29 May 2006

Monday Montaigne

"Chaque homme porte la forme, entière de l'humaîne condition."Every man bears the whole stamp of the human condition.

24 May 2006

Mayor Potter's Open Letter to Portland

City of Portland Seal
Office of Mayor Tom Potter
City of Portland
May 24, 2006

An Open Letter to the Portland Community:

On Thursday, May 11, 2006, a Special Agent of the Portland Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation stopped a City employee and showed her a badge and ID. He asked if she knew any City Council members. He asked if she would be willing to pass information to him relating to people who work for the City of Portland. He said that while he had duties in other areas, the agency was always interested in information relating to white collar crime and other things.

One important and legitimate role of the FBI is to investigate public corruption within government entities. For example, recently the FBI arrested a member of Congress for public corruption. But federal officials have told me they know of no public corruption in our city. Federal officials say they are conducting no investigation of the City of Portland.

The only conclusion I can draw is that the agent in question was trying to place an informant inside the offices of Portland ’s elected officials and employees, in order to inform on City Council and others.

The actions of the FBI – even if they are the actions of one agent acting on his own - come at an uneasy time for many Americans. In the past few weeks, we have learned that our phone records are not private, and conversations are monitored without warrants. Journalists exposing these actions have been threatened with prosecution.

Even if this incident is nothing more than the work of one overzealous agent, it represents an unacceptable mindset within the agency. When there is no information to indicate ANY public corruption on the part of City Council members or employees, the FBI has no legitimate role in surreptitiously monitoring elected officials and city employees.

As a city, we will continue to cooperate with the FBI on investigating criminal activities and terrorism, to ensure our community is as safe as possible.

But in the absence of any reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing, I believe the FBI’s recent actions smack of "Big Brother." Spying on local government without justification or cause is not acceptable to me. I hope it is not acceptable to you, either.

Thank you,
Tom's signature
Tom Potter

22 May 2006

May 22nd 2006 - "When did day turn into night?"

The best record in baseball today?
Yankees? White Sox? Cardinals? Red Sox?

Nope...try the Detroit Tigers!

American League
East W L Pct GB Home Road Last 10 Streak
Red Sox 25 16 .610 -- 11-6 14-10 6-4 Lost 1
Yankees 24 18 .571 1.5 14-8 10-10 5-5 Lost 1
Blue Jays 23 20 .535 3 13-8 10-12 5-5 Lost 3
Orioles 20 24 .455 6.5 14-12 6-12 5-5 Lost 2
Devil Rays 20 24 .455 6.5 12-11 8-13 7-3 Won 4
Central W L Pct GB Home Road Last 10 Streak
Tigers 29 14 .674 -- 13-7 16-7 9-1 Won 2
White Sox 28 15 .651 1 16-6 12-9 5-5 Lost 1
Indians 22 22 .500 7.5 13-10 9-12 5-5 Won 1
Twins 19 25 .432 10.5 12-8 7-17 4-6 Lost 1
Royals 10 31 .244 18 8-11 2-20 1-9 Lost 9
West W L Pct GB Home Road Last 10 Streak
Athletics 22 21 .512 -- 11-12 11-9 5-5 Lost 2
Rangers 22 21 .512 -- 9-12 13-9 4-6 Lost 1
Mariners 20 25 .444 3 12-13 8-12 5-5 Won 3
Angels 17 27 .386 5.5 8-12 9-15 3-7 Lost 5

National League
East W L Pct GB Home Road Last 10 Streak
Mets 26 17 .605 -- 14-7 12-10 4-6 Won 1
Phillies 23 20 .535 3 13-13 10-7 5-5 Won 1
Braves 22 22 .500 4.5 12-6 10-16 7-3 Won 1
Nationals 16 28 .364 10.5 5-11 11-17 4-6 Won 2
Marlins 11 31 .262 14.5 3-14 8-17 2-8 Lost 7
Central W L Pct GB Home Road Last 10 Streak
Cardinals 29 15 .659 -- 18-7 11-8 8-2 Won 5
Reds 25 19 .568 4 12-8 13-11 3-7 Lost 2
Astros 24 20 .545 5 18-9 6-11 5-5 Won 1
Brewers 23 21 .523 6 17-9 6-12 6-4 Won 1
Cubs 18 25 .419 10.5 10-10 8-15 3-7 Won 1
Pirates 14 30 .318 15 10-11 4-19 4-6 Lost 1
West W L Pct GB Home Road Last 10 Streak
Rockies 25 19 .568 -- 13-10 12-9 5-5 Won 3
Diamondbacks 24 19 .558 .5 14-9 10-10 6-4 Lost 1
Dodgers 24 20 .545 1 13-10 11-10 7-3 Won 4
Padres 23 21 .523 2 10-12 13-9 5-5 Lost 3
Giants 23 21 .523 2 11-10 12-11 7-3 Won 2

17 May 2006

New York piano tuner defies US in Cuba

"Risking fines and jail for "trading with the enemy," the New York piano tuner has shipped 237 pianos to Communist-run Cuba since 1995 to replace old Soviet-made pianos damaged by tropical humidity and termites."

Obviously, this guy isn't aiding & abetting "our enemy", which is just more of the same fear-based polemic from those who want to control you. (Jesus, when will this kind of crap end?) Treuhaft wants to help great Cuban musicians be able to play instruments that can serve their fantastic music and art.

Benjamin Treuhaft

By Esteban Israel

HAVANA (Reuters) - Benjamin Treuhaft believes pianos are not a threat to U.S. national security even if they are played in Cuba.

Risking fines and jail for "trading with the enemy," the New York piano tuner has shipped 237 pianos to Communist-run Cuba since 1995 to replace old Soviet-made pianos damaged by tropical humidity and termites.

This week he returned to Havana with 200 lbs (100 kg) of tools and a dozen music lovers to help tune the second-hand pianos donated by Americans through his non-profit "Send a Piano to Havana" program.

The 58-year-old bandana-clad activist opposes U.S. trade sanctions against Cuba on humanitarian grounds and has been to Cuba 16 times defying a travel ban for Americans.

"I was hoping to break the embargo when I first came," Treuhaft said on Tuesday as he tuned a 1934 Story & Clark Baby Grand piano donated by a woman in Concord, California.

"There was a horrible situation for pianos. The climate, the conditions, the blockade against commerce and parts," he said.

In the mid-1990s Treuhaft was fined $3,500 for going to Cuba. That did not stop him. He refused to pay.

But things have got more complicated after the Bush administration began tightening restrictions on Cuba in 2002.

In March Treuhaft received a warning from the Treasury Department that he would face criminal penalties of up to 10 years in prison and $1 million in fines if he went ahead with a plan to set up a copper bass string factory in Cuba.

Treuhaft does not care that his venture violates U.S. laws designed to undermine Cuban leader Fidel Castro's 47-year rule and bring about political change in Cuba.

He plans to call the factory the Helms-Treuhaft Piano Bass String Company, in reference to former Republican Senator Jesse Helms who sponsored a 1996 law strengthening the embargo.

"This is a holiday trip. I like to tune pianos on my holidays," Treuhaft said.

14 May 2006

More (music) from LA

Ligeti puts Beethoven in perspective
The Holocaust survivor's Requiem casts new light on the Ninth Symphony in a thrilling Los Angeles Philharmonic program.

One of the most exalted versions of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony I know of is a film documenting a Berlin Philharmonic performance conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler. But to hear the glorious Finale, with its lofty call to universal brotherhood, performed with spiritual fervor and then to watch the camera pan to an audience of intensely moved Nazi leaders is enough to generate a moral crisis in a listener.

But in the 182 years since its premiere in Vienna, the Ninth has thrilled and inspired, through live performances and recordings, probably a billion people by now, making Hitler and his cronies at least statistically insignificant. Thursday night, Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic added a couple of thousand more thrill seekers to the count in a packed Walt Disney Concert Hall.

What's more, for this exceptional program in the orchestra's Beethoven Unbound series, the thrills were moral as well as musical. The first piece on the program was Ligeti's Requiem, and it put Beethoven's masterpiece in an extraordinarily interesting light.

Beethoven and Ligeti are among music's big-time sufferers and moralists. Deaf and loveless at the end of life, Beethoven reached out to humanity at large, if in the abstract. Ligeti's grotesque perspective on life and his chronic poor health are consequences of his experiences in World War II. Born in 1923 in a section of Transylvania that now belongs to Romania, he was forced by the Nazis into a Jewish labor battalion that he nonetheless survived. Most of his family perished in concentration camps.

The Requiem reveals a composer on a first-name basis with a wrathful God. It is a piece that, in the conventional sense, offers no hope. Written for orchestra, large chorus and two vocal soloists, it encompasses only the first half of the traditional Requiem text, the gloomy scary parts about the horror of Judgment Day.

It was finished in 1965, and each of its four sections is a complex working out of advanced avant-garde techniques of the time. The chorus, divided into dozens of individual lines, creates clouds of sounds that might be the auditory equivalent of radioactive fallout. The soloists leap about musically in violent expression. The orchestral writing reveals mysterious, intricate textures that seem to darken everything they touch.

And yet the Requiem goes beyond depressing into a kind of hyperrealism. Ligeti's defense against the terrors of death is mockery. At one point, he had thought he might make this a Requiem with a cuckoo clock accompaniment of glockenspiels and bells. Instead, he came up with something far grimmer but also gripping in the dramatic power and originality of its sound world.

Salonen's performance was not dramatically over the top, as some conductors like to make this Requiem. The drama is easy. The notes aren't. Salonen went for detail and accuracy, allowing Ligeti's fascinating textures their own authority. No other music sounds like this, and to hear the incredible timbres in the clarity of Disney's acoustic, given the proper attention and balance by the Philharmonic, the mighty Master Chorale and two able soloists (Caroline Stein and Jill Grove) was, I suspect, a unique experience in the performance history of this work.

That history goes back to the premiere in Stockholm, when Beethoven's Ninth was also on the program. Back then, one British critic found Ligeti's score so shattering that he wrote he would gladly have forgone the Beethoven. I wouldn't have Thursday.

A Furtwängler Ninth here would have been intolerable. But Salonen's tight, focused, thrusting, thrilling performance was nothing at all like that. With Ligeti having sensitized the audience's ears, Salonen underlined Beethovenian detail while simultaneously producing a vigorous sense of direction.

I didn't sense that he was dreaming of starry nights in the cosmic opening measures or giving us a big sloppy kiss in the brotherhood bear hug of the ending. This was not a time for cheap sentiment. Ligeti's Requiem reminds us of what is coming and that we'd better smell the flowers while we can. Salonen was Beethoven's gardener, watering the flowers.

I noticed details in Thursday's performance I never had in this familiar music. And I discovered colors I didn't know existed, thanks to the Philharmonic's high-definition performance.

The Master Chorale sang with ecstasy on their breaths. Twyla Robinson, Grove, Marcus Haddock and Alan Held were the soloists. Their tendency was to be operatic, but Salonen drove them hard to minimize any harm.

12 May 2006

life in LA

Clipper Fan Along for Ride of His Life

Carl Cook is homeless, but the longtime supporter spends a third of his income on tickets to every home game and rides his bicycle to get there.
By Jerry Crowe, L.A. Times Staff Writer
May 12, 2006

Carl Cook is not a typical Clipper season-ticket holder.

For one thing, he's homeless.

For another, he owns no car.

Nor is he licensed to drive.

But Cook, 46, nevertheless is unflagging in his support of the Clippers, who return to Staples Center tonight for Game 3 of their Western Conference semifinals series against the Phoenix Suns. Putting mettle to pedal, he rides a bicycle to the arena from his home base in Marina del Rey, if not farther, game after game after game.

While other season-seat subscribers might sip vintage wine, knock back imported beer or nosh crudites before games, Cook chokes down exhaust.

Atop a blue-and-white, one-speed Trek Classic beach cruiser, a wire basket in front crammed with Clipper gear, he navigates traffic-clogged Mid-City streets as he makes his way downtown during rush hour, then retraces his tire tracks back to the marina late at night.

Round trip, depending on where he starts: 28 to 36 miles.

No wonder Sterling Dortch, a Clipper account executive who deals most directly with Cook, described him as "probably our most unique fan."

Certainly he is among the few who spend about one-third of their incomes on tickets to basketball games. Cook, who bunks down most nights on a friend's sailboat or in a nearby laundromat, said he makes $30 to $40 a job detailing cars near Los Angeles International Airport and $10 an hour as an attendant at a Manhattan Beach carwash.

His annual income, he said, is probably less than $10,000.

And yet he spent about $3,300 on tickets this season, sitting floor level near the tunnel where the Clippers make their entrance.

"He just eats, sleeps, lives Clippers," said the middle of his three sisters, Jody Cook of Oceanside. "Every time he comes to visit, he's always in a T-shirt or a sweatshirt, something Clipper-related. And whenever I talk to him, during the season or not, he talks about the Clippers.

"I've never seen anything like him, especially to hang in there with that team, because they've not been a very successful team. …

"It's odd, but it's his life."

Said Cook: "They bring me happiness."

It was nearly midnight, a little more than an hour after the Clippers had wrapped up a series-clinching, history-making playoff victory over the Denver Nuggets, when Cook pedaled across Lincoln Boulevard in Venice.

A Clipper beanie pulled low over his head to ward off the late-night chill, he wore a white Corey Maggette jersey, blue Clipper sweats and basketball shoes.

A motorist rolled down his window and shouted, "Go, Clippers!"

Said Cook, laughing: "They're jumping on the bandwagon."

Cook was on board years ago, dating back to the late 1980s.

"You couldn't pick an ultimate Clipper fan, other than him," said Pat Sullivan, a former employer and longtime friend who lets Cook stay in his laundromat some nights. "He lives and breathes them, wears their clothes, knows their stats."

Cycling to games, Sullivan said, "shows you his devotion."

A few seasons ago, that devotion nearly cost him his life.

Crossing the intersection of Venice Boulevard and Normandie Avenue while riding home from a game one night, Cook was struck by a motorist and sent sprawling, the hit-and-run driver speeding from the scene.

Cook regained consciousness a week later but couldn't remember the incident. He suffered a concussion and had minor scrapes and bruises, he said. But what concerned him most was that his Lamar Odom jersey had been torn and ruined.

"And it was a game-worn jersey," he said. "They're like gold."

Over protests by family and friends, Cook soon resumed making the one-hour rides to and from games, new gear on his back but no protection on his head. He won't wear a helmet, even though the Clippers offered to buy him one.

"He's pretty stubborn about that," said Sullivan. "I don't think he should be riding a bike to the games anyway. You're taking your life in your hands when you're out there on the street."

But Cook said he has run into few problems, other than a flat tire last Thanksgiving eve and a homeless man throwing things at him.

A Laker fan?

"Probably a bum I kicked out of the laundromat," Cook said.

A recovering alcoholic who said he has been sober since July 1989, Cook has never had a driver's license. He took a bus to games at the Sports Arena when the Clippers played there, he said, but now he'd rather ride his bicycle, rain or shine.

"He's pretty much just a free spirit," his sister Jody said.

As much as he enjoys the games and pulling for the Clippers, Cook said getting there and back is half the fun:

"Oh, yeah. It's a little bit of an adventure."

There is a childlike quality to the gentle, guileless Cook.

In his dreams, he does not shape the Clipper roster a la General Manager Elgin Baylor, nor make strategic adjustments like Coach Mike Dunleavy. He does not block shots in the manner of Elton Brand, nor blow past defenders like Maggette.

He dreams of schlepping towels, washing uniforms and hauling gear alongside Pete Serrano, the Clippers' longtime equipment manager.

"They wouldn't even have to pay me," he said. "I would just do it."

He remained loyal to the Clippers through decades of disappointment, even buying a membership at the El Segundo health club where they practice.

At the Sports Arena, the Clippers often gave him tickets to their sparsely attended games. That changed when they moved to Staples Center before the 1999-2000 season and fan interest grew. Cook, undeterred, said he sold his most valuable possession, a $6,400 sailboat, to help pay for season tickets.

The new owner still lets him sleep on the boat most nights and Cook takes jobs here and there, scraping together what money he can to fuel his passion.

Said Sullivan, his former employer: "He leads a simple life, by his choosing, but he's always done whatever he's needed to do to afford his Clipper seats."

When the Clippers clinched over the Nuggets — the team's only playoff series victory since it moved here in 1984 — his eyes welled with joy.

"They're like a family to me," he said. "They've always brought me something. It's like, I'll be walking down the street and somebody will say, 'I saw you at a Clippers game.' It makes me proud. I can hold my head up. Even if they lose, I get a lot of enjoyment out of going to the games.

"It's worth the ride."

09 May 2006

UU Re-vU

Nice to see the
Pitchfork "8.6" review
of Bob Drake's "What Day is it?"

I'd give it a 9.5 myself.

And in searching the internets for a photo of Bob, it was also nice to visually reaquaint myself with my old keyboard and pile of 5uus cheat-sheet manuscript that I used across Europe some 10+ years ago. My guess on the location of photo is either Bamberg or Wurzberg Germany. I dunno...