Monday, April 28, 2008

Keith & Richard (cont'd)

Someone in the audience asked how we could survive the Bataan Death March (also known as the Democratic primary battle). Richard, who, after all, is a comedian, said he was ill-equipped to answer that question. But he directed the audience to Bruce Springsteen's website and said quietly (for Richard) that if you support Obama and don't speak out, there is a special place in hell reserved for you.

After the talk, Jeff and I were milling about with members of the audience who were patiently waiting in queues at the signing table. As we were walking out of the Y, I suddenly grabbed him by the arm and took him back to that area. There were innovative graphic novel-like strips on the wall obviously done by young people, some in the manner of Japanese anime. Very imaginative. I vaguely remember that the plot of one concerned a female student/spy scheming with ominous characters about high school milk money. Lots of slanted lines, shadow and light.

We never got close to the wall. Keith Olbermann in the flesh was walking towards us. He was very tall. And big. (Speaking as someone who knows one, he has a big head too.) I was very excited and pushed Jeffrey up to him. Keith was surrounded by a tight group of affluent, older, well-dressed women. Jeff was very happy. He approached Keith like a close talker and said, "You've been one of my true heroes. Thanks for all you've done." He answered in a clear, deep, broadcaster's voice, "Thanks very much. Jeff: "I'm a sports fan." And: "I wish Channel 2, 4 and 7 could report news like you do." He leaned forward and loudly whispered, "Don't hold your breath."

Keith Olbermann & Richard Lewis @ 92Y

Last evening Jeff and I went to see a "talk" between 2 old friends at the 92nd St. Y auditorium. It always seems awkward to the two acquaintances involved (particularly when they are not professional interviewers or persons used to be questioned, as it was with Paul Krugman and Leonard Lopate). So I waited for Keith and Richard to warm up to the situation. And they did.

Richard rambled willingly, often out of focus. It was fun for a while but I couldn't follow him towards the end. Maybe I got distracted by the difference between a stream-of-consciousness stand-up and a tightly disciplined news anchor. But Richard was disciplined in his own right. He started by riffing on his dysfunctional family, where he didn't get any attention or any positive attention, anyway. His mother used to show him her Caesarean scar. "I couldn't get an erection for a week." He alternated between standup banter and serious matters, like addiction, almost dying and throwing his life away. Losing everything he worked for. And he admitted freely, if he didn't think it would all happen again, he might plunge back into drinking.

He dispelled the myth of drugs giving artists "creativity." As he said, (I paraphrase: I didn't tape it unlike him), he admired Jimi Hendrix very much. Some of the riffs Jimi created in the studio were just out of this world like a UFO. But to be honest and he spoke to a lot of guys who were there in the 60s, his shows were sloppy and he'd hit the wrong notes as often as the right ones, or more often. He, Richard, felt more clear-headed, controlled and that he was doing the best work of his life now that he was sober (for 14 years). He talked about Jonathan Winters, the comic he admired the most, who was still active at the age of 82. Who was sober for 30+ years, and who had survived 2 nervous breakdowns during the time when it wasn't fashionable to go in and out of rehab.

He told a funny joke about Oscar Levant, to whom he compared his own twitching, "When Jack Paar asked Oscar what he did for exercise, Oscar replied, 'I trip, stumble and fall into a coma.'"

Richard was overwhelmed by the Commander-in-Chief, who he called "someone who should be crayoning." He talked about the lack of rebellion in the country, and reminisced about the 60s (which, of course, is an aspect of the boomers that annoys people the most). But he remembers storming the barricades, taking over the administration's office (hey, I remember that too and for me it wasn't in the 60s--I was in college in 1972) and how there was a rebellious spirit in the land. He wondered about the lack of passion now. Keith replied that it was because at that time the young were subject to the military draft. And there was no draft now. Then he corrected himself. "Pardon, there is a back-door draft," where men and women who enlisted for regular duty kept being shipped back to Iraq for two, three, four deployments without any time in between to catch their breaths.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Yes! It worked in La Biblioteca! Onward...

and upward!

Just a few notes...Jeff told me that Italy outlawed extreme skinniness...there are food shortage riots erupting globally...American farmers (or industrial agribusiness) are growing corn for biofuel (ethanol), although I have not seen one fueling station pumping ethanol or any ethanol-powered fact, many farmers are growing corn instead of soybeans which means there is also a cooking oil shortage globally...

Let's get down to brass tacks. It seems like the economy is declining rapidly. In fact, you might say that if the economy were a person, the entire body is in septic shock. I just read that retailers, especially stolid, popular ones (like Linens 'n Things, which I never heard of but read about yesterday also, which had been a major acquisition of some fuckhead private equity person who bought it by accessing debt then piling it onto the retail store which was second in revenue only to Bed Bath & Beyond. Now this fuckhead can't pay the debt costs so it's teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.) Too many parentheses. Whatever.

The problem with problems in retail for instance is that they're like the center of an umbrella with many spokes attached to them for dear life. Vendors, like fabric suppliers and manufacturers of chairs, blenders, aluminum siding (no, wait, that's not right), 600-thread Egyptian cotton sheets and many others are very worried they won't get paid so they stop shipping product. Bankers and other financiers see the piled up debt on top of Linens 'N Things straining like a flimsy rooftop covered with snow and they pull out their support. The decline escalates until the store careens into bankruptcy.

In the meantime, inflation pressures are piling up. Consumers are pulling back on their spending because unemployment is growing. That is just common sense. I don't need to see the jimmied figures because I see the headlines: Bear Stearns goes under, blah blah files for bankruptcy. Of course the bodies lie on the sidewalk. Everyone at Bear is sitting around waiting for the axe to fall. They might as well pack up and leave. The first thing that usually occurs when there are declining revenues is that people are laid off. Labor is the highest cost of a business (for the most part) so to fire people is the fastest way to stem the bleeding.

Of course what has captured the headlines for the past few months is the deflation in the housing sector, or (to be as euphemism-free as possible), falling housing prices. Economic news is more dire daily and what passed for optimism is also declining (like saying, it's sure that we'll be peering at a bottom any time now).

So now you can try to stack up the problems according to which is more appalling or cataclysmic (I love using Declining wealth due to falling housing prices; negative equity (loans worth more than the collateral they're built on); no savings (part of our economy, a big part, was generated by rampant consumer spending); lots of debt everywhere, individual and corporate; rising unemployment; hideously high food prices globally leading to unrest and the toppling of a government (Haiti); the gated communities of hedge funds and auction-rate securities (gated in the sense that no investor can get their money out); horrifying price increases in prescription drugs, $5-a-gallon gasoline, $10-a-gallon milk; $4 a dozen is it that everything collapsed at the same time?

can i publish on blogger with a wi-fi connection?


Thursday, April 3, 2008

Capitalism is immoral...

is it worse to mug someone? Let's look at some snapshots of life as it is today:

The NY Post reports that there is a 2nd gold rush going on because gold is over $1000 an ounce. People who used to relocate freely to where the jobs and opportunities are cannot because they can't sell their homes. There are signs of decline in commercial real estate; again, oversupply and prices are too high. That's the reason for all the "For Rent" signs splattered across storefronts in Manhattan.