Thursday, October 18, 2007

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Sin of Pride

Salon published a piece today that precisely captures my view of the war in Iraq even before it was launched. Written by Gary Kamiya, it describes the arrogance of launching a war and thinking you can control the events the war precipitates. Here's a key quote:

Making war is like playing dice with God -- using His dice. This is why war should always be a last resort. What's stunning about the Iraq war is that its architects not only ignored this obvious truth, but also ignored the consequences that could have been, and were, foreseeable. To start an unprovoked war on false pretenses and pie-in-the-sky promises of a vast regional transformation, besides being unethical, is an act of almost cosmic folly. To put it in Christian terms, it is the cardinal sin -- the sin of pride.

Even without knowing there were no weapons of mass destruction or the connection with Al Qaeda was a lie or the unbelievably incompetent way the war would be prosecuted, it was clear to me that Bush was oblivious to the real consequences of war to those real people in its vicinity. He arrogantly thought that because his motives were pure and that he was doing God's will, the decision to launch a war would be vindicated, even if not in his lifetime.

Here's another great quote that really captures Bush's version of religious faith:

He sees it as a form of humility, a poor sinner's acceptance of God's will. Bush believes that God is on the side of this war, and that everything will therefore come out all right in the end. He does not care about the real world -- because for him it isn't the true reality. The war in Iraq, that horror in which real human beings are dying, is merely a stage before good finally triumphs over evil. And if that victory does not take place in our lifetime, it doesn't matter: All that matters is that he fought the good fight. This is why he did not concern himself, and still doesn't, with details such as whether this war is winnable in any non-biblical time frame.

Really, really scary.

Monday, July 23, 2007

My Company's Annual Summer Event

Our Over 40 versus Under 40 Softball Game. Watch the video to see who won.

Doesn't this look like a great place to work?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Marx Brothers - At the Speakeasy

I am a fanatical fan of the Marx Brothers. I just stumbled across the clip below of one of the great scenes from their movies. It's from Horsefeathers, circa 1931, during the Paramount period, which was their best. While at Paramount, they were effectively in charge of their movies and focused totally on humor. The movies produced during this era were, in order of release, The Coconuts, Animal Crackers, Monkey Business, Horsefeathers and Duck Soup. Classics all, in their own way, but the best in my order of preference were Monkey Business, Horsefeathers and Duck Soup. Despite their ancient look and feel, the humor is thoroughly modern and stands up amazingly well. Duck Soup is particularly timely. Produced before World War II, it is a hilarious depiction of the insanity of war. Unfortunately, these movies were before their time and didn't attract large audiences. The Marx Brothers were essentially fired by Paramount and went to MGM, where later movies had to include the romantic subplots with th singing lovers and dance production numbers to attract a crowd. Still, there were some classics during that period, chief among them was A Night at the Opera.

This 6 minute scene includes non-sequitor, theater of the absurd, surrealism, slapstick, puns, irony, parody, nonsense, satire and some incredible wit. They were the best...ever. Gave me chills to watch again.

Check it out.

Monday, July 16, 2007

An Adirondack Camp Made of Plastic

Every August, I spend a week in the Adirondacks at Baekeland Camp. It is an idyllic place. The picture at the right is the dock outside our cabin.

It is a typical Adirondack Camp, with a large house and a number of small cabins scattered around the property. It can only be reached by boat and there's no phone, no TV and no cell phone service.

Our cabin is right on the lake, as you can see. I believe that it is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to and feel fortunate I can go there every year.

The camp was bought from the proceeds obtained through the invention of plastic. The patriarch of the family that purchased the camp early in the 20th century was Leo Baekeland, the inventor of plastic.

Last Friday, July 13, 2007 was the 100th anniversary of the patent application that Leo filed for his invention. There was a fascinating piece on NPR about Leo and the impact plastic has had on the world.

The camp is still owned by the descendants of Leo Baekeland and the family lore stretches back decades and decades. Our family lore goes back only one decade, but it is rich nonetheless. This camp has become integral to our family history. We are already thinking fondly of summers past as we look forward to our next visit in August.

So, happy anniversary, Leo....and thank you, wherever you are.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Let's Go to the Videotape!

So, what are the odds? Andrew Sullivan posts on the inteview with Carole Coleman that I posted about this past Sunday. She's the Irish journalists that created an international incident by her aggressive interview.

The interview was two years ago, but Andrew helpfully posts the actual interview. Check it out. The woman makes me proud to be Irish.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Excusing Bush

Henry Kissinger has a very long piece on the op ed page of today's Washington Post. Oddly, it is not posted in the online version of the paper. He probably has some kind of copyright control, or something. His general point is that things are so bad in Iraq that the international community cannot afford to ignore it. So, the U.S. should call - and lead - an international meeting to try to solve the problem. In other words, Bush has made such a mess of things that we should essentially blackmail the rest of the world to try to get us out of the mess. I'm sure the world community will respond well.

But here's the quote that galls me:

"A democratic public eventually holds its leaders responsible for bring about disasters, even if the decisions that caused the disaster reflected the public's preferences of the moment."

Unbelievable. Bush and Cheney tell the American public that Hussein has weapons of mass destruction and was complicit in 9/11. In fact, we are warned that the "smoking gun could turn into a mushroom cloud. Then, having ginned up this war fever by suggesting we are directly threatened by Hussein, they demand a vote in Congress right before an election, suggesting that to vote no on this war would be to put the American public at risk of annihalation.

And, now, when the truth is known about their, at best, reckless disregard for the truth in the rush to war, we are supposed to have sympathy for Bush being the victim of a fickle American public. Poor Bush, he is being held responsible for a misguided public that forced him to go to war.

Boo hoo.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

King George

In a blast from the past, the post below brought to mind an amazing article I read a long while ago about an interview conducted by an Irish journalist named Carole Coleman on the occasion of a visit to Ireland by George Bush. It got a lot of attention at the time because she challenged Bush pretty aggressively. She then wrote the article for the London Sunday Times describing the process dealing with the White House staff surrounding the interview. Her experience illustrated the belief within the Bush White House that the president was some kind of diety to whom everyone should pay obeisance. It describes the ritual she was to go through when the president entered the room. And the guidance she was given, like the following:

“'We don’t address the president unless he speaks first,' a member of the film crew had told me earlier. "

Being a good journalist and a better Irishman, she ignored the protocols and pinned Bush's ears back. The White House flack, in what she thought was chastisement but was actually a great compliment, said after the interview:

“You were more vicious than any of the White House press corps or even some of them up on Capitol Hill . . .The president leads the interview,” she said.

Imagine. "The President leads the interview." The arrogance. It was enlightening to read this piece again. In fact, the White House lodged a complaint with the Irish Embassy about the interview. Imagine the temerity of a journalist asking the president tough questions. I'm sure the Irish diplomats were quaking.

In fact, Ms. Coleman turned the experience into a book length rumination on Bush's America, entitled, Alleluia America.

It's on my Summer reading list.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Loyal Bushies

Josh Marshall has a great post referring to an Andrew Sullivan critique of the Republican messaging that the Libby prosecution was all political. The charge is ludicrous on its face. Everyone involved in moving this case forward was appointed by George W. Bush, most particularly the prosecutor and the judge. Everyone, of course, except for the jury. But I'm sure if they could have found a way to rig the jury, they would have. IRS audit, anyone?

But the point Marshall makes is a good one. To the extent anyone, in this case New Republic publisher Marty Peretz, can claim the case was political, it was because the Republicans pushing it were not "loyal Bushies." This point made something clear to me; that George W. Bush has divided the Republican Party in to two camps, Bush loyalists and all others. The Bush loyalists believe in the Divine Right of Bush. The others, not so much. So you have a category in the spreadsheet evaluating the U.S. attorneys as to their "loyal Bushiness." Anything short of that is suspect. Think of some of the Republicans who fail this test; John Ashcroft, Paul O'Neill, the old John McCain, Colin Powell, etc., etc. If you are not willing to subject your personal will to that of George Bush (really Dick Cheney), your resistance becomes "political."

The problem is these "loyal Bushies" are both ignorant and passionate. They are what's left of the base of the Republican Party. They are now completely divorced from reality, but can't be ignored by Republican presidential candidates. So, you have the spectacle of people like Mitt Romney, who prides himself on never granting a pardon and commutation as governor, defended the Libby commutation. Tough luck for the Iraq War veterans whose conviction at age 14 for a bb gun incident prevents him from achieving his dream of becoming a police officer. For Romney, it's all black and white....except for the Libby case. He can't risk alienating "loyal Bushies."

At what point does it matter that the principle of being a "loyal Bushie" above all else disqualifies a candidate being president.

Soon, I hope.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

You Don't Know Dick!

I love Stewart's imitation of as Sen. Leahy as mafioso. Being half Italian, I'm sure the Senator was amused.

Stewart will be so sad when Cheney leaves office. He will have to start working again, since Cheney's endless supply of material will cease.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Folklife Festival 2007

As noted last year about this time, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival is my favorite annual event in Washington. Today, I made my annual pilgrimmage and had that moment of grace I described in last year's post. This year, the cultures presented were the Mekong Delta, the Commonwealth of Virginia and Northern Ireland. As one might expect, the highlight was the music performed in the Northern Ireland performance tent.

The genius of this festival is the way the Smithsonian Folklife Center plucks local musicians out of their natural habitat, in this case presumably a circuit of Irish pubs, and brings them to Washington to delight and surprise us. This year, it was a band called Four Men and a Dog that brought down the house. I'm not sure which of the players is considered the dog, but they had the performance tent rocking.

What I love best about the festival is the spontaneous dancing that occurs. People strolling along the Mall hear music and are drawn to it. Next thing you know, they are on the dance floor, sometimes dancing with strangers. I truly consider those moments of grace and it happens every year.

Check it out in this longish (3 minutes) and somewhat poor quality video I took and edited. Hang in there for the shots of the dancers. As you can see, inhibitions are left at the door. There's the old guy who leaped from the crowd and did a poor imitation of Irish step dancing right in front of the bandstand, a younger guy with similar pretentions, a very smooth couple who clearly know how it's done and the children scampering in betweent the larger dancers.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Impeach Cheney

Conservative legal scholar Bruce Fein of the conservative American Enterprise Institute, makes a powerful case for impeaching Dick Cheney in Slate, the online magazine. Here's my favorite quote:

"The legal precedent set by Cheney would justify a decision by Russian President Vladimir Putin to kidnap American tourists in Paris and to dispatch them to dungeons in Belarus if they were suspected of Chechen sympathies."

And he concludes with this:

"In the end, President Bush regularly is unable to explain or defend the policies of his own administration, and that is because the heavy intellectual labor has been performed in the office of the vice president. Cheney is impeachable for his overweening power and his sneering contempt of the Constitution and the rule of law."

It is genuinely scary the things that this administration has done to the country. And the precedents they set will be enshrined in our government if Congress doesn't act.

Let's hope they have the courage to do so.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

In Defense of PR Experts

I am proud to work for what I consider the premier public relations firm in the world. We are an extremely ethical firm and are the best in the business at any comminications challege an organization might face. One of the best parts of my job is that I get to dabble in other people's business, professions and avocations. But I am always acutely aware that what we do is explain what they do. We don't do what they do. But it sure is fun learning what they do.

One of my all-time favorite clients was the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. I believe we provided great communications services and came to understand the enormous complexity involved in keeping planes from bumping into one another on the ground or in the air. But after four years working with the association, I had no illusions that I was qualified to manage air traffic. That is why I take no offense that my friend John Carr uses the term "PR expert" as an epithet in his current post on the Main Bang.

Which brings me to the current administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration. Like me, she's a PR person. But unlike me, she thinks she can run our nation's air traffic control system. After almost five years on the job, we have impirical evidence that I'm right and she's wrong. On the other hand, I actually had more experience with air traffic control than she did going into her job. I even visited the tower at Dulles Airport. And, more importantly, I really like all the air traffic controllers I've met and many of them like me. That certainly distinquishes me from the current administrator.

So, maybe I am more qualified that I thought. In fact, maybe I'm just the guy for the job of FAA Administrator. Yeah, that's the ticket, Bill Black, FAA Administrator! I like the sound of that. So, stand aside John Carr, what this country needs is a qualified PR expert to be FAA Administrator and, therefore, I'm throwing my hat into the ring.

Click here to vote for me! While you won't find my name, just click on "OTHER." We'll fill in my name later.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Welcome Main Bangers!

It's been pretty quiet here at the Preferential Option. While I do admit to giving John Carr the idea of starting a blog, I have preferred to blog away in obscurity. John has taken his blog to places I could not have imagined when I suggested he start one. He has actually had an impact on peoples' lives. I stand in awe of his accomplishments.

For me, I mainly use this blog as an opportunity to vent my rage at the Bush Administration, for which my loathing knows no bounds. But I've also tried various and sundry new blogging techiques. You'll see in the previous post that I've figured out how to create and post little music videos. I'm so excited about that, it even distracted me from Bush bashing, albeit temporarily.

So, feel free to look around. While I wasn't expecting company, you are certainly welcome. And now I will feel an obligation to post more frequently, in case you choose to come back.

For those of my readers not coming from the Main Bang (Hi, Mom!), here's a link to the post I'm responding to here.

Thanks, John.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Gettysburg Part 2

God, I love Macs. Here's a music video I created of my trip to Gettysburg on Tuesday of this week. Done in less than a day.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


Just came back from a business meeting in Gettysburg that included a tour of the battlefield. Part of the meeting was "Leadership Lessons from the Battle of Gettysburg." Very cool and informative. Here's some video I took out the window of the bus as we traveled along the line that the Union held on the third day, looking across the field where Pickett's Charge took place. Watch and listen:

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Rock Creek After the Rain

Took this on a bike ride today through Rock Creek Park in Washington. This mostly a test post, to see if I can still do the video thing with my new camera. But it is a nice nature shot.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Spear chucker???

I was watching Fox News' Sunday morning news show. Brit Hume was commending on Fred Thompson for President. He described the campaign finance reform hearings that Thompson chaired and was bemoaning the fact that he was buffaloed by Sen. John Glenn who he described as "not your typical spearchucker for the Democratic Party." He obviously meant "spear carrier." But the word rolled off his tongue in a way that suggested it was not the first time he'd used the racist term.

Wonder of Juan Williams had a sidebar conversation with him after the show?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Worst

I often try to think back to Vietnam and ask myself whether today's situation is really worse than Vietnam. It feels a lot worse, but that may just be because it is now and memories fade. Many of the atrocities, both real and mataphorical, that outrage us today, also occurred during Vietnam. Bad or deceptive intelligence, threats against consitutional rights and torture were part of the bill of particulars against Johnson and then Nixon. Of course, in Vietnam, there were 55,000 dead and we're only up to 3,500 now. But still, why does this feel so much worse.

Well, one reason is that it was so predictable, which makes it even more tragic. You would think that the experience of Vietnam would have educated us at least enough to avoid the same mistakes again. Of course, Bush learned nothing from Vietnam, except maybe how to use connections to avoid any inconvenience visited upon himself.

But the real reason this is worse is because the misbehavior during Vietnam was wrong and those doing it knew it was wrong. They truly believed that the constitutional violations, the torture and the skewing of intelligence was necessary for some great good. But they also knew that, if it came out, they'd be screwed.

On the other hand, this crowd is actively trying to institutionalize the misbehavior. They are advancing consitutional theories that justify Presidential authority beyond all precedent. While they have tried to hide their activities, when caught, they seek to justify them under the unitary executive, which is another name for fascism.

That's why it's worse. Past "crimes" were always pretty much understood to be crimes. These crimes are portrayed as patriotic duty. In this way, they are trying to change the country into something different than what it was. As I read recently somewhere, Bush and Cheney gave an oath not to proect the American people or the physical boundaries of the United States. Their oath was to protect the Constitution. An oath they have violated repeatedly and continue to do so.

God Save the United States of America. That's what it will take, I fear, for us to survive the next 18 months.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Bye, bye Bill

Bill Richardson is toast. I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. He has an earthy appeal, a regular guy candor that makes him seem like a straight shooter. I know people who've worked for him and one of his closest advisors is a guy I know well and respect.

Then he appeared on Meet the Press. John Dickerson of Slate magazine takes him apart for his performance and he makes a good case. But, for me, it was the question at the end where Russert referenced the fact that he had claimed to be both a Red Sox fan and a Yankees fan. And he had the quotes to prove it. Here's the end of a tortured explanation:

GOV. RICHARDSON: I, my favorite team has always been the Red Sox.
MR. RUSSERT: You’re a Red Sox fan.
GOV. RICHARDSON: I’m a Red Sox fan.
MR. RUSSERT: End of subject.
GOV. RICHARDSON: End of subject.
MR. RUSSERT: You better get rid of this book.
GOV. RICHARDSON: Oh, no! I’m also a Yankee fan. I also like...

Forget it! He's dead to me.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Rep. Artur Davis

Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL) is my new hero. He participated in a debate on the Lehrer News Hour last night with Rep. Dan Lundgren (R-CA) focused on Monica Goodling's testimony on the DOJ issues before the House Judiciary Committee. Davis was awesome, articulate, knowledeable and reasoned. Lundgren was his typical, toady self. Lundgren dismissed her admission that she used political criteria in hiring attorneys at Justice as some kind of minor infracation that should be forgiven because she admitted it. Can you imagine what Lundgren would be saying if the same set of facts applied to Janet Reno's Justice Department?

But Davis nailed the issue and it's worthing reviewing the entire session. But I found this to be the killer quote:

"Another quick point. If Monica Goodling acknowledged that she used political considerations with respect to the hiring of career AUSAs, then how can we not believe that political considerations were probably used to select the U.S. attorneys? It's a state of mind. And if you've got that state of mind and your administration has that state of mind, I don't think it just fades out."

She said she might have applied politics to hiring at the Department more than 50 times. And we're supposed to believe that politics played no part in the US Attorney firings??

Come on!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Einstein and Religion

Andrew Sullivan posts a great quote from Einstein on the relationship between science and religion that is very insightful and very comforting, in a way. It gives religion the respect I think it deserves when considered in the cosmic magnitude in which it is properly placed. In other words, it characterizes religion as something vastly larger than abject devotion to some old guy with a long, white beard. God is beyond comprehension, but also necessary to understand "what it all means." Why is there anything? The God that is discussed in popular religion is dramatically inadequate to what we ascribe his/her role in existence.

This is my favorite sentence in the longer quote:

[I]t seems to me that science not only purifies the religious impulse of
the dross of its anthropomorphism but also contributes to a religious
spiritualization of our understanding of life.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


The immigration issue leaves me cold. I just can't get emotional involved. I'm struck by the intense emotional exhibited by both sides, but particularly those most vehement against illegal immigration. I think I've just figured out why they are so intense. I think they view American citizenship as some kind of precious possession and the illegal immigrants are stealing it, which enrages them.

I differ with them in that I look at American citizenship as a lucky break, an accident of birth. So, when someone unlucky enough to be born poor in Mexico comes over the border, I don't take it personally. And I don't consider them evil.

I know there are practical reasons for seeking a way to control immigration. And I recognize the resentment felt by those whose jobs are threatened by illegal immigration (these, of course, are the people desperatey trying to protect the ability of Americans to pick fruit and vegetables, bus tables in restaurants and clean hotel rooms).

But I do think the anti-immigrant forces are in some ways un-American. But I also think George Bush is generally un-American, except, oddly, on this one issue.

Go figure.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Godfather

I concluded my issues management course at the George Washington Graduate School of Political Management with class entitled "Issues Management and the Godfather.

Oh, I wish I had this video for the course. It is priceless.


Hillary Clinton had a great come back on the Today Show today. Matt Lauer was trying to get her denounce Jimmy Carter for his entirely justified critique of George W. Bush. To paraphrase:

"Doesn't President Carter's comments cross a line in criticizing a successor?" Lauer said.

"Well, I've said some pretty critical things myself," says Hillary.

"Yeah, but you're not a former President," Lauer said.

"Not yet," say Hillary with a smile. Laughter could be heard among the crew.

Nice one.

When you're hot, you're hot

Amazing how, when things are going good, the media finds all kinds of ways to validate that premise. A year ago, the Democrats, according to the media, couldn't get out of their own way. Even with the multiple disasters plaguing the Republicans, there was not way the Dems could win the House and the Senate was totally out of reach. Our own incompetence and infighting would preclude our ability to take advantage of the problems facing the Republicans. Of course, we were also told that Republican juggernaut would protect them from electoral disaster.

What a difference an election makes. Case in point is today's front page story in the Washington Post on how the Democrats are way ahead of the Republicans on the Internet.

I guess we now benefit from the media's pack mentality. I'll take it.

Friday, May 18, 2007


One of the amazing things about George W. Bush is how he has revealed as heroes people for whom I've had nothing but contempt over the years. That's the real dividing line in this Administration. People who subordinate their will to King George and prosper (or get the Medal of Freedom) and people who have an independent will and are destroyed (the list is too long to show here, but some examples, Paul O'Neil, Colin Powell, John Dellulio, etc., etc.) Who'd have thought that Ashcroft could be a hero, but you've got to admire the guy for his sickbed repudiation of Gonzalez and Card.

Well, here's another. Ron Paul. It's a testament to the decline of the Republican Party that Guiliani apparently got the boost from his exchange with Paul at the debate. But, the fact is, Paul was right. And click the video below to see him elaborate.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Les Miserables

I saw Les Miserables. I may be one of the last people to see the play. Don't have time for a full review. It's a spectacular work of art. Every word is sung and since I barely got there in time to take my seat, I didn't get a chance to read the plot digest, which would have helped. It's a little complex and confusing at the beginning.

The most powerful moment in the entire performance is when Jean sings "Bring Him Home" to a sleeping soldier. What a killer! I first heard this song at the Memorial Day Concert on the Capitol lawn by the guy to created the role on Broadway. It is a gut wrenching prayer asking God to ensure the safe return of the soldier. You couldn't help but think of soldiers currently in Iraq. While the actor was singing, you could hear sniffling all throughout the theater and many people daubing their eyes.

A great play.
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The Parthenon

A couple of years ago, I visited the Parthenon in Athens, Greece. It was a thrilling experience to be standing on the Acropolis, the huge elevated rock on which the Parthenon was built. I was struck by how poorly the Greeks preserved their historic artifacts. I think they were trying to improve the site, but much of it was simply piles of rocks. The Parthenon itself was basically a shell. Nothing inside, just rows of columns and some roof-type structures perched precariously on top. But there was nothing inside. Now I know why.

The interior of the Parthenon is in the Britsh Museum. There is a huge room with wall sculputures running down either side. At either end, there are a number of very impressive statues from the historic site.

If I was the Greeks, I'd be pretty pissed. I made this comment to a number of my British colleagues and one said, "Yeah, but if it wasn't for us the whole thing would have been burned down."
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Rosetta Stone

The British Museum is the oldest museum in the world. The sheer number of artifacts is stunning. And they go back as far as you can go in human history, thousands and thousands of years.

The first thing you encounter coming in one door of the museum is the Rosetta Stone. In my ignorance, I didn't know it was a real thing. Here it is. Created in 196 BC, it's got Greek and Egyptian versions of the same text, which allowed researchers to beging to translate hieroglyphics for the first time. Discovered in 1799, it took 20 years to translate it.
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Monday, May 07, 2007

St. Paul's Cathedral

I have had a recurring nightmare all my life that I am ascending a very narrow, steep flight of stairs to some very high place, getting more and more anxious as I go up. By the time I reach the top, I am literally on my stomach, clutching the stairs and the floor at the top landing. The fear of heights is paralyzing. I have not had the dream in a long time, but it remains in my psyche.

Which brings me to St. Paul's Cathedral. An amazing structure, which I believe provded the model for the dome of the U.S. Capitol. One of the coolest features is that you can go up to the dome of the cathedral, which provides the best available view of all of London.

Needing to get that picture I went up and the dream came back to me in force. There are 197 steps to get to the balcony inside the dome that overlooks the sacristy. I could not get near the railing to look down. But you have to walk along the balcony to continue the climb to the outside peak of the dome. I hugged the wall around the balcony.

The stairs to the top get narrower and narrower and at one point, both shoulders are touching walls. So, you get to combine your claustrophobia with your acrophobia. Then, you get to a wrought iron spiral staircase that provides a helpful view downward, way downward. Then, out you come for a stunning view. A few snaps and back down you go. quickly.

I expect that dream will be returning.


I saw Spamalot last night. As a devoted Monty Python fan, I knew I would enjoy it. I only hoped my expectations were not too high. They weren't. It delivered. It provided the appropriate evocations of the source material and built from there. I particularly liked the thowaway line, "It's got lovely plumage," which harkens to my favorite skit, the "Dead Parrot."

What struck me was how effective the show was at providing the best Broadway emotional manipulation, all the while ridiculing the Broadway conventions. The soaring showtunes about how silly showtunes are. I also felt uneasy about the gay and Jew jokes. Can the gays and Jews out there give me post hoc permission to laugh at those? Of course, similarly, I always feel a little uneasy about enjoying the song, "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," since the original was sung by Jesus hanging on the cross, compete with leg kicks. Still, it was a real high point of the show. And the entire audience sang along.

It was a great show and fun to see it in its natural habitat, here in London.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

St. Martin in the Fields

I attended "Choral Evensong" at the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, next door to the hotel. I have found that, when I travel to cities with a high proportion of tourists, I gravitate to churches. It's the one place when authenticity reigns. Such was the case this evening. It was actually a special event in that it was the last service at the Church until at least September, when the renovation is scheduled to be completed. There was a bittersweet feel to the proceedings, but the music was very beautiful. See the following clip for a little taste.

At the clonclusion of the service the choir led the congregation out of the Church for the last time. The choir sang as people exited and gathered in a semi-circle around the door. Then the pastor very deliberately closed the door, locked it and turned and embraced a colleague. All but the embraces is show next.

Global warming

I plan to show this picture to any Europeans who lecture me on global warming.

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Me and Big Ben

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Alison Lapper Pregnant

This is thte statue referenced below. Very striking.
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Saturday, May 05, 2007


OK, Im back, after 6 months away. My last post was in Berlin. Today's post is from London. So, I've straddle the two major WW II capitols. I'm typing this on the banks of the Thames.

I arrived in London this morning and the weather is, well, like London. Cold and overcast. I'm staying at the St. Martins Lane Hotel, a very "new wavey" kind of place, with spare furnishing and wierd videos playing in the elevators. The staff is very accommodating, but I did run across the dimmest clerk I think I've ever seen. When I first arrived, the concierge told me that Trafalgar Square was close by. So, I dropped my luggage and came back down and, since the concierge was not at his desk, I asked the clerk at the reception desk where Trafalgar Square was. She seemed very puzzled, pulled out a map and scanned it very closely for a few minutes, scouring both sides of the Thames River and finally, uncertainly, sent me to the right going out of the hotel and directed me to an intersection and down a main street. I proceded with great suspicion.

At the intersection, there was a sign for Trafalgar Square pointing in the opposite direction, back from whence I came. Turns out that the Square was to the left, within sight of the front door of the hotel. I don't know how this woman finds her way to work in the morning.

The Square was filled with people, but the most striking feature in the statue of Alison Lapper, which presides prominently over everything except the towerring stature of Trafalgar himself. It is a massive shite statue of a pregnant, handicapped woman. I remember seeing a news report about this stature some years ago, but was taken aback when I saw it, given its size and pronience. My picture is posted, but you should click here to learn more about it.

Another amazing discovery is the fact that the hotel is next door to St. Martin in the Fields. It is currently being renovated, so its covered with scaffolding. I've got quite a few classical CDs of music by Neville Mariner at St. Martin in the Fields. I'd always pictured some buccolic setting for this church, not plopped in the middle of London's major intersection with cars, trucks and busses barreling by. Another bubble burst.

There is a fantastic concert being held tonight with Mozart, Back and Vivaldi. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of buying a ticket to the theater before leaving the hotel. Bummer! But they do have choir music on Sunday, so I will catch that.

As for the theater, it won't be so bad. Front row balcony for Spamalot.