Much to Say…

…but I probably won’t say much of it here on this blog. To quote Daily Breeze reporter Denise Nix’s quote from legal pundit Laurie Levenson:

people involved in legal matters must be very careful about what they say in blogs, shorthand for Web logs, because it “can come back to bite them.”

Levenson said blogging defendants generally make their attorneys very nervous.

“It’s not like other writing — it just sort of vomits out on the page and it’s hard to take back or try to put back in context,” Levenson said. “It’s wrought with dangers.”

I don’t want to make my attorney nervous. Ever. He’s been very indulgent of my blogging venture, and I repay his faith by pretty much avoiding the topic of my trial. Not only could anything I say be “used against me,” as the Miranda warning has it, but striking the right tone is difficult. This hasn’t been easy, but I’m not looking for sympathy, so I don’t want to say anything that might cause people to feel sorry for me. Conversely, many things have happened to make me laugh out loud, but by sharing the laughs with you, I fear it would seem I was making light of the situation, and I don’t want to do that either.

Beth Barrett of the Daily News asked me to comment after the verdict yesterday, and I declined to talk about anything legal, verdict included. I did say one thing to her (which she didn’t use): I told her this experience has been emotionally overwhelming because of the many expressions of heartfelt sentiment about me from family, friends, former co-workers and clients, friends I haven’t heard from in 25 years, and even people I only know online. I am so grateful for that, inexpressibly grateful.

But I’m just an ordinary person who has led, generally speaking, a fairly ordinary life. I am sure that many people just like me have the love and respect of others, but don’t get to hear it very often. I was lucky, in a way. A bad thing happened to me, and so people came out of the woodwork and out of their shells to tell me how they felt, and to offer help. Their help–your help– made a difference in many ways, especially in my outlook on the whole ordeal.

My hope for all of you is that it doesn’t take a disaster for the people in your life to let you know how they feel about you.

One funny thing happened today. I went across the street from where I live to buy coffee for my wife and me. I had forgotten that this coffee shop stacks copies of the Daily Breeze for sale by the register. Because I’m an “area man,” the Daily Breeze played the story of the verdict sentence above the fold — with this horrible picture of me I put on my blog last summer. It was one of those ‘hold the digital camera three feet away from your face while you’re wearing a stupid hat’ pictures — now reproduced above the fold in a newspaper available everywhere in the South Bay.

Tomorrow can’t come soon enough!

Fortunately, even though I’m a regular at this coffee shop, no one behind the counter seemed to make the connection. Or, if they did, they were still willing to sell me coffee.

Seeing my face in that paper reminded me I owe an apology to David Zahniser, the excellent LA Weekly reporter who was at the Breeze when I was indicted. As he followed the early weeks of my story, he kept identifying me, mistakenly, as a resident of Rolling Hills Estates. This is probably because the LA County registrar of voters keeps getting an important part of my address wrong, no matter how many times I try to fix it.

At one point David left me a voice mail asking me to clarify where I lived — he obviously knew his information was iffy. Now, I always had good dealings with David, always liked and respected him, and never intended him harm. But I wasn’t in the mood to correct the error at the time. I also didn’t think I should be talking to any reporters. So, for months, until he left the Breeze, I was always identified as a Rolling Hills Estates resident.

There were times when seeing that mistake repeated once again was the highlight of my day.

David, I’m sorry. Your reportorial instincts were right as usual. I don’t live in Rolling Hills Estates. I hope you will forgive me.

Stuck on 400

Hello, friends…

When I started this blog, I had no idea what I’d do with it. At various times, it has been like a friend, my own media channel, a shingle, a distraction, a guilty pleasure and, above all, a place to give my writing and photography skills a chance to develop.

The post before this one is the 400th I’ve completed since I started up on December 14, 2005. If anyone had told me I would write 400 posts on this thing in a little over a year, I would have said:

a) that was a madly ambitious goal;

b) gee, how many books and screenplays could I have written if I’d put all that writing energy into those things?

Four-hundred posts! And I tend to write long for a blogger. No terse Instapundit-style allusions for me. I quote at length, and then write at more length. Figure my average post is about 500 words, excluding what I copy-paste from others; I’ve scribbled some 200,000 words here in the past 13 1/2 months! That’s a long novel.

I always wanted to write a novel. Hmm.

Part of my new job is to coach other bloggers. My first rule is: Don’t look at mine as a good example! This is where I get to make mistakes so you won’t make them.

Anyway, since writing my 400th post a week ago, I have felt a little writers’ block. Some of the reasons are obvious if you’re following my legal travails. But that’s not all of it. In April and May 2006, I managed to write 36 posts during an immediately after my trial. This post will only be my 11th of January ’07.

It’s not like I don’t enjoy this anymore: I do! I’m quite proud of the work I’ve done this month. Especially this, this, this and this. So maybe I’m settling into a different rhythm now. I don’t have to write a post every time something pops into my head. I’ll let them cook for a few days, even a week.

Just so you know I haven’t been utterly neglecting this blog, here are some of the things I’ve considered posting about in the past week:

  • The music and legacy of Phil Spector
  • The State of the Union address, James Webb’s response, and the politics of the “surge”
  • Hurray, We’re Capitulating!” — an excerpt from a book about European appeasement of Muslim extremism
  • Hillary, Obama, Vilsack and Brownbeck — heirs to CSNY?
  • Ahmet Ertegun, R.I.P.
  • More pictures from my trip to New Orleans
  • The fact that every team I was rooting for in the NFL playoffs lost, but I’m still happy because the New England Patriots didn’t make the Super Bowl
  • Why I liked “Dreamgirls” even though most of the song are bad
  • The woman who died after drinking too much water on a morning whacko radio show
  • The woman who died when her jealous friend sabotaged her parachute

…and that’s just for starters. I might do some, none or all of these, eventually. I’m also reading four books now. If I ever finish one of them, I’ll probably post about it. The top candidate? Suite Francaise, by Irene Nemirovsky — the first two parts of a five-novel cycle the writer planned to write about the German occupation of Paris, until her plans were interrupted by her arrest by the Nazis and death in a concentration camp. That’s a poignant story in itself, but the book itself is also breathtakingly great, a novel for all time.

For now, all I want to do is thank everyone who reads this blog for reading it, apologize if my productivity has flagged this month, and promise more exciting reading ahead!

(There…with post #401 behind me, maybe I can relax…)

Alice Coltrane, R.I.P.*

alice-coltrane.jpgIt doesn’t feel good to realize that the last time I paid much attention to the great musician and bandleader Alice Coltrane, I was in high school.  Of all the bop figures of the 1960s, Alice Coltrane did the most to unite the freedom, spontaneity and individualism of jazz with the timeless, egoless sounds and feelings of Indian meditation– a combination that ties together two ends of a long string.

The album I remember listening to over and over was Journey in Satchidananda, on which she plays harp and Pharoah Sanders is prominent on sax.  A number of jazz heroes of the 70s — “Mahavishnu” John McLaughlin, Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea — were also known for prayerful, other-wordly improvisations that seemed as if the music was being dictated from somewhere beyond, but my impression that this territory was first explored by Alice.   It was not too far from that style to New Age music, at first mostly performed by jazz-trained players, seemingly designed to accompany meditation.

But in Alice Coltrane’s gifted hands, the blend of Hindu mysticism and hard bop gave birth to music that wasn’t meant to accompany a spiritual or inward journey — it was the journey, and she was quite serious about it.   She established a commune in Agoura Hills for the study of Vedanta, a Hindu school of philosophy, and taught there after retiring from music in the late 1970s.

Alice Coltrane was, of course, the widow of jazz immortal John Coltrane, who died in 1967.  She was also the pianist in his band for the last two years of his musical career, which ended with his death from liver cancer at age 40.  Now, she has joined him. She died at West Hills Hospital a week ago of respiratory failure.

journey-in-satchidananda.jpgI heard about her passing this evening as I drove away from LAX after my flight home from New Orleans.  I stumbled across Tavis Smiley’s radio program, where he replayed a priceless interview with Coltrane taped when she was promoting a comeback album in 2004, Translinear Light.  She was unexpectedly funny, especially about her early years in Detroit, growing up in a highly religious family.  I don’t know if Smiley streams his show on the Internet; I’m too tired to investigate now, but I’ll update this post if I can find it. (See below.)

Meantime, I’m going to start looking for a copy of Journey in Satchidananda, and see whether it moves me now the way it did when I was 16.

*Update:  A stream of Tavis Smiley’s interview with Alice Coltrane is here, for the next week at least.  Really, even if jazz doesn’t interest you, listen to it.  She’s so utterly charming.  The aforementioned album and much else of her work is available here on Rhapsody.  (The link is to the music service’s Internet site, but to play it you have to download the player. I’m a fan of Rhapsody, so if this gets you to join the service, all to the good.)  You can hear samples on Impulse! site, and on that thing Apple runs, oh yeah, iTunes.

Writer Deanne Stillman has a lovely brief tribute to Alice Coltrane here on Huffington Post, and so does RJ Eskow, here, in a combined tribute to Coltrane and saxophonist Michael Brecker, who also passed away last week.

New Orleans from a Cab

As I write, a local news anchor has just reported that it is 64 hours until kickoff for the New Orleans Saints’ game in Chicago against the Bears. If the Saints win, they go to the Super Bowl, a goal the team has never achieved, or even come close to.  The idea that it would be now, a year and a half after “the storm” that changed everything in the Crescent City, is just too much. 

I got an earful of what’s right with the Saints from a cab driver tonight: The coach, Sean Payton, the long-time star Deuce McAllister, the maturing rookie Reggie Bush, and especially the fans who, according to the cabbie (who had the classic N’awlins accent) willed the Saints to victory against the Eagles after Bush’s late fumble revived nightmare visions of past Saints fiascos.

“We was just screamin’! I never heard anythin’ so loud. We were just all sayin’, ‘No way! Not this time!'”

My morning ride’s driver seemed oblivious to it all.  He was a Bosnian, only in New Orleans for six months after ten years in Pittsburgh, PA.  He was looking for work.  I had my camera and took a few pictures from the window. It was a dreary day and these pix aren’t my best, but they couldn’t be of anyplace but New Orleans:

new-orleans-from-cab-window-1.jpg

new-orleans-from-cab-window-3.jpg

new-orleans-from-cab-window-2.jpg

new-orleans-from-cab-window-4.jpg

Now it’s 63 1/2 hours…

Gimme Sacrifice

Think Progress objects to President Bush’s statement on PBS last night in answer to a question from Jim Lehrer about whether he has demanded enough “sacrifice” from the American people:

Lehrer: Let me ask you a bottom-line question, Mr. President. If it is as important as you’ve just said–and you’ve said it many times–as all of this is, particularly the struggle in Iraq, if it’s that important to all of us and to the future of our country, if not the world, why have you not, as president of the United States, asked more Americans and more American interests to sacrifice something? The people who are now sacrificing are, you know, the volunteer military–the Army and the U.S. Marines and their families. They’re the only people who are actually sacrificing anything at this point.

Bush: Well, you know, I think a lot of people are in this fight. I mean, they sacrifice peace of mind when they see the terrible images of violence on TV every night. I mean, we’ve got a fantastic economy here in the United States, but yet, when you think about the psychology of the country, it is somewhat down because of this war.

Now, here in Washington when I say, “What do you mean by that?,” they say, “Well, why don’t you raise their taxes; that’ll cause there to be a sacrifice.” I strongly oppose that. If that’s the kind of sacrifice people are talking about, I’m not for it because raising taxes will hurt this growing economy. And one thing we want during this war on terror is for people to feel like their life’s moving on, that they’re able to make a living and send their kids to college and put more money on the table. And you know, I am interested and open-minded to the suggestion, but this is going to be–

Lehrer: Well–

Bush:—this is like saying why don’t you make sacrifices in the Cold War? I mean, Iraq is only a part of a larger ideological struggle. But it’s a totally different kind of war, than ones we’re used to.

Think Progress’ take on this answer is that Bush ignores the cost of the Iraq war — $700 billion through 2008 — which the blog writer implies ought to result in higher taxes on the wealthy.  One of TP’s commenters, “upside 100,” elaborates on this point:

WTF!!!!!

Peace of mind?? WOW, what a great sacrifice, and we sure wouldn’t want those Corporate Scumbags supporting this Cabal to suffer any more.

Let’s just have the troops carry all the death and injury and missed time with families. Wouldn’t want any “real” people to feel it.

What a bunch of elitist crap from Dubya and his whole merry band of NeoCon assholes!

WAKE UP AMERICA!!!

Of course the idea that watching disturbing TV equates to the kind of rationing regime this country experienced in World War II is ridiculous.  (Millions voluntarily watched a nuclear bomb explode near Los Angeles on 24 Monday night.) Although many American soldiers enlisted for WWII, many more were draftees, and this pattern continued through Korea and Vietnam.  I remember my high school economics teacher predicting that Lyndon Johnson’s refusal to raise taxes to pay for the Vietnam War would lead to inflation, and I think it’s common wisdom now that LBJ’s decision was a contributor to the high inflation of the 1970s.  

But there is an inconsistency in the views of Bush’s opponents.  They’re talking about taxes on “the wealthy.”  Does terrorism only affect “the wealthy?”  Do the remaining achievable war aims in Iraq only benefit “the wealthy?”  What if, as many assert, the wealthy already provide a disproportionate share of the government’s tax revenues?  There’s a lot of empirical evidence to this point.  Does that mean the wealthy have paid enough?  And if so, who do we tax next? 

Regardless of the need for them, or the equity of them, taxes are a drag on the part of the economy that is taxed.  There is no argument on this point — it’s classical economics.  You can tax the wealthy, but the wealthy simply will refuse to suffer very much.  They will, instead, reduce or relocate their economic activity, which means someone further down the economic ladder suffers. 

It would be optimal if we could raise taxes on the wealthy, and force them to earn the same amount as they did before the higher taxes, and to buy just as many luxury items as before, so we could be assured that the government’s revenue take would increase, and the economic harm would be forestalled.  But you can’t force a wealthy person to buy another yacht or to add a new manufacturing plant, or come up with another high-tech scheme.  They will react to the potential ROI, the bastards, and because higher taxes raise costs and depress the benefits of investments, they are less likely to do make them.

Another issue re: sacrifice.  What about civil liberties?  The Patriot Act is a direct result of 9/11.  Its critics say we are less free from government intrusion, and its supporters don’t disagree, but say the intrusions are necessary to thwart terrorism.   Increased security thus comes at a significant cost that permeates society — a sacrifice in my book.

Beyond that?  The sacrifice promoters need to make the case for specific sacrifices.  I’m certainly ready to make them.  But first tell me, what do you need? 

During WWII, we needed to ration fuel and meat in order to keep our troops supplied.  Do we need to do anything like that now?  We needed dramatically higher taxes in part because our defense systems were lacking at the outset of the war; we built a modern air force and navy almost from scratch, and we didn’t have a global military infrastructure. None of that pertains now.  Today’s American economy is a powerhouse; while $700 billion is a lot of money, we are apparently absorbing it. The deficit as a percentage of GDP is not especially high, and it’s shrinking.

It’s true; members of our military are paying the heaviest price.  Recruitment goals are being met, but in the future, we might need more than what voluntary enlistment gives us.  When the battles are over, if our country doesn’t do right by these heroes, that would be outrageous.  But my guess is, the leadership of this country in the 2020s and 2030s will heavily come from those who served and from their families. The sacrifice of our soldiers during this era won’t be forgotten.

Don’t just say “sacrifice” as if it’s self-evident.  Do your homework.  We need to sacrifice X for the cause of Y.  Then we’ll have something to debate. 

Running Silent, Deep

When I start up blogging again, tomorrow or in a few days, it’ll be on my usual assortment of topics, and not on today’s court developments.  As regular readers know, I seldom address it, and will adhere to that policy tonight.  Thanks for understanding. 

Given the horrible fire tonight in Malibu, I doubt there will be much coverage anyway. 

P.S.  I’ve been more than a bit distracted.  Did football experts see Florida’s annihilation of Ohio State coming?  And why isn’t Boise State at least #2 now?