Sunday, April 30, 2006

"If This Is Goodbye" - The 9/11 Song

The last few days I’ve been in the company of a new song called “If This Is Goodbye” written by Mark Knopfler and sung along with Emmylou Harris. It goes everywhere I go, playing softly in my head every few minutes throughout the day. And every time it’s finished I feel a little bit better about 9/11. That’s the ultimate power of music – to go to the dark recesses of our souls and attach beauty to the pain. I also now understand why Mark Knopfler is such a brilliant guitarist, and why people like Eric Clapton tour with him. It’s because of the emotional depth he brings to a single note. As for the great Emmylou Harris? She’s…well, she’s Emmylou Harris. The song is based on the cellphone calls made from the Twin Towers to loved ones that horrible morning. It is devastating, and yet somewhat encouraging at the same time. If that event can be turned into a love song, then there is hope for the species after all. I’ll never think of 9/11 again without thinking of this music. It emphasizes the most profound part of the entire thing: People in a desperate situation taking the time to call their loved ones: “If This Is Goodbye.”

Is Mayor Tom Potter Out of It?

Let’s face it: Mayor Tom Potter will never be known as Mr. Excitement. He is not exactly dominating the Portland political scene with his personality. I’ve attended one meeting with him – the Portland State Town Hall about the tram - and he made a few comments but barely registered a pulse. In fact, physicists theorize that if he ever met Al Gore, the universe could come to a complete stop. They call it the Big Nap theory.
So is he on top of things or not? The best attribute I think he’s got going for himself, is that he does not appear dazzled by the job. He’s not running around like Sam Adams doing shifts here and there for a day: “Look at me! I’m a bartender! Look at me! Now I’m a cab driver!” That is an obvious sign of a politician who is way too into the excitement. Sam Adams is not just dazzled by the job – he’s dazzled by himself.
On the negative side of things, Mayor Potter often appears to be going through the motions of what he thinks a mayor should do. He’s not completely in the moment yet, and I suppose he deserves time. Here’s hoping he’s one of those quietly effective, behind-the-scenes types, because if we ever need him to motivate the city through a crisis with the shear weight of his charisma, we're in big trouble. As for now, the official position of the Portland Freelancer is that – yes - Mayor Tom Potter is a little out of it, but it’s okay. In fact, so is the Portland Freelancer.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Shame and Sadness in Washington: The White House Correspondents Dinner

In the best of times, gathering a room full of reporters and celebrities to laugh at the President is not without awkward moments, and these are far from the best of times. As a comedy writer, I was always transfixed by the White House Correspondents Dinner. You get a chance to hear the President trying to be funny followed by a major comedic star like tonight’s Steven Colbert. This was by far the most awkward of these functions that I’ve seen, mainly because the times are so terrible. Who wants to laugh it up in a tuxedo when 70 soldiers got killed this month in Iraq?
President Bush appeared with the actor who impersonates him on the Tonight Show, and it was weird. Oh sure, the laughs were there, most notably when the real President Bush said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m feeling chipper tonight. I survived the White House shake-up.” What struck me is that the guy playing the fake W. seemed more presidential. He was more substantial as a human being than the real version. Why should an actor have to dumb way down to do a convincing impression of our President? It was clever and funny but it was also deeply sad and creepy.
Steven Colbert did his entire set in his sarcastic spoof character, which is a very dangerous thing from a comedy standpoint. If the crowd doesn’t get right onboard, you’re stuck in this role – you concede a lot when you go that narrow. It wasn’t exactly a laugh riot, but these days what’s there to laugh about? Steven laid it on about Iraq and everything else. He saw what happened to Jon Stewart at the Academy Awards and he wasn’t going to err on the side of wimpy. He got after it and the crowd cringed at times with the awkwardness of the tone, especially following the President’s attempt at down-home “I’m a good guy” humor. Of course by now, that aww-shucks act has worn out for around 68% of the American people, and most in the room. But the President got more laughs because it was farther from reality. Everyone took a breather from what's really going on, and sunk into the folksy stuff. Colbert reminded the press how much they don’t like this President and our current predicament with every line. He said, "I believe the government that governs best governs least, so by those standards we've set up a marvelous government in Iraq." He also attacked the press for the weakling job they've done the last few years as journalists. Colbert was in their face, and they weren't exactly loving it.
There were also old clips on C-SPAN during dinner from past presidents and it was telling. Kennedy and Clinton stood out as being real stars. Frankly, every clip of a president before W. came off as a putdown – like they were deliberately trying to insult W. by showing what presidents used to be like.
I thought back to the Clinton appearance with Jay Leno following him to the podium. When Jay headed to Washington for that, he was interviewed by USA Today and he used one of my jokes in the paper. The Elian Gonzalez extraction from the house in Florida, had just happened and my joke was, “First, let’s be fair to Janet Reno. It went a lot better than Waco.”
I watched and taped the dinner that night, hoping that Leno would use one of my jokes directly to the president, and the Washington establishment. That would have been so cool. It didn’t happen, but I remember how keyed up I was.
What struck me tonight is how far I am from that person now. They could have let me write the entire monologue tonight and the thrill wouldn’t be the same. Not with what’s happened to this country the last few years. It’s just not as funny anymore. Watching the Washington establishment file in, I felt like they looked weary, depressed, and a little ashamed – ashamed to be contributing this particular page to the history of America.

What a Tram Rescue Looks Like

You’re 240 feet over the East River in New York City and the Roosevelt Island Tram just stops. First, the good news: The gondola car is not hurtling through the air. The last thing I want during my evening commute is an aviation accident. But what did the rescue look like?
Naturally, Portland will have all this same equipment ready to go and a tram emergency crew ready to respond just like in New York. Of course they will. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about this city council it’s that they think of everything. They don’t just get caught up in the rosy scenarios presented to them. No, they ponder what could go wrong and prepare for every contingency. That is what great leadership is all about. In fact they can probably tell us who’s building the emergency retrieval vehicle. Right, guys?
Here's one of the tram riders enjoying the lovely views.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Call L.A.: We've Got the Cover Shot


You know your plan to make an album didn't work out, when it took so long that they stopped making albums altogether.
Okay, I know there are still some specialty records for rap DJs, but the days when you held the big piece of square cardboard in your hands as the newly pressed vinyl spun around the turntable, are all but over. Oh well, here's the album cover shot for the Lighter Notes, a few decades late but still right on time. Why? Because those old days are gone, and this is now, and all things being equal, I'd still rather be in a rock and roll band. And I hear we're playing the Rose Festival this year. Good times ahead. The summer of 2006. It will only happen once so why not have fun with it?

Diane Linn: Time To Change the Channel

This sleazy scheduling fiasco is big new trouble for Diane Linn, but I already have seen enough. My breaking point occurred last year. That's when Diane Linn affected a deep personal relationship of mine: The addictive bond I have with my television. Oh, the panic that sets in when the cable company reassigns the channels, and your remote doesn’t make sense anymore. Suddenly, even black-belt, channel-flipping skills become useless, and, it seemed to be happening again this past July. How else could I be watching Multnomah Commissioner Diane Linn on what I knew to be ESPN?
Alas, my initial concerns were unfounded; the channels hadn’t changed after all. It was the press conference introducing new Blazer coach Nate McMillan to the city, and Diane was on hand to add that official Multnomah County pizzazz. She proceeded to mispronounce the new coach’s name three different times, landing him, her, and the rest of Portland onto national TV. To be fair, Nate didn’t seem to mind, and, besides, after this season he’ll probably want to go by an alias.
Still, at what point do we tire of Diane Linn’s screw-ups? They’re becoming a trademark. This latest handling of the scheduling shenanigans is just another example, but at least it's local - unlike last year on ESPN. How did she do that? If you put a team of handlers in a room and assigned them to find a way for a Multnomah County commissioner to look ridiculous on ESPN, they couldn’t pull it off. Yet Diane made it look easy. As the sports announcers would say, she’s taken her game to another level.
Local pundits will disagree on when she first exhibited this gift for gaffe, but most voters point to the snowstorm of 2004. That’s when she decided to give county workers their regular pay, even though they stayed home, assuring that those who did come in would think twice before showing that kind of dedication again. She also dished out some extra goodies to the second group and the whole self-serving stunt was supposed to be paid for by the taxpayers.
What followed was a world’s record in the number of times the word “blizzard” was used in a metaphor, and none was a blizzard of compliments. The snow coverage quickly morphed into a Diane Linn story and local observers marveled at her mighty reach. Somehow she had managed to screw up an event on the Weather Channel.
Every great artist has a masterpiece and for Diane Linn it was her intrusion into the last presidential campaign with the gay marriage debacle. Politically, it was like sending a rose-scented love letter to Karen Hughes. The Bush administration needed an issue to keep the likes of Rumsfeld and Cheney in power in 2004. These two brutes had been in a political marriage in Washington since the days of Nixon, but the spark in their relationship had gone out with the Iraq war. Rumsfeld and Cheney still made an attractive couple to most Republicans, but many Americans felt it was time for a divorce.
Suddenly, Diane Linn decided she had to issue gay marriage licenses as a matter of law, although the reason she chose this particular time, had more to do with the vast publicity states like Massachusetts were getting, than any deep interpretation of the Constitution on her part.
Indeed, gay marriage from a purely legal, non-religious standpoint appeared to be a no-brainer. If Citizen X is really attractive and lots of people want to marry Citizen X, and some can because they are one gender, but others can’t because they’re another gender, it would seem, to a lifelong viewer of Perry Mason and other courtroom shows, to be a clear violation of the equal protection clause.
At any rate, Diane and two other commissioners ignored the democratic process, shunned public discourse, and began giving out gay marriage licenses on their own. This set another record for the number of metaphors that included the phrase “rammed down our throats.”
The issue became a Karl Rove wet dream. President Bush got 4 more years, Rumsfeld and Cheney continued with their tortuous tryst, and the gay rights movement was set back by decades. Whoops!
Watching last summer's flub involving the Blazers coach, I wondered why Diane was even there. I mean, they’re not the Multnomah County Trail Blazers, are they? Why the endless intrusive grandstanding? Where did this mediocre decision-making come from? Then it hit me. Of course! Before all the political stuff, Diane Linn was a vice president at the local cable company. It was Paragon, back then, and I remember their work. As she went on giggling through her latest goof, I lifted my remote and said, “Enough!” It was time to change the channel.

The Rosie O’Donnell Anecdote

Rosie O’Donnell is in the news today, so it’s time to roll the Rosie O’Donnell anecdote. First, you have to know, I’m a serial applicant. As a freelance writer I apply to everything, especially back in the days when this anecdote happened. The key to applying to a lot of different jobs is not to get discouraged no matter what happens, and don’t go crazy giving them everything they ask. In fact, don’t even wait for them to ask. Just send them a letter or call and as long as your personal story is interesting enough, you have a chance.
When Rosie O’Donnell first got her talk show, things in the office were a little chaotic. It was the first week and everyone was excited. When I called to apply, the secretary gave me the FAX number for the writers. I imagine by Week 2 that wasn’t happening. I sent Rosie a bunch of my jokes as a welcome gift kind of thing: Use them if you want. They were from a periodically-updated backup file for the radio gig. Part of that deal was to provide a couple of weeks of jokes, in case I got hit by a bus. The radio people were nervous. They had never met me and they didn’t know how reliable I was. Ten years later, we still haven’t met but we’re still in business.
Anyway, one of the jokes was, “In France, they’ve discovered prehistoric drawings in caves of some of the game that was hunted thousands of years ago. And you can tell it was the beginning of French culture, because each animal had a little drawing of what wine to go with it.”
Somewhere in the early days of that show, Rosie used a very similar joke, and I believe I still have it in the Box of Many Video Tapes. Now, she could have come up with it herself, but there’s two reasons I think it was mine. First, they were in chaos mode early in the show and they needed help. And second, she presented it as if it had been taken right out of the daily paper, but I knew for a fact it was months old. That was it though. I didn’t get the job, but I did get the story. As I recall, Rosie would later bag the prepared material bit and just come out and pretty much wing it.
I bring this up because Rosie just landed the gig on “The View.” I’m not a fan of the show, but whatever that show used to be, it just got a lot better. You can dislike Rosie if you want, but she is a comedy force. She’s funny no matter if it’s movies or talk shows or whatever. Rosie is comedy gold. Hey, I wonder if she’ll still pretend to be in love with Tom Cruise anymore? She must have been heartbroken when Katie Holmes had the kid. That could have been her carrying Tom Cruise’s baby. Mmm…Maybe not. Talk about your Mission Impossible.
Anyway, I predict Rosie will do well. I’m not going to watch but remember the backup joke file? Well, I also have one for anecdotes. This has been your Rosie O’Donnell anecdote.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The New Cellmates

The Lighter Notes Respond to Adversity

What do you do when you’re a rock group full of characters, and the gig you’re supposed to be playing turns into a dud? You….
A.) Pout about it.
B.) Get discouraged and begin to question the whole concept behind the Aerial Tram Awards…….or C.) Head out to S.E. Belmont and pretend you’re the Beatles doing the Abbey Road cover shoot? The correct answer would be………

Monster Lick Alert

This one’s for the guitarists out there, and music lovers in general. There’s a new CD out called “All the Roadrunning”, by Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris. On it there’s a song called, “If This Is Goodbye” about cellphone calls made on 9/11 from the World Trade Center. It’s quite a tune, and captures the true personal loss of that day much better than other 9/11 songs I’ve heard. The song finishes with a Mark Knopfler guitar solo – tasty, emotional as you would expect. As a Dire Straits song once said, “Yeah, the boy can play.” Just about at the end Mark pulls out a lick that had me rewinding the videotape over and over. (Perhaps I should explain, I had videotaped Imus in the Morning from MSNBC, and he played the CD cut this morning.) Guitarists, this is a Monster Guitar Lick Winner. Things happen in studios. Magical little moments. Maybe a great guitarist like Mark Knopfler could play this again without even trying, but I suspect it was one of those times that just happened once. Don’t let my focus detract from your enjoyment of the rest of the song, but somewhere down the road, listen for Mark’s soulful, soulful guitar bit. Imus used the G word as in “Genius.” Maybe, maybe not, but it is definitely brilliant. This has been your Monster Lick Alert.

From Donald Trump to “My Name Is Earl”: The Portland City Council

When Dan Saltzman flipped his vote on the tram he said he changed his mind because the city of Portland and OHSU were heading for a “messy divorce.” I think the question many Portlanders had was, “What were we doing getting married to OHSU, and if we were getting married to OHSU, where’s the pre-nup?” As we have since found out, there was no pre-nup.
What is it with all these partnerships anyway? The city council should be working in partnership with us - the voters. Wait, that’s the wrong term. Here’s a phrase you don’t hear from these guys that much: Government servants. What happened to serving the citizens of Portland, instead of running around playing Junior Donald Trumps with all these private businesses? Portland is being run like it’s a contest on “The Apprentice”: “Your next assignment is to renovate Civic Stadium!” “This next competition is to design and build a tram!”
The problem is they don’t have the expertise in these areas, and the taxpayers always take the hit when their schemes go haywire. They start out talking like Donald Trump but they end up sounding like the guy from “My Name Is Earl”: “Well, I gave $500 million to OHSU. I guess I can cross them off my list.”
Of course, Earl usually realizes that his actions have harmed someone else along the way, and he has even more to do: "Darn it, I sold out the citizens of Portland. There's a bunch more names I have to add to my list."

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Two Great Sources of Comedy: David Letterman and the Oregonian Editorial Board

Recently the Roosevelt Island Tram broke down trapping commuters high above the East River in New York City. It took all night to get them rescued, and afterwards David Letterman joked that the city owed a great debt of gratitude to Superman. The joke perfectly captured the true nature of tram technology for commuters in a major city – it really is like something out of a comic book.
Little did Letterman and his staff know, but weeks earlier, the comedic geniuses on the editorial board of the Oregonian had already been there. When Dan Saltzman saved the tram here in Portland, they went with the Man of Steel analogy as well. That’s what a big-time professional sense of humor can give you. It’s not the nuts and the bolts of the joke, but the subtle sensibilities that go into it.
So for the Oregonian to show a comedic touch on the par of David Letterman, congratulations. Of course, the Oregonian's humor was completely unintentional, but it was still very, very amusing. The citizens of Metropolis are proud of you.

The Ballad of Judy, Joni, and Diane

I hear Judy Collins sang at a YWCA luncheon today in Portland at the Convention Center. I always think of her as the singer who broke “Both Sides Now” by Joni Mitchell. I love Joni Mitchell. What a monster voice, and so original with the guitar tunings. Check out “Woman of Heart and Mind":
"All this talk about holiness now
It must be the start of the latest style
Is it all books and words
or do you really feel it?
Do you really laugh?
Do you really care?
Do you really smile
when you smile?
You criticize and you flatter
You imitate the best
and the rest you memorize
You know the times you impress me most
are the times when you don’t try
When you don’t even try"
I can honestly say that last line helped influence how I was around women. Relax, stop showing off, and be real. Or try to be, anyway.
By the way, who should show at the lunch but Diane Linn. So that’s one appointment we know she really did make. Yikes. She’s in big trouble, and for awhile she stood alone at the banquet, seemingly shunned. No ice cream castles in the air for her this morning.

Aerial Tram Awards: Humiliating Flop

Hitching Home with the Tram Awards Trophy

This is why I don’t give parties, people. I’d rather go to prison with Martha Stewart than to go through the social scene again. To the people of Portland who didn’t choose to participate in this extravaganza, I hope they build a tram over your house. No, wait. I hope they build a tram through the living room of your house. May you and your wretched city rot in hell for eternity or forever – whichever takes longer.
Actually, the Tram Awards started slow but ended up being a lot of fun. Walking around this morning, I’ve been grinning. I feel the post-gig euphoria. I did cancel my standup routine about the city council so I’ll run part of it later. To the band and the blogging legends who did show up: I thank you. I bought a beer for Steve Schopp. I hobnobbed with Frank Dufay and his family. I chatted with Tenskwatawa. Haven’t you ever wondered what he’s like? And for some reason I’ve been most intrigued by the guy who comments under the name Garage Wine. Something about that name always puzzled me. Just when all seemed lost, a young man approached carrying his adorable little girl, and introduced himself as Garage Wine. He seemed completely normal and pleasant, so I asked, “Why? What’s the story behind the name Garage Wine?” He said he got it off one of those random name search things because he wanted to be anonymous. Hey, buddy, after last night I know the feeling.
I was also moved that Phil Stanford and Roger Anthony showed up. They're my buddies from the Tribune years.
I videotaped the first set of the band. I forgot to turn the camera on for the second set – of course! Anyway, the drummer, who several of us had just met 48 hours before, added a great dimension. His name is Jay Harris, he’s got a Ph.D. in education so just by joining he doubled the band’s IQ. Anyway, after a gig I usually feel cool and this morning is no exception. Sorry, about the rant. It wasn’t that bad, but I’m completely aware of how much people enjoy the misery of others. Go ahead and enjoy. It was an ass-kicking, but that’s why I have a sense of humor. Hey, look. In all honesty, if I had been presented with the same set of circumstances I probably wouldn’t have gone either. Anyway, late last night, I played the video and right during one of the songs I rose out of my social stupor and played a slide guitar solo that made me proud. This was not a defeat. I’m in a decent band. That doesn’t happen everyday. I have a nice wife and some good buddies. I am not a loser. I am not a loser. Am I? No! I am not a loser. Why, Portland? Why? Was it the hype job? Too much? Uh oh, the feelings are coming back again. May you and your pompous little Portland attitude, take the aerial tram and shove it right up your.... Wait. Give me a second…I’m okay. I’m okay.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Drunk Bicyclist Hits My Car

Sometime after midnight last night there was a loud crash. A drunk bicyclist had run into my car while it was parked on the side of the street. I got out of bed, grabbed a flashlight and went out there. I asked if he needed medical assistance but he said no, he was “just drunk.” Nice guy really. Very apologetic. He had broken off a small part of the back lights but all in all it was minor car damage, and he was okay, so he pulled himself together, got up, and drove off.
There were a few pieces of my left back parking light on the ground this morning, but from the side, not over the light. I did see a wrench on the ground. Maybe he had it in his pack and it flew out. What he was doing out driving on a bicyle drunk with a wrench in his backpack, I don’t know, but sometimes you just let it slide. It did take a while to get back to sleep. How many guys get their car run into and damaged by a bicyclist, especially when the car’s parked? Made a heck of a bang though. Actually it’s a good sign. Something memorable to open the Tram Awards with tonight at 6p.m., at It’s a Beautiful Pizza, 3341, SE Belmont. And if the bicyclist comes I’ll even buy him a diet pop.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Tram Awards Planning Nears Completion: Budget Does Not Grow!

The Lighter Notes met last night and much music was made. The new percussionist sounds pretty legit. They tell me he’s a Ph. D. which could raise the IQ level in the old group by a few points. I am fairly well along in all planning phases of this extravaganza/nightmare. It'll be interesting to see what happens. I have to admit it does feel a little like one of those weird contests on the Apprentice. Maybe though, just maybe, it will be memorable.
I’ve heard from some of you and I’m looking forward to meeting you.
I didn’t invite any candidates but it’s a free country. I’d love to see the candidates turn out but they have to make that call – not me. There is one thing for sure, blast or bust, it will be over soon enough, and then it’s back to regular life, which these days, ain’t bad either.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Main Tram Award Is Ready

The award for the guest of honor at the Tram Awards is ready to be presented this Tuesday night at 6pm. It came out great - and it's custom-designed for the recipient's decor. Many of us first tuned into city government run amok when we read about a pizza parlor being charged $36,000 to move across the street. The owner of the pizza parlor fought back and inspired many Portland citizens to take notice. The one serious award at the Tram Awards will go to Carl Sandstrom, the owner of that restaurant: “It’s a Beautiful Pizza.” The classic part is this is the first award in history given to someone while they work. The Tram Awards will be held in his restaurant and Carl will be there that night, still working off what the city government charged him to move from 3341 to 3342 SE Belmont. The media and some of the candidates have been notified. I hope you can join us. The rallying call is “Fight City Hall – Have a Slice of Pizza!”

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Anatomy of a Joke

I’m back in the game as much as ever and I love it. Sometimes you go through lulls in comedy writing where it just doesn’t happen, and other times - like last night - your one-liner hits and the place goes nuts. The band plays, people name their new babies after the joke, and the Mayor of Los Angeles declares a holiday.
It’s a little like the mystery of why one song is a hit and another flops. If you read a lot of recent music history – which I do – you know how often the big song was an afterthought, something the artist didn’t really like, thrown on the record at the last minute. I love reading about Smokey Robinson or Chuck Berry trying to craft a hit. It’s a mysterious process.
Comedy writing isn’t on that level, of course, but I turn in these jokes and when one goes off, it behooves me to try and figure out why. The topic last night was Kenny Rogers and his ridiculous plastic surgery job that even has Michael Jackson screaming “Enough!” His eyes squint so much now he’s looking out through his eyebrows, and even he admits it was a disaster.
Now, the best plastic surgery joke I ever heard came from the master himself: Woody Allen. No surprise there. He said a woman had so many facelifts she’s now got a goatee. That’s not an exact quote, but you get the idea. Isn’t it a devastating visual? Sorry about the Soon-Yi shenanigans but for me Woody is still the MAN. I hear echoes of his work everywhere.
Speaking of echoes, Maureen Dowd had a column closer involving Cheney and Rumsfeld eating Chinese food. An hour later they were hungry for power. That reminded me of an old Dick Cavett joke where he says, “I ate at a German/ Chinese restaurant and a half hour later I was hungry for power." See, Maureen blew the time gap: She had “an hour later”, when I believe the correct comedic riff is “a half hour later.” I could be wrong on that, but I doubt it. By the way – mental note to self: Remember to tell them about the time I met Dick Cavett and made him laugh. Really. That’s one of my good comedy anecdotes.
Okay, the joke last night: “Kenny Rodgers has had too much plastic surgery. Today he tried to wink at a girl, and pulled a groin muscle.”
It doesn’t look like much in print but they went crazy. Jay acted it out later, and the band had a follow-up question. It was huge.
The reason I believe it hit was that it was a skin joke and it went right to the only part of the human body that’s a rapidly movable piece of skin. So it became an action joke, started by Kenny as opposed to Woody’s joke which was what the doctors had done. Then it put Kenny in the light of the horny older guy hitting on someone which is a comedic winner, especially since it goes with trying to look younger through plastic surgery anyway. Then it goes right to the groin – clearly the epicenter of a million laughs. In short, the joke framed the plastic surgery thing as tightly as possible with a sexual twist. Bingo! Major laugh. Maybe even Woody Allen would have approved. Oh well. I can’t wait till Monday. I’m on a roll and it’s May Sweeps. Time to try and ride the wave to the Mother Groove.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Frustrated Prince Charles Ruins Queen's Birthday

Queen Elizabeth’s 80th birthday was badly marred today when a pouting Prince Charles announced he was leaving England and joining Hamas. “Such a silly boy. Wait till he has to get a proper job. He'll be back in a flash,” the Queen sniffed. “He hasn’t been the same since I caught him wanking off in the garden.” The Prince’s deep disappointment at not being King can be found in his statement about the Queen’s birthday: “It is hard to believe that my grandfather, King George VI, was the same age as I am now when he died and that my mother succeeded him when so young — the same age, in fact, as my sons are now,” he said.
He then added, “Oh, by the way, I think Johnny Rotten and the Sex Pistols are brilliant.” England remains stunned at this hour but celebrations for the Queen will continue as scheduled. One Londoner summed up the mood of the entire nation: "It's a bit of a bad patch, but we'll just have to press on."

Scott McClellan: You Suck - Get Out

Washington Insiders are going out of their way to say nice things about Scott McClellan now that he’s gone, but that's their way. I thought he was the worst press secretary in recent memory and I was once at a cocktail party face to face with Ron Ziegler. True, and it was right here in Portland. Why sugarcoat it? Scott McClellan was one of the most annoying, ineffective spokespeople I’ve ever seen, and that’s why they got rid of him.
Of course, President Bush is upset about the staff changes. Any disturbance threatens to pop him out of his bubble. Hiring Tony Snow would be a rare good move. He’s got tons of experience as a White House spokesman working for FOX news, plus he’s got big-time chops.
What a mediocre team Bush put together. President Bush is like the kid who gets the other children in the neighborhood to put on a show in the barn. Oh except, Condi. She was his tutor. This cast of low-rent losers like Karen Hughes is partly why he’s got a 33% approval rating. Karen Hughes' tour of the Middle East was one of the more embarrassing cases of being in over your head in recent diplomatic history.
And don’t think the other leaders don’t know it about this group. You could just see the look of superiority and disdain when the Chinese President watched President Bush speak. We’ve got to get some better people in charge of this country. The whole world’s smirking.
Fortunately, I have an outlet here for my anger with the blog plus an occasional joke on national TV. Last night mine was, “Scott McClellam knew he was getting burned out one day when he accidentally told the truth.”
So the Washington crowd that loves to cover up terrible job performance, can praise Scott McClellan all they want. He is to the art of press secretary, what Dick Cheney is to hunting: A major, irritating, incompetent loser.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Tram Award Flyer Done

The final Tram Awards poster is done, and I gave some to Carl at “It’s a Beautiful Pizza.” This has been sort of fun, like working on a campaign back in high school. Wait, I never did that. Actually, I never really did much of the social organizer scene, either, but I’ve got a good vibe about this. My duo – the Whateverly Brothers – played at Carl’s old place across Belmont a bunch of times, and we’ve played the new one with the trio. He was impressed that we came up with a poster. I gave him two and he asked for a third. So that was encouraging. The guy is really cool. I said, “I hope it gets busy for you, but not so busy that’s you're swamped.” He said not to worry. “It’s gotten really busy in here before. We're not the city of Portland, we have a plan for these things.” Nice to see him getting into the spirit. Oh well, 5 days and counting.

Memo to President Hu: Police States Suck

A recent comment on Jack Bogdanski’s site got me thinking. It was the day the Oregonian won the Pulitzer and the commenter wrote to say that there were those who achieved – like the newspaper - and those who whined – like the commenters on Jack’s Blog. Although I wanted to respond, you can’t get irritated with every snide remark that comes at you. Certainly, this commenter had no way of knowing what any of us do for a living, so it was presumptuous, lame, and obnoxious.
This incident today where the person disrupts the visit by the Chinese President reminded me of another time the leader of China came through. That time, there were protests when the man visited Harvard, etc…My joke on the Tonight Show was that I didn’t think the President of China really cared about the protests. “Have you seen the new cologne he just came out with?”
The bottle of cologne had the Chinese leader’s face on the label under the word “Oppression.” It was a little take-off on colognes named Obsession, etc… That image was broadcast in 70 countries to millions of people. I thought to myself, “That must have helped more than standing around in Cambridge with a poster – unless it got on TV.” Some of these jokes really bounce around, folks. They are on international news websites, and in lots of newspapers including the Oregonian.
Not all of them have a political point – hell, not all of them are funny. But you throw those numbers in with the radio network I also write for, and my stuff probably has more global reach than any other source from Portland. So for this commenter to suggest the Oregonian achieves and the rest of us don’t, is crazy. If I had their circulation numbers, I’d be driven out of business.
So what’s the point? I’m not irritated, but it got me thinking. I also have a trickle of international visitors here, so I want to make the Portland Freelancer position on China known: Police States suck. I hated it when you detained my brother Daoud, when he worked for Reuters in Beijing, by the way. And you can tell the 2008 Olympics are in a police state like China: One of the new events is Synchronized Thinking.

Tram Awards Poster Ready To Go - Click On It to Enlarge

Despite my wife joining me in my office to watch a 2-hour Alias, I managed to knock out the poster for the Tram Awards.
By the way, Vaughn is back. You want immortality? Get killed on Alias. You can't die on that show.
I also talked with the Lighter Notes and we are going to meet Sunday, two days before the gig which is on Tuesday the 25th at "It's a Beautiful Pizza" from 6 to 8pm. We have winged bigger gigs than this, so the level of caring is impressive so far.
Here's the poster; I hope you like it.
Click on it for Larger Size.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

I'm The Decider Song Set to "I'm the Walrus" - A Must Hear

This song showed up on the Huffington Post. Go, be one with the music. The singer can't quite nail John Lennon's falsetto but everything else is spot on. And the lyrics, ahh, the lyrics. It's like I can breathe again.

I'm The Decider

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Tram Awards Promotional Stunt Goes Too Far

The Tram Awards are in one week: Tuesday the 25th from 6pm to 8.
Come meet Carl at “It’s A Beautiful Pizza” – the man the city initially charged $36,000 to move across the street, from 3341 SE Belmont to 3342 SE Belmont. This became the signature stunt for crazy city government in Portland, Oregon.
I wanted to kick the promo off with something dramatic although I think the New York office of the Portland Freelancer definitely got carried away. (By the way, I saw a visitor on this blog from New York tonight, so I should add that this is a joke. I have no office in New York.)
Back to the Tram Awards: I hope to see the Blogger nation there. I want to meet people like Garage Wine for example. The music will be provided by the Lighter Notes, and I’m trying to talk Emilie Boyle into kicking in 5 grand for party favors. Hope to see you there, and to the New York office: Tone it down. We already know the tram is a stupid idea. - News - First Tram Passengers Rescued

Don't Tell Me How Much You Support the Troops: The Story of Depleted Uranium

You won’t be reading much of this in your newspapers but it’s the great untold story of Depleted Uranium. All those ultra-patriotic talk show hosts who can’t wait to tell you how much they support the troops, don’t like discussing it either. Why? Because 15,000 American soldiers have died since Gulf War 1 ended and 250,000 are disabled from a mysterious thing called Gulf War Syndrome which many believe is caused by exposure to depleted uranium. This is also covered in a documentary called “Beyond Treason.” Supporting the troops only occurs when the troops are doing something the Pentagon wants. When they come home sick from something that happened during the war, they are discarded. The generals go off to their book deals and parades and the soldiers go home and get sick. The Pentagon does not want the reasons for Gulf War Syndrome to be narrowed down. Then they would have to stop using their beloved depleted uranium.
Think of the irony. We went over to Iraq this time out of fears that Saddam would produce a mushroom cloud. Instead we used huge amounts of radioactive material that will be there for billions of years. That makes Iraq a nuclear war, but instead of Saddam, we’re the ones who made it so.
If you really support the troops, you should find out about depleted uranium. Part of the story's in the link below:

American Chronicle: THE REAL WMD'S IN IRAQ - OURS

Monday, April 17, 2006

It's Alive!

When Billy’s mother realized the youngster was tiring from holding his massive head upright, she would attach two metal wires to it, so that the child could rest.

Glory Days for the Oregonian

The Oregonian won the Pulitzer for its editorial work on mental health treatment and the issue needs exposure. For one thing, many local bloggers might soon be seeking therapy after suffering a devastating one-two punch. First, Dan Saltzman flipped his tram vote giving OHSU and its Oregonian partners a win, and now this. Projecting ahead, the path is clear. One day soon the aerial tram will be voted the 8th Wonder of the World, and turned into a religious site with pilgrims streaming in from around the world. That’s the only way this can logically conclude.
The Pulitzer committee also issued a generous thank-you to the Tram Awards, which agreed to hold off till April 25th so as not to steal any of the older prize’s thunder. The event will go on as planned from 6 to 8 at “It’s a Beautiful Pizza” on Belmont.
For now, congratulations to the Oregonian. If you think it’s hurting you to read about this, imagine what the Willamette Week is going through.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Rumsfeld Clears Things Up for the Press

I’m calling on the Blogger Nation to send this picture out – especially if you oppose the war. This one has national potential so get your emails fired up, and maybe it’ll make it all the way to the Pentagon.

“After all, it’s not the knowns we know we know, or the unknowns we know we don’t know, it’s the unknowns we think we know but we don’t really know. Everybody got it?”

A Little Space Enhancement

Here’s a little square shot of space with the light enhanced. The big lights are "nearby" stars. Gee, it looks like there might be something out there, doesn’t it? No wait, it’s all about us. We’re the reason the universe was created. This light that appears to have traveled for millions of years to get here is just part of the heavens to give us something nice to look at when it’s night. It takes light 100,000 years just to cross our Milky Way galaxy. That alone is incomprehensibly large, at least in the way we look at the distance across town, or across the country, etc… If the universe were just our galaxy it would be hard to figure out. Why would it have to be so big? And yet some of the pinpricks of light shown here are entire galaxies, millions of light years away. How can this be all about us? How can they say “The heavens and the earth” as if they were two parts of one thing? Come on. No religion I’ve heard of successfully deals with why the universe is so big. They can't. One thing bigger than the universe is the mystery of why it's so huge, with stars as numerous as earthly grains of sand. Meanwhile, we're not even on a grain of sand. Our speck orbits around a grain of sand. And the heavens were created 6,000 years ago along with us? All that for our arrival? Is that true or just evidence of a spectacular cosmic ego-trip? Here’s just a little square picture of those heavens with the light enhanced for your contemplation - or not.

An Easter Miracle I’d Like to See

“Today at 12 noon, I – George Walker Bush – will be resigning as the President of the United States. I would like to take this opportunity to apologize for my many mistakes in office. Chief among them: Using 9/11 to get us into an illegal and immoral war in Iraq for reasons that I knew weren’t true at the time. Second, using the war on terror to claim unlimited powers as I stripped Americans of their rights. And third, setting America on a disastrous financial course in which I took money from your children and grandchildren to give to my base: The richest 10% in the country. I will be withdrawing completely from the public eye, except for my testimony at Dick Cheney's upcoming trial. I am pledging to work the rest of my life to try and help many of the fine young Americans horribly wounded in what I now admit was an ill-conceived, unnecessary disaster in Iraq. Thank you, and farewell. Oh, and God Bless What's Left of America.”

Saturday, April 15, 2006

An Easter Wish: More Laughs

During these past few weeks in America, there has been a contentious debate about immigration, that’s gotten quite ugly at times. I actually heard a right-wing radio DJ say that we should install bug zappers on the border that can zap any illegal immigrants trying to cross. That kind of harshness is going to doom us all as a species. Recently, I was also deeply troubled that people would die protesting a cartoon – because they felt it insulted their religious beliefs. It gave a false picture of what I know to be true. I grew up in the Middle East, and I can assure you the sense of humor in that region is every bit as rich as anywhere else on the planet, if not more so. So what can we do? I don’t know what it is about this Easter, but I just want to scream, “Lighten up, everyone!” Humans have a tremendous capacity to enjoy a laugh. Here’s wishing that we follow that path in the months ahead rather than anger and hatred.
I had a joke this past Thursday on the Tonight Show: The immigration crisis has been solved. Angelina Jolie has agreed to adopt all 12 million illegal aliens.
The crowd responded well because they were ready to laugh about all this. I’m sure if you look close enough there are ways to be offended by that joke, but the important thing is, it was a joke.
If we don’t relax more, and start having more laughs, we’re going to be in big trouble. I mean here in the city of Portland, on the blogs, across the country, and around the world: Lighten up, everybody. We’re only going to be here a little while and at the end of your life you’re not going to say, “Gosh, I wish I had spent more time being pissed off.”

My, How Times Have Changed


Maybe this Easter we should reflect on the difference between talking about how moral we are, and acting that way. If you believe in God, it follows that God’s children come in many different colors, and from many different countries - even Iraq. And if you're celebrating a resurrection, don’t forget that some people are tortured to death but they don’t get to come back in a couple of days. Happy Easter, everyone.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Get This Man a Tax Break Now! Exxon Chairman Gets $400 Million Retirement Package Amid Soaring Gas Prices

When the Bush administration wasn’t lying about Iraq, it was lying about who got the Bush tax cuts as Paul Krugman recently pointed out: “Here's the bottom line: about 32 percent of the tax cuts went to the richest 1 percent of Americans, people whose income this year will be at least $341,773. About 53 percent of the tax cuts went to the top 10 percent of the population. Remember, these are the administration's own numbers — numbers that it refuses to release to the public.” Hold on, it’s going to get worse. The repeal of the estate tax hasn’t kicked in yet but that will mean that 1% of Americans will receive 40% of the Bush tax cuts. Krugman adds that Bush administration officials "continue to claim that most of the tax cuts went to the middle class even though their own tax analysts know better.” It's called lying, people.
The Christian Bush spent his term helping the richest – not the poorest among us.
With the retiring CEO of EXXON, you get the perfect payoff from both sets of lies. Oil has gone way up, because of Iraq, so therefore this guy gets a bigger package, and gets to keep more of it because of the Bush tax breaks. Meanwhile 38% of the country continues to see Bush as a godly man and a good leader. If you gave me 400 million, I might it see it that way, too.
Actually, no. I'd still see him for what he really is: A budget-busting, hypocritical moron.

ABC News: Exxon Chairman Gets $400 Million Retirement Package Amid Soaring Gas Prices

The Acting Chief Moves In

From yesterday's Oregonian: "Acting Portland Chief Rosie Sizer, wearing the chief's four gold stars on her uniform collar, wasted no time reshaping the Portland Police Bureau on Wednesday, immediately demoting Derrick Foxworth's right-hand man, Stan Grubbs, and replacing him with Lynnae Berg as assistant chief in charge of operations. Search

Ramp Up for the Tram Awards

I know what’s wrong in the Portland blogging community and I know what we can do about it. This dawned on me at an unusual time - around midnight - when I stuck my head out the front door, and felt the deep spirits of the night. The weasels are romping. The weasels are winning, but there is something we can do. We can gather at “It’s a Beautiful Pizza” on Belmont – the legendary poster-locale for city government run amok. I will bring the humble trio, the Lighter Notes. Perhaps some notables in the blogging world will join us. It will be on Tuesday, April 25th, unless the war with Iran starts first. Around 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. – a modest gathering to reclaim what we have neglected. The bureaucrats have not won - they cannot win, for they are mired in the past and we are the blogger nation. Join us and celebrate the deep spirits. We have been too long in the company of weasels.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Derrick Foxworth Situation

I am not aware of all the workplace charges that may or may not have happened here. But if this is just a consensual workplace fling, I can throw no stones. I worked in places during the 80s that were basically a singles bar with W-2 forms. Sure, the emails show bad judgment but who cares? It’s Monica-under-the-desk bad judgment – not lie-us-into-Iraq bad judgment.
If there’s nothing legally wrong here, the Portland Freelancer throws its blogging weight behind Derrick Foxworth. The job is yours, Chief. If there’s anything weird with stalking or harassment, then you're out. Either way, I get the feeling the “temporary replacement” really likes the gig.

Fighting Back In Comedy Land

Obviously, when a certain late night talk show host uses my material it’s always a rush. Of course, there are jokes that I’m more proud of than others.
There’s one where I didn’t feel anything at the time, but it’s since gone on to mean a lot to me, because it occurred after 9/11. Needless to say the comedy world shut down after that dreadful morning. I was writing jokes when the towers were hit, and everything in my business just stopped. The next week, Letterman returned on Monday with a heartbreaking speech. That was the show when Dan Rather came on and started crying. Dave skipped the comedy monologues for days and slowly worked back into it from the desk.
Jay had come back the Tuesday after 9/11 with his own speech, and on Wednesday – 8 days out – he tried what I believe was the first monologue on TV since it all happened. His first joke that night was mine: “This is a bad stretch for comedy, but we’ve had other bad stretches. Remember that time President Clinton stopped dating for 3 weeks?” It got a “hurts-to-laugh” kind of chuckle, and sitting at home - devastated like everyone else - I said out-loud, “Take that Osama.” I had written the first televised monologue joke since 9/11, something that I’m very proud of now.
These days I like to sound off on the Bush administration. I’d prefer it if I could just love and respect the President, but I believe this is a time when Americans should stand up for this country in as many different ways as we can. We’re under siege here by our own leaders. Someone didn’t study how America is supposed to work in social studies class, and we’re all paying a price. I’m freaked about the strong possibility of war in Iran, which could go nuclear and lead to oil at 200-a-barrel. These are heavy times.
This week we learned that the President leaked sections of intelligence documents to the press – intel that had already been discredited elsewhere. He might be in the clear legally as he says he declassified them first, but hearing him come out and condemn the leaks and vow to catch the leaker was deeply shabby as he knew he was talking about himself.
I wanted to weigh in. My joke last night was, “Why can’t he leak stuff
that can help us? Like warn us when Dick Cheney’s going hunting again?”
Perhaps Americans are becoming increasingly fed up – the joke got strong applause, maybe the best of the night.
This gave me that feeling again. I might be suffering through these times along with everyone else, but I’m not going to stand by silently. The greatest country on earth is in trouble - we can't just watch and wait.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The City Council Tram Vote: Feeling the Love

I just watched the City Council Tram Vote on TV and I began feeling irrational affection for the commissioners. If Stockholm didn’t exist we would now have the Portland Syndrome – a city held hostage to the bumbling shenanigans of its leaders. The gist of the “yes” voters is that this would cost too much to walk away from – always a ringing endorsement. Most annoying was hearing Dan Saltzman try and explain his “yes” vote in noble terms. The city council that got us into this mess, is a forgotten memory. Saltzman wants to do the right thing and protect us from 36 million in shutdown costs and future legal liabilities. He said we were “heading for a messy divorce”, and he had seen how badly little children can get hurt in a divorce. So we have to build the tram because children get hurt in a divorce? Got it.
Randy Leonard called in from Outer Mongolia and dubbed what has happened “an outrageous shell game.” Sam Adams chimed in to say that he had done a terrific job, and that he was even more wonderful today than ever before. He also praised Dan Saltzman for his cave-in on the tram saying, "That's what leadership is all about." Very, very moving.
Then came the moment that I suspect drives so many of these fancy projects, compared to say filling potholes. Sam had a word of caution for the citizens of Portland to steel our resolve through the trying months ahead: "This is an extremely complex unique project, never having been built before, ever, and there are thousands of parts, that have to be fabricated and fit together and work." Translation: We are magnificent people for even trying this! He also warned that the 95% "That's It" price, doesn't include design changes the city may have to make. Translation: The tram could cost a bundle more and the city is on the hook for that. Conclusion: We screwed this up badly but we can't get out of it, however we've made a deal that caps our costs, except nobody has ever built this sort of tram before so we will probably have more costs when the city has to redesign the damn thing. Oh, and by the way, Sam was extremely demanding in these "arduous negotiations" and has done a terrific job. He actually took the time to list several wonderful things he did for higher education in Portland years ago, even before he got to the wonderful things he's been doing lately. How did Erik Sten play it?
Erik Sten’s point was that the negotiations could have continued and that the city could have gotten a better result: “This is not an acceptable deal” adding that “affordable housing has been left by the wayside.” He talked fast and looked worried.
Everyone marveled at how the tram costs were now fixed. Not completely fixed, mind you, but 95% fixed. And joy of joys: More money has been set aside in case of contingency plans. I mentioned that the city can still "request" design changes but everyone else is locked in.
It was left to Mayor Potter to try and soothe the acrimonious feelings of these last few months. He asserted confidently that these bad moods will past and the aerial tram “will be a Portland icon.” Here’s the part where I got misty. He proclaimed that the moment the tram is finished he is ordering an investigation from Day One into what went wrong with this. Not to blame anybody, mind you – we’ve had enough of that. But to learn so that nothing like this ever happens again. Gosh, to have leaders this wonderful really makes a hostage feel proud.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

More Tram Scams

What? You thought the incessant spinning and deception would just stop? Read on, oh weary taxpayers of Portland. Once more, the city council and the Man of Steel himself - Dan Saltzman - have rolled over. You've been had. Check out the article, and notice the personal touch directed to the Portland Freelancer: "Bill - The Portland council considers a deal today that includes money from a city agency and an interest rate cut" Thanks, but there's no need to single me out. Search

Comedy 101: The Radio Gig

Maybe it’s my giant head – there has to be a payoff. I’m often embarrassed by it and wear a hat, but sometimes I forget to appreciate what’s inside. Today I got a call at around 11a.m., the hour where I get the premises from the radio gig and respond. I told the comedian on the phone that I’d call him back when I was done banging out the jokes, and he mentioned the grind I have to go through everyday – in a joking manner of course. When the work was safely done, I paused before sending it out of state, and looked at the clock: 58 minutes. Then I went back and counted the bits: 56 jokes. That includes going through a second time and correcting the minimal typos and fixing the flow on quite a few of them. Flow is everything. Always try and do a rewrite upgrade, but don’t get stale with it. The key to comedy is to get it done quickly with as few syllables as possible, and always end on the right word – the word that goes “Boom.” You know the saying, “Brevity is the soul of wit”? In one sense it should be “Brevity is wit’s soul.” Why? Less syllables. Keep it brief. But “wit” is the “Boom” word, so that’s on the end. These are the basics but then you jump off into the artistry of the phrase. I’ve heard talk of comedians sitting at the airport with Dennis Miller watching him beat out the groove with a pencil. It’s all rhythm and flow, and what makes a phrase pleasing.
Another key is avoiding pitfalls: The derailing confusion of a second possible destination. Take them right where you want them to go. If you even build in a microsecond of doubt, all is lost. There’s also filters against saying something accidentally sexist or racist or corny or gross. Intentionally doing it is one thing – if that’s your bag – but know what’s there. Me? I’m not trying to get the DJs in trouble. I don’t have to go shock or hate – I’ve got the chops to be funny so I can stay away from the traps.
Not that it’s all an ego-trip. Lately I’ve been down a little on myself. We all go through that, so I have to remember that I’ve been given a quirky gift here. I can write marketable comedy as fast as I can type. That’s what I’m most proud of – my typing. That part I earned. But the comedy was a lucky break, and though that hour tires the brain, it also lights it up, so I go to the rest of the day with my work done and a nice creative glow. It’s easy if you can do it, but it’s a little like taking a test. You have to access your entire memory banks for your whole life – every correlation, reference, connection, etc… and that’s tiring. Mainly, you have to sit by the creative pool and describe the creatures as they surface and crawl out, ready to take on the world. 56 jokes in 58 minutes, more or less, 5 days a week, going on 10 years. Comedy for the morning commute in cities around America, Canada, and other countries as well. This is the radio gig.

Dick Cheney: Take Me Out to the Ballpark

When Dick Cheney’s not shooting people in the face with a shotgun, he likes to pretend he’s one of the guys. Today he threw out the first pitch at a baseball game in Washington, D.C. and though he brought out 3 wounded soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan to cover for him with the fans, the crowd booed him anyway. You’d think it would be easy enough. You go to the mound, you throw the baseball, and you leave, but no…those phony macho Neo-Con habits are hard to break. You have to show everyone how tough you really are - how much you're in charge. Here’s what really happened at the Old Ball Park today. And I hear Dick was so upset by the crowd’s response, that later, he had to snap the head off a quail just to show himself he was still a man.

President Bush: Leaking on Himself

President Bush turns out to be the leaker that he vowed to track down and fire. Of course, he says he declassified the parts of the documents he leaked – and even though they had discredited information designed to mislead us about Iraq, President Bush says he did it so we would have “the truth.”
I’m feeling something I didn’t even think was possible: I’m actually disappointed in him. This is just such smalltime, third-grade style lying. Where’s the class? Maybe that’s what declassify really means. President Bush is just such a low-rent, classless dumb-ass, that he’s declassifying the Presidency. He’s gone from a 40-year-old booze-swilling drunk in some tavern restroom taking a leak, to the leader of the Free World, taking distorted and discredited information and making a leak.
All I can keep telling myself is, “Thank God the Iraq War is going so well, or these revelations would be a big problem.” By the way, when the NSA story broke, the White House went out of its way to reassure Americans that this was only for calls to other countries. In the last week, it was revealed that, no, actually it was for domestic calls and emails as well. This is your White House: when they’re caught in one lie they run out another, and there’s so many, that the truth gets buried in the B.S.
Now the NSA is claiming they have the right to know where Americans hide their Easter eggs. Folks, when is this going to stop?

Monday, April 10, 2006

A Retired General Speaks

Ever notice how tragic times generate their own eloquence? Here is part of a quote from a retired general who wants Rumsfeld dumped. He said the decision to invade Iraq “was done with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions — or bury the results."
That could have been a general in the Civil War, for the level of gravitas. By calling dead soldiers “results”, he has delayed the image for a microsecond so when we visualize their caskets, the impact is that much more powerful. It is also obvious that this general has been there as opposed to the leaders who set this unnecessary war in motion. These phony macho men and their chicken hawk madness will come to an end one day, and historians will look back to quotes like this general’s to tell the real story of these times.
Third Retired General Wants Rumsfeld Out - New York Times

President Bush and the Big Finish

There’s 2 years, 9 months and 12 days left in the administration of George W. Bush. When a man devoutly believes in Armageddon, it’s always scary wondering what he’ll do for the Big Finish. You might scoff at that, but the Seymour Hersh article this weekend, offers a scenario that could lead to World War 3 – starting with our use of nuclear weapons against Iran. It doesn’t take much of an imagination to see how that could cause a crisis with Russia. Who knows what could trigger it? Who knows what dangers lurk in the murky mind of our Spoiled-Rich-Brat Commander-In Chief? Maybe the transitional fish fossil they found in Canada is enough to make the 6,000-year-old-earth part snap. Maybe George will make the Armageddon prophesy come true, just out of spite.
For now let’s assume we survive, and that we make it to another president. Then the new “L” word for George becomes “Legacy.” What will this president have left the world? What will be his mark on the ages? I think it'll be the Bush Doctrine – and that sounds so overblown when it comes to a man of his intellectual gifts. It will be the concept of preemptive strike. This is a man who believes he can attack other countries like a drunk in a tavern sucker-punching the guy on the next barstool over. Try telling the bartender that you thought the other guy had a program to build a weapon that he could use on you someday, and see what happens.
One interesting quote in Seymour Hersh’s piece comes from “one former senior intelligence official” who says President Bush views the Iranian President as a “potential Adolph Hitler.” Do you see the shift here?
Now President Bush is claiming the right to remove a leader because of what he might become in the future. So Bush has learned from Iraq. Don’t base your preemptive strike on reality - on claims of what is going on right now. That way, you could be wrong. Base it on what you see out ahead. You know, when you talk to your Higher Father and stuff.
Iran is dug in pretty well. To accomplish what President Bush wants to accomplish using air power, you’d have to use nuclear weapons, so it’s Dr. Strangelove time, folks. President Bush could use nuclear weapons to prevent the use of nuclear weapons. We are in dangerous waters here. The President who got everything wrong in Iraq, is now looking to leave a legacy. 2 years, 9 months and 12 days. Get ready for the Big Finish.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Cable Access Splendor Awaits

If you watch just one cable access show this year, make it “The Born to Slack” show tonight at 10p.m. on Channel 22. (Warning: There is some strong language.) And speaking of strong, what a line-up: West Wing, The Sopranos and Born to Slack. This is event television. Seriously, this episode was shot around 10 days ago but eerily tracks developments with the tram. For you international visitors to the site, (or if you’re outside of Portland), this post might not mean a lot to you. One day we might get the show on the Internet so that you can bask in its production values, no matter where you live. Incidentally, recent visitors have logged in from Ethiopia, Vietnam, Ireland, and El Salvador. There was also a couple of hits from Hibbing, Minnesota. Bobby, is that you? Hibbing is the hometown of Bob Dylan. If you're a fan of his, you'll know why that matters. If you're younger, I'd suggest picking up his lyrics at a bookstore and reading a few lines. Let's just say Bob can turn a phrase.
Thanks one and all for participating.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Okay, Which Is It?



Reading the Oregonian editorial this morning about the steel in Dan Saltzman, was not easy. I was laughing so hard my office chair wouldn’t stay still. I thought Superman was the Man of Steel? You mean Dan Saltzman is Superman? This could be the golden era of comedy in Portland. A daily newspaper that has no clue how ridiculous it's being.
Meanwhile the Trib headline was a classic yesterday: “Meltdown in P-Town.” That could be the sequel to “Portland Confidential”, Phil Stanford’s book about city corruption in the 1950s. The cast of characters back then had serious cinematic possibilities, but we’re beginning to get there in a more amusing way. Ours is a group of lightweights.
In fact, if this city ever gets in real trouble, we’ll look back on these years as golden. Dan Saltzman's flip-flop on the tram decision is fun campy, B-movie-style comedy – it’s not the real thing. Thousands are not dying in misery or anything like that. This is amusing stuff as long as it continues to play out right. It would be a damn shame if he gets reelected, for example. Most people want to see what the backend of the deal was. No, wait. Superheroes don't make deals. Unless it's a comedy.
To propel a comedic plot you must have characters who are convincing when they do or say silly things. That hasn't been a big problem with this group. Besides, we know it’s real so it all just adds to the mirth. The chief of police writing sexy emails? Beautiful. The city newspaper turning out at least one silly editorial a week? Outstanding. While the head guy on the editorial board sleeps with the PR hack for OHSU? Even better. How about Erik Sten, Sam Adams, Dan Saltzman, Randy Leonard, and Tom Potter as the perfect comedic council? No group will ever come near the Tonya Harding gang for screenwriting excellence, but it’s getting to where I can’t think about this council without smiling. They are so caught up in their own foibles, they are a wonder to behold.
Yesterday, Sam Adams came out with his new plan to put parking meters on Hawthorne and other parts of the city, and he had 4 or 5 classic one-liners in a single paragraph. He didn’t realize he was being amusing, but I was laughing like it was a set by Richard Pryor. If you have the right perspective – someone attending a comedy film – then Sam Adams is hilarious. How about Randy Leonard, the hothead? I can’t wait to hear what this guy’s going to say next. That’s the charm of this group. The potential for screwing up is immense and they have no clue – they’re so serious while the calamity occurs. Portland is now a Leslie Nielsen movie.
We owe this all to the tram. The tram is the vital linchpin of a great comedic plot. Sure, you might be steamed right now about some aspect of it, but you’re in the movie, too. Having the townspeople upset is an integral part of the story. This is not a real meltdown. This is not misery and death. The key to life is to realize the golden aspects of a situation while it is happening. Too often we look back and wish we could return to some lost time and have that set of problems again. This is one of those times. Don’t forget to enjoy them. “Meltdown in P-Town starring Dan Saltzman as Superman - the Man of Steel” – coming to a comedy film festival near you.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Songs Along the Way - "Key to the Highway" by Big Bill Broonzy

I was talking to Charlie about the old band days and we reminisced about a blues song called “Key to the Highway.” The song was by Big Bill Broonzy, Born William Lee Conley Broonzy, June 26, 1893 Scott, MS. Died August 15, 1958 Chicago, IL.
He played at the landmark Carnegie Hall performance put on by John Hammond in 1938, called “From Spirituals to Swing”, replacing Robert Johnson, who died prior to the gig. I found this great picture of him and was knocked out by the guitar.

The Tram Awards Announce Their First Recipient

The Tram Awards are still scheduled for April 25th from 6 to 8 at “It’s A Beautiful Pizza” on Belmont. However, some awards are given off camera, in the interests of time. Today’s award goes to the Taxpayers of Portland, presented by City Commissioner Dan Saltzman. As you know Dan played two roles in the recent tram vote - one for each side of his mouth. Now that he has flipped and voted for more of your money to go to the project, the first Tram Award goes to the Taxpayers of Portland. Here it is:

The Chronicles of Portlandia: A Deal Has Been Reached

All across the Kingdom of the Rose, a cold win blew this morning.
The knights of the Jedi Council have come to a deal with the Lords of Darkness. The Wizard Potter seemed most pleased. Much new gold has been gouged from the people of the city – peasants and lords alike. But how did this happen? How did the Beast of Many Wires go on, when three brave knights had stepped forward to say, “Enough. Such duplicity and deception shall not be rewarded! We must protect our fair city from the callous whims of cynical men! We must stand up for all that is righteous and good!”
Around the campfires the people had rejoiced, for what a Magnificent Three Men these were! The Beast of Many Wires that had been stalking the town, like a fire-breathing dragon from the pages of Spencer, would surely die. How could it not against such brave lads? There was Randy the Outspoken, Erik the Pensive, and Dan the Wise. What a noble team to defend the gates of the city from the Lords on the Hill. Throughout the kingdom there was joy, and babies slept the gentle sleep of the well-protected.
And then it happened. A crack appeared in the city defenses. All around town the ill wind blew: The Kingdom of the Rose has been sold out again! The treasure has been plundered anew, and the Beast of Many Wires has been approved! How, the people wondered, how could it be? Then the people realized that one of their fair and noble knights had sold them out. A new name sprang forth from the land and the people muttered it with great anger. For there was a new member of the Jedi Council – oh, he looked like the same person, but a wicked spirit had taken his soul and robbed him of his courage. And the people called him, “Dan the Ball-less.”

Tram Awards Party Pressures Council Into Folding

The timing tells the story. The tram budgeting process has been muddling along for months, as various commissioners tried to justify rolling over for the powers that be at OHSU, while still holding onto their coveted jobs. So what happened to cause the breaking point? What crumbled up Dan Saltzman’s intestinal fortitude and tossed it into the garbage can?
Yesterday morning the Portland Freelancer announced plans for a media event to be held the night before the April 26th city council vote. The Lighter Notes musical group had been recruited to play and Carl, the owner of “It’s a Beautiful Pizza,” had agreed to hold it at his place. Carl, you might recall, was the restaurant owner who was initially billed 36 grand by the city for moving across the street. This was for something called a Systems Development Charge.
I walk down Belmont quite often and I have yet to see any new systems in place, but never mind. We only live in Portland; we’re here to provide a revenue stream for the civic big shots to blow, as they see fit.
So what happened today? Obviously, the council realized that this party had too much karmic energy going for it. Once the Lighter Notes had revved the crowd up, and local bloggers had been honored, the pressure on the council would have been immense. There is no way they wanted to wake up the next morning to a tram vote after that.
Something had to be done, and soon. So later yesterday, on the same day the party was announced, Dan Saltzman bit down hard on his former integrity and agreed to roll over and take one for the team.
It was a remarkable display of civic cowardice on his part, but what did you expect from the Gang Who Couldn’t Get Their Story Straight?
The tram town hall meeting at Portland State was a minor annoyance compared to the potential power of this gathering at Carl’s “It’s a Beautiful Pizza.” This is why the council folded. Come to think of it, some may take this opportunity to blame the Portland Freelancer for the way things turned out, but this is not a time to play the blame game. This is a time for healing. Before you take me to task let us pause and relax. Let us look forward to a brighter future in Portland with its new glorious tram. Good luck with it, gentlemen, and good luck with your future careers after politics.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Dan Saltzman Flips – More City Money To Fund Tram

Randy Leonard has been saying there was no way Dan Saltzman would give more city money to the tram, but tonight Channel 8 is reporting that a deal has been made, and Dan Saltzman is the man who caved. At this point tram opponents can only shake their heads in frustration, knowing we never really took these city commissioners seriously when they spouted their rhetoric of fiscal responsibility amidst the incompetence. Trying to pressure them to stick to their newfound fiscal outrage was worth a shot. The latest budget for the tram is funded and it’s all systems go. Yes, it was a defeat, but if we brought the time one day closer when Portland would have a responsible budget process, then it was all worth it. And now that the tram appears ready to be built, let us all hope that it turns out to be a terrific idea, and that Dan Saltzman is not seen as the man who sold out Portland, but as the man who saved the best idea in years.

Global Shout-Out of the Day

I never get tired of these Portland Freelancer hits from abroad. I love the cyber-community angle of the blogging world. So to the person who checked in from Quito, Pichincha in Ecuador this morning, thanks. I hope you’re having a good day. Isn’t it interesting that there is no up and down in space and yet we see the earth as having a top side and a southern side? Totally arbitrary, isn’t it?

Libby: Bush Authorized Leaks

NATIONAL JOURNAL: Libby Says Bush Authorized Leaks (04/06/2006)

Tram Awards, The Lighter Notes, April 25th, "It's a Beautiful Pizza"

Okay, here’s the plan: The tram vote in the city council is April 26th so the Portland Freelancer is putting on the Tram Awards, the night before. The location is perfect: Remember the man who was initially charged $36,000 by the city to move his pizza parlor across Belmont? His name is Carl and the Tram Awards will be held in “It’s a Beautiful Pizza” from 6 to 8 on the night of the 25th. The logo will be a tram gondola car in the shape of a lemon. The Lighter Notes will provide music, and the awards will go to those bloggers and comment makers who have contributed to this debate over the last many months. You know the names, but they do not have to be there to win. The media will be invited to attend, and I’ll write some sound bites if they want to go live. As usual, this could fall apart if the council cuts a deal prior to the 25th or changes the date of the vote, so check back here for the final green light as the date approaches.
This is the antithesis of a city project. It won’t cost you to get in, and if you want a beer or pizza, pay as you go. I make no guesstimates as to how big a success it will be. I don’t claim that it will be a vital linchpin for the Belmont community. My only guarantee is that – if it does happen – it will be more entertaining than the tram town hall meeting at Portland State. That part is for sure.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Erik Sten: You Have No Wiggle Room on City Money for the Tram

The trouble with the tram project is the transparency in government. Sam Adams loves to use that phrase, which means the citizens know what’s going on, but truth be told, it would be a lot easier if the citizens didn’t have a clue. Recently, Erik Sten has been using language that seems to indicate some drift in his positions. He likes the way things are trending in the tram budget discussions. The old affordable-housing cover story is being dragged out for extra duty. All this implies that Erik Sten is getting ready to okay more city money for the tram. The question then becomes: Would he be that big of a weasel?
Look, Erik, we know it’s been a tough couple of weeks. We know this Clean Money baby of yours is not exactly cooing with joy. It's possible that some positions you clarified last month might have slipped your mind.
Fortunately, the crack reporters at the Oregonian have recorded them for all time. Here’s what you said about the tram: “We just got to a point now where we’ve said that’s it. If it’s not worth the money to OHSU and the developers, than it doesn’t get built.”
"It doesn't get built." Key phrase, Erik. Strong. Decisive. I’ve linked to the entire article below. Perhaps your campaign advisors are hoping the voters will forget what you said. We won’t. This is transparency in government. If you go back and vote more city money for the tram, even if it is buried in the form of a convoluted affordable housing deal, we will take that into account when assessing your integrity and your value to us as a leader. There is no wiggle room here. The tram is not worth your political career.
Sten rules out more city cash for tram

Missing Link Located Between Sea and Land Creatures

Its snout was sticking out of a cliff in plain view. And it might as well be saying, “Gotcha!” to Creationists and their 6,000-year world view. Excuse me, 6 thousand years for the entire universe. One of the mantras of Creationism is the lack of transitional species, even though there are some. But what about leaving the sea and going to land? Where is a transitional species here? Ask no more. Unless this is an elaborate fake, you are looking at a creature that has some characteristics of a fish and others of a croc. This is the missing link. Don’t get me wrong. I realize the religions of the world have invested way too much energy marketing their world views to concede defeat. So the predictable stories of hoaxes will emerge, before the final go-to position is rolled out, dusted off, and floated for another day. If all else fails creationists can claim this was the work of Satan, planted here to lead us away from the Truth.
Did you ever wonder what the world would be like if we cleaned the slate and started again without these ancient religions? What about if we adopted the Santa Claus doctrine: Be good for goodness sake? Suddenly there’d be so much less to fight about. Who knows? We may all see ourselves as one people, the inhabitants of the planet earth. Then we could embrace what I believe is our true mission: To head out into our solar system and beyond. It doesn’t have to end, folks. This little 3-ft fossil might be bearing a message for you: Relax, you don’t know it all. Enjoy the mystery, and don’t think less of anyone else because they don’t see it your way.
BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Arctic fossils mark move to land

The Portland Freelancer: 10,000 Hits and Some of Them Weren’t Even Me

This morning the 10,000 hit total has been breached, with some more new countries joining the effort. If you just checked in from McClaren Flat, South Australia, or Casablancquilla, Spain, welcome to the Portland Freelancer. There’s also a couple of Germany hits and one from Moscow, Russia. Sorry about the local coverage of the tram issue – it’s this government boondoggle we’re dealing with right now. One of the problems humanity has always faced is how to have a government without developing a ruling class that thinks it’s all about them. I doubt this comes as much news to our visitor from Moscow.
So bear with me as we work through this nagging nightmare and then maybe we can return to issues of greater scope. The tram is a global issue in the sense that we are trying to get our next generation educated - that could only help the world. Instead we have a bunch of politicians more interested in gee-whiz amusement park rides, than the actual mundane business of running a city.
Thanks everyone who clicked on the Portland Freelancer for the first 10,000 hits.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

OHSU: Spare Us the Legal Sob Story

Lately we’ve been inundated by stories about OHSU being victimized in the tram fiasco. They are now preparing to sue if we don’t shell for their stupid project. Isn’t it ironic how they run to court while denying their own victims the same opportunity? That’s right. OHSU has used its power and influence to deny patients the right to sue them. Oh, they can ask for 100 grand, but that just means you walk away with practically nothing, so why bother?
Perhaps you remember the story of the young boy facing a lifetime of brain damage because of admitted negligence on the part of OHSU. The family is trying to change the amount of damages, but it's a long shot, at best. What happens in a case like this is that the family burns through their wealth providing care for a growing boy with a badly damaged brain. Then they go broke and the state has to step in. One other point: OHSU does not make it a practice of informing patients or their guardians of their legal vulnerability prior to treatment. Otherwise, a lot more patients would not risk an operation there.
So let’s make a deal, OHSU. If you are so concerned about being treated right, why don’t we do what you'd do and slide you 100 grand? Then let's call this tram thing off. Better yet, why don’t you take some of the millions you’ve made throwing your weight around, and pay off the family of this injured boy? Then start telling your patients that if you screw up, they’re on their own. Let them know what it will cost them, even if it’s just a guesstimate. Listen, we don’t care how many feel-good ads your PR firm puts on local TV. Nobody sees you as the victim with the tram, so spare us the legal sob story.

American Idol, Move Over - Singer Signed Off Internet

In what could be the most encouraging Internet story in a long time, a singer online from her living room in England managed to pull an audience of 100,000 people, and get signed by SONY Music. The world's population has doubled since Elvis hit. That means there are two potential Elvises running around out there. Let's say one is pinned down in some totalitarian hellhole. That still leaves the other guy. Come on, son, get yourself a webcam and rock the world. - Webcast singer snapped up by Sony - Apr 4, 2006

The Global Village: Part 2

Welcome to the new visitors from afar. If you are in Toyko, thanks for dropping by the Portland Freelancer. If you are in Windsor Park Estate, Dakar, Singapore or Jakarta, Jawa Barat, Indonesia welcome. Today’s map is from these two. Nice to be on the same planet with you. I also got a kick out of the visitor from Paris, France. You’re all over the news here for the protests. I also see Peoria, Illinois – that was made famous by a certain President who asked how it would “play in Peoria.” I’m getting a tremendous kick out of your visits – thanks. It’s a real treat.

City Council Tram Vote on April 26th - It's Time to Call It a Loser

My position on the tram has never been about the budget or the way the numbers were screwed-up. The tram is a bad idea because of the risks of what could go wrong. Twice in recent times the Roosevelt Island Tram in New York experienced accidents – both times the cars swung wildly and those inside felt they were going to drop 200 plus feet into the East River. In one a crane actually tore the tram car open. Both times those onboard wondered if it was terrorist related. Why? Because the tram is such a convenient, high-profile target in the sense that it could be brought down with a minimum of effort compared to say the Space Needle. There are too many ways that a criminal act could be perpetrated on this beast. It literally looks like a mechanical duck going by on wires in a shooting gallery. That is why I asked if this aspect of it – security – had been studied. I got no response from Sam Adams and the rest of the team at the Portland State tram meeting.
I am appealing to the Mayor, who has a law enforcement background, to think about the many vulnerabilities we would face by adding this to our security concerns. The tram is a lousy idea. Use the budget problem as an excuse to do the smart thing. Put an end to this loser.
Tram's fate riding on council vote

Jimi Hendrix: The Band That Might Have Been by Jack Bogdanski

Such is the level of my blog skills, that I occasionally miss something obvious. An early example was the time one of my posts was picked up by the Fark site. I noticed the numbers leaping upwards but I had no idea why. I even had a couple of posts imploring visitors to explain what was going on. Through that experience I can now use the data options, which allowed me to track one visit to Brazil and another to Slovenia yesterday. What a thrill. On a ham-radio level blogging is the best.
A few entrys down I posted my musical trio's one and only promo shot and I finished by wondering if Jimi Hendrix would have ever gotten in a raft for a publicity shot on the Willamette. I asked about our effort, “Where’s the dignity?” Jack Bogdanski replied, “I dunno.” Which I took to mean, “Yes, the picture was a little undignified.” Instead as my sister pointed out this morning, you can click on it, and get Jack’s real answer to the idea of Jimi Hendrix on the Willamette. Jimi was right up the road in Seattle, so I guess if I had grown up there we might have met. But I don’t think he would be playing bass, while I was the guitarist in the group. That part is a stretch. Great effort, Jack. Sorry I didn’t pick up on it sooner.