. You can look it over slowly and carefully, leave it out for guests to enjoy, and then enjoy it again on a future occasion when you find your memory of the contents getting hazy again. So thank you to Amazon especially, but also the Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post Books, and the New York Times for the titles on this list of gift suggestions.
Ezra Stroller, Photographer, (coming out in November) from Yale University Press – a book of Stoller’s iconic architectural photographs, including many Kahn buildings.
Hubble’s Universe:  Greatest Discoveries and Latest Images from Firefly, 300 pgs, $50
Barefoot Contessa Parties:  Ideas and Recipes for Easy Parties That Are Really Fun, by Ina Garten
Shoes:  A Celebration of Pumps, Sandals, Slippers & More, by Linda O’Keeffe
Atomic Ranch:  Design Ideas for Stylish Ranch Homes, by Michelle Gringeri-Brown and Jim Brown
Tea Party: 20 Themed Tea Parties with Recipes for Every Occasion, from Fabulous Showers to Intimate Gatherings, by Tracy Stern and Christie Matheson
Audrey Style, by Pamela Clarke Keogh and Hubert de Givenchy (Hepburn)
A Thousand Days of Magic: Dressing Jacqueline Kennedy for the White House by Oleg Cassini
The Complete Cartoons of the New Yorker, by Robert Mankoff
Vespa, by Athos Bigongiali
Brazil:  A Cook’s Tour, by Christopher Idone
Louis Vuitton:  The Birth of Modern Luxury, by Paul-Gerard Pasols
New York:  Photographs Celebrating the Celebrity of Cities, by Ray Furse
Spain (Eyewitness Travel Guides), by Jane Ewart and Tom Prentice
Planetfall: New Solar System Visions, by Michael Benson
Here are some suggestions from 2011 which still might be enticing:
Chicks with Guns, by Lindsay McCrum, Vendome, $45
Celia Birtwell, by Dominic Lutyens, St. Martin’s, $35 (textiles)
The Fashion World of John Paul Gualitier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, Abrams, $125
The New York Public Library: The Architecture and Decoration of Stephen A. Schwarzman, by Henry Hope Reed, Francis Marrone and Anne Day, Norton, $75 (photos and text)
Coming into Fashion:  A Century of Photography at Conde Nast, Prestel, 296 pp, $40
Life Along the Line (Train Photography of O. Winston Link), Abrams, 239pp, $40
The New Biographical Dictionary of Film (reference), by David Thomson, 2010
The History of the World in 100 Objects, by Neil MacGregor, Viking, $45
Perfectly Imperfect Home: How to Decorate and Live Well, by Deborah Needleman, Clarkson Potter, $30
Temples of Cambodia:  The Heart of Angkor, by Helen Ibbitson Jessup, photos by Barry Brukoff, Vendome, $65
George Harrison:  Living in the Material World, by Olivia Harrison, Abrams, $40
Pilgrimage, by Annie Leibovitz, Random House, $50, lots of photos, no celebrities
The New York Times, 36 Hours:  150 Weekends in the USA and Canada, by Barbara Ireland, Teschen, $40
The New York Times Magazine Photographs, edited by Kathy Ryan, Aperture, $75
Star Wars: The Blue Prints, by J.W. Rinzler, Epic Ink Books, $500 (large enough to kill a small child)

Oh, Oh, I’m Becoming a Groupie

Apparently I have become a political “groupie”. Yesterday I drove into a parking lot swimming in water after ruining a small patch of grass (already ruined by many others) at an airport hanger complex in my home town in order to see Bill Clinton and Dan Maffei and various local luminaries. We all stood in a really long line for a really long time while we waited to sign in to this “on the fly” speech and photo op as Bill Clinton tries to help Dan Maffei get elected. I am planning to vote for Dan Maffei. His opponent Ann Marie Buerkle is an extreme Republican who never could represent me because all she can seem to do is try to try to convince me that the Republicans are right.
Dan Maffei is not Bill Clinton. He seems a little bit shy, but he will still represent the people of the 24th district better than Ann Marie Buerkle has done. Mrs. Buerkle never mentioned while she was running in 2010 that she was virulently anti-abortion and that her main agenda would consist of trying to defund Planned Parenthood and overturn Roe v. Wade. She could never have won in this district if she had shared that information when she was running for office here. She did tell us that she would try to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and people were feeling pretty emotional about the health care reform, so this did help her get elected at that time. She is also a deficit hawk, which doesn’t bother me, but she also believes that the 47% of people who rely on government programs are being turned into permanent dependents who are acting as a permanent drag on the American economy. She believes we can solve the deficit by cutting loose the 47%. She is not for me and her politics does not truly represent the politics of the 24th district. That the long version of why I will vote for Dan Maffei.
As to the groupie part, it is Bill Clinton that I am a groupie for because I like the way he has conducted himself since he stopped being president. By the way I am also a groupie for Hillary because she fought her demons and has conquered the whole world. I don’t think there is one corner of the world that she has not visited. She must feel so empowered by all the things she has learned in the last four years and she has done a great job as Secretary of State. As to President Clinton, the first thing I liked is that he set up his office in Harlem and the second thing I like is his Global Initiative. I like that he was not ready to rest on his laurels and that he has found a valuable way to extend his power and use it for good. They are my superheroes and I enjoy seeing what they are up to.
So I was willing to stand on a cold, and very hard, concrete floor for two hours most of which just involved waiting for President Clinton to arrive. I was willing to look out over the rows of local politicians sitting in their chairs in the front of the podium, behind the people herding fence, with cramps in my toes from that old cold concrete floor until finally my own personal member of the Justice League showed up and we were able to get down to business while Bill Clinton led us in a session of cheering for Dan Maffei.
He explained what we all believed about how the Republicans have acted for at least the past four years and even though he was “preaching to the choir” we did not have any trouble hootin’ and hollerin’ because, even in an airplane hangar in a little, nearly broke New York city, he uses the same kind of energy that makes him so popular when we see him speak on TV. It may be the last opportunity I have to see Bill Clinton in person and believe me, I saw very little of him because I am quite short. But occasionally the crowd parted and I was able to see both Bill Clinton and Dan Maffei. I am including this horrible photo that I took, which looks like both of these men are standing on stage with their ghosts, because it proves that I was there, in the same room with one of my heroes. As to Dan Maffei; I don’t care if he achieves heroic status as long as he is a good honest representative who really tries to represent everyone in the district as best he can. I hope he gets this second chance to prove that he is up to the job. We have had some great representatives. Ann Marie Buerkle, I am sorry to say, is not one of them.