Tuesday, November 28, 2006

i heard you malachi

on november 3rd malachi ritscher committed self immolation in chicago to protest the iraq war.

we're only now hearing about it.

finally the word is getting out and it needs to.

the funny thing is, in october i told dutchman that if we lost the midterms i might just do the same out there in the middle of sunset and la brea. of course, i'm a big chicken, and most of all, i couldn't do that to dutchman or my family, but it isn't the first time that i've grappled with the intense helplessness that i feel in the face of the brutality done in my name.

one of the most interesting things that i'm finding, now that word is finally gettting out about malachi, is the debate about whether a sane person would do such a thing.

my question is, how does a sane person not resort to acts of desperation to be heard when our leaders are insane?

it all boils down to that bumpersticker about if you're not angry you're not paying attention, yada yada yada.. but really, there is a truth here that must be paid attention.

when i was nineteen i was hospitalized briefly for depression. it runs very deeply in my family and luckily i broke the pattern at an early age before i was imprisoned by bad choices. during the hospitalization i attended my first (and last) group therapy sessions. there was one man there who monopolized the sessions by telling everyone else what their problems were and droning on and on about himself. he was discharged shortly after i arrived and i was glad to see him go. but a week later he was back. after a few days of uncharacteristic silence he finally told his story. he tearfully explained how he had simply taken his car into the dealership for an easy repair. he had been given a typical runaround that had spiralled into what he described as a sadistic mockery. it apparently went on for hours and then days until he ended up back in the loony bin with the rest of us. sounds like the paranoid ramblings of a lunatic, right?

the thing is, my mother happened to work at that dealership. she came home regularly with horrific stories about what assholes the guys in repairs were, how they liked playing games with the customers and driving them nuts. she hated them.

just because my compatriot was sensitive doesn't mean he was wrong.

and i witnessed plenty of other cuckoo's nest's moments with patients challenging the staff (many of whom came from the local baptist seminary) that ended with the staff losing in the battle of wits and winning only by pulling rank. sometimes the staff would start stuff. it was almost as if they needed to rile the crazies to prove to themselves that they were the sane ones...

i started to get the impression that we were only locked up for our own good... to protect us, the sensitive, from the "sane" people.

malachi was an artist. as i've said before, it's the artist's job to be sensitive. we are the canaries in the coal mine. we are the visionaries who dream of a better future and show the landlocked leaders how to get there...

after 9/11 when we decided to move back to LA from NYC because we thought we were going to die -- and we wanted to die somewhere green and surrounded by friends -- we told one of our family members. she, being republican and of the "shopping is patriotic" ilk, said, "you can't let this effect you." i'm still shocked by that... 9/11, "this," "you can't let this effect you."

well, we did. we let 9/11 effect us. it's our job to let it effect us. it's my job to be sensitive. it's what drove me to join cindy sheehan in crawford and it's what drives me to teach and it's what allows me to express compassion for people i don't even like...

malachi, we heard you. we're sorry that you had to go to such extremes to be heard. if you can hear us, know that some of us are still here, working very hard to right these wrongs you died for.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

how the hell to contact nancy pelosi

so's i'm listening to all this crap about murtha and hastings and how they have the stank of corruption hanging all over their down lows and i get all fired up and ready to send my feelings to nancy pelosi, future speaker of the house and proponent of the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act so's i do a google on her and the first link takes me to Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, California, 8th District where there's a nifty little place to send her an email. so's i write to her:
PLEASE don't make ethics mistakes! PLEASE! you have given me faith in my country again, don't let me down... murtha and hastings have the appearance of corruption -- whether it's proven or not (and it looks pretty solid to me) you cannot say we will be honest and then have this appearance. we must be above reproach. do the right thing, PLEASE

and then i hit me some "sends" and i get the cheesy little message that tells me that since i don't live in san francisco, my email won't get to her (thanks for telling me that after i sent the damn thing) and sends me to this link for the democratic leader. only this fkng page doesn't have any way to contact nancy.

hey webmaster - you're a dick!

now i'm good and worked up so i gets me some phone numbers and i start making the calls and i tell them what losers i think they are and what a great start we're off to if the speaker's only interested in speaking and not listening. her home office gave me this email address americanvoices@mail.house.gov which ain't nowhere on any of the sites. and the local office told me they were only interested in passing along any messages that have to do with local issues, not national ones.

hey phone answerer - you're a dick too!

now send her an email and tell her what you think.

yep, we have more work to do... the gloatboat has landed it's time to roll up our sleeves and keep an eye on the pols!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Government Issue

saturday night i was honored to participate in Lit Up at St. Michael's church in the valley. it's a monthly event where folks from theatre, comedy, music et. al. come together and share some musings on a theme. the proceeds went to the Evan Ashcraft Memorial Foundation. this month's theme was "government issue" and i had a few folks ask if they could read it so i'm posting it below. it contains themes and stories that i've touched on before in this blog and it's long so i'm not sure i'll leave it up forever, so enjoy:

I miss the Berlin wall. I know that’s not a particularly PC thing to say and if given the opportunity I certainly wouldn’t advocate building it again – or building our own facsimile on our southern border for that matter – but I don’t think I’ll ever choose to return to the now reunited city of Berlin.

See, I’m a military brat. I am government issue. I was issued forth in an army base hospital in Bremerhaven, Germany to my father, who was then in the Air Force and to my mother who was an army brat who had met him a year earlier on that same base.

I spent the rest of my childhood shuttling back and forth between Texas and Germany every two to three years. In retrospect this sounds a little interesting but in reality it was pretty painful.

Imagine growing up, and every two or three years everyone dies. Not your family, but everyone else. Your teachers, your best friends, your pets. Poof. Gone. Kinda like puppets that get folded up and put away never to be seen again. Well, not exactly, the sets may come out but not the puppets. You can go back and visit a town you grew up in but none of the people you grew up with will be there, they’ve been stationed somewhere else. You’ll never see that cast of characters again. And now, as an adult and a civilian you can’t even get back on the base to see your old house or the pool where you spent all your summers. Nothing to go back to. That’s how I grew up.

I spent second, third and fourth grades in Berlin. That’s where I left some of my earliest memories. We lived within a mile of the wall. Or the border that surrounded West Berlin. It wasn’t always a wall. There were places where apartment buildings that sat on the border had balconies that hung over into the east. Those balconies had been simply crammed with barbed wire so that no one could escape out the back – as if someone was going to risk their lives jumping off a balcony to "escape" into East Germany.

The entire experience of Berlin from an American child’s perspective was filled with contradiction and questions. As an army brat I was spoon-fed propaganda along with the rest of the troops. And I call it propaganda because even if it was originally nuanced and complex information, by the time you boil it down so that an eight-year-old can understand it, you have propaganda. The people in the east were the bad guys. We, the Americans, were in Berlin to protect the good Germans from the bad Germans.

Only that didn’t really make sense, even to an eight-year-old. The Berlin wall had guard towers on the east and observation decks on the west. Western tourists could climb the wooden stairs up a story or two to look over the wall and see the "bad guys" in the east and their armed guards in towers looking back at us.

I remember one Easter when we went to the wall – don’t ask me why we spent Easter there, my family doesn’t really do holidays. But it was a pretty crowded day and the decks were crammed with folks. There was one man that was wearing the reddest of red shirts I’ve ever seen. In my memory it’s like the scene in Shindler’s List where everything else is gray and bleak and there’s one bright spot of color that you can’t not follow with your eyes. You could have picked him out of the crowd from miles away. And that was exactly his purpose. My father, whose job as a Russian linguist was to spy on Russian radio transmissions in East Germany, could also speak a little German. He started chatting the red-shirted guy up and learned his story.

The man, like so many other Berliners, had been working in West Berlin on the night of August 13, 1961, the night the wall went up. He simply couldn’t get back to his family. Now, nine years later, he was there to see them on Easter.

East Berlin was the bleakest vision I had ever seen. It was probably its proximity to West Berlin, by comparison, that made it seem even more dismal. Now, in hindsight, I realize that it was the lack of advertising. There was simply no advertising, no billboards, neon signs, banners. Just cobblestones and monotonous architecture. But the east side was always empty. I don’t know what that’s about. I don’t know if it’s faulty memory or what, but I do remember how remarkable it was to even see a car drive by in the distance.

But on this Easter morning, as our redshirted German neighbor peered through big binoculars, two women on the east side came down the street toward us pushing baby carriages. They were far away and I could see that they stopped, picked the babies up and held them up in the air. The redshirted guy stared through the binoculars at them. My father had learned that the women were his wife and his daughter and the babies were his grandchildren. He had never seen them any other way. They held the squirming children up in the air and then the man saw something move in the distance and he signaled them. The women put the children in the carriages and they were gone. A moment later an East German police car drove by.

And those were the bad guys?

I know that’s a simplification of so many hard facts, but even an eight-year-old knows when something is fishy.

At night, in my bed, in the brand-new government issued apartment building we lived in, I could hear mines exploding. We lived within earshot of the wall. When I got scared and asked who was dying, my parents would tell me not to worry that it was probably only a rabbit or deer, not a human. Yeah, don’t worry. It was probably only Bambi or Thumper. No one important.

And then there was the whole issue of recognition. The united states government didn’t "recognize" the East German government. Didn’t recognize East Berlin? Well, I did! It was right over there!

So I was getting a good healthy dose of authority questioning at an early age. We’re the good people and they are the bad? The bad people don’t get to choose where they live, they can’t choose their job, they can’t quit their job, they don’t get to choose their doctors. The bad people were looking more and more like the sad people to me – and if you know anything about the military, you know that the same went for us. Daddy couldn’t quit his job. We didn’t get to choose where we lived. I never saw the same doctor twice growing up. – hell, I still don’t get to see the same doctor twice now, with my health insurance, or lack of, changing every few months.

And then, after I finished reading my first whole book, Charlotte’s Web, I moved onto the next natural choice for a girl growing up in Germany. I read the diary of Anne frank. It would start me off on a young obsession with the holocaust. Trying to understand the good people and the bad. Only, I was living in Berlin in the 60's. Even at the age of nine I could do the math. I remember when we would go out to the German community looking at the shop owners and the business men and thinking, hey, that guy’s about the age of my grandfather, that means he was here 20 years ago, that means he was here when it happened and he was a grownup even back then. What did he do? Did he know? Why didn’t he try to stop it?

Later, when I was in high school, we lived in Augsburg, Germany, close to Munich and close to the death camp, Dachau. When people would come to visit us from the states we would take them there. It was kind of our own perverted Disney trip. The tourists are coming, have to go to Dachau. Only it wasn’t as easy to find as Disneyland. There weren’t a lot of signs that said Dachau death camp! Next exit! And when daddy would stop to ask for directions it was amazing how many Germans didn’t know. "Dachau? You’re in Dachau. What do you mean, ‘death camp’ I don’t understand." Again, I would do the math. That guy looks about 45, he must have been here then... He doesn’t know?

One thing that I did get from growing up in a divided city is a divided perspective. And for me that led to compassion for my "enemies." When you have a wall running down the middle of your perspective, you tend to look on both sides. You tend to question. If I lived in a town called puppy killers and folks drove in from all around the world to ask where the puppy killers were, where the puppy killer factory memorial is, implying that I might be a puppy killer myself, I might also play dumb as a way to cope.

But then again, honestly, I don’t think I would. Because of my divided perspective, I can have compassion for the good Germans, but I don’t know that I can join them. Our own country has been looking vaguely reminiscent lately. My own mother, a military wife and daughter, a gung ho Texan American who prides herself on never voting a straight party ticket but instead, weighing each candidate before pulling a lever, told me, after the Abu Graihb photos came out that even she is reminded of the good Germans. And when the question of building a wall between Mexico and the US came up, she said she can’t believe she might live on the side of a wall with the guard towers. Neither of us could understand why folks were going along with this crap. As a people, we’ve had our own wall running through our nation for years now, and it seemed like it was getting more and more concrete until just four days ago.

The Berlin wall taught me to try to understand the other. And that is something I still try to nourish. I’m not always successful but I try. Now that our country is reuniting, I’m looking for common ground. I don’t think that the folks on the other side were bad guys. I don’t think we’re the good guys. I think we all just want to wake up tomorrow and feel better about things. It must have been really painful to be on the side of the issues where you had to deny truth for the sake of loyalty and patriotism. For the folks who believed in their leaders, both in the government and the media, it has to be painful to admit that those leaders were liars and cheats and bullies. I am not going to say I told you so, because I didn’t really want to be right. I know what it’s like to be disillusioned by my country, it hurts like a mofo.

And part of my journey to question the war authorities in the past years took me to a new home. I joined Cindy Sheehan and thousands of others last year in Crawford Texas to protest the president. I wasn’t sure what to expect after years of protest marches and leftist politics, but I sure didn’t expect to find so many military folks. There were Gi s and wives and mothers and fathers and sons of GI s. There were vets and brats. I had forgotten what it was like to be in the company of so many traditional people. People who understood what it meant to be in "the service." Who are prepared to give up some basic American rights for a greater good. And our greater good in Crawford was to question the civilian authorities who were in command of the Gis. It’s our job to speak out for them because they gave up that right when they volunteered to serve us. We gathered in Crawford in the service of the GI. And it felt like home.

And, of course, once again, it’s a home that I can’t go back to. A place and time inhabited so briefly by a community that will never be the same again. I’ll forever be able to go back and visit a parcel of land, the set, but the cast of characters will never be the same.

I miss the Berlin wall because it surrounded my childhood home. As an army brat you can return to your old neighborhood but none of the people will be there, just the buildings. I get emotionally attached to architecture and a huge piece of architecture, the iron curtain, both literal and figurative, is gone. I can’t go home again. All I can do, is try to make this home better.

Friday, November 10, 2006


thank you ted rall.

the peacenik guy is actually wearing dutchman's coat (and rainhat). and the peacenik chic kinda has my hair.

and we've said so many many times before that when the time came we would give the disillusioned a soft place to land.

because, unfortunately, we know what it's like to lose faith in your country. we've been living with it a little longer -- but it still hurts like a mofo.

and, fortunately, our country is us. and now that we the people have the opportunity to come together, we can make some real change.

so let's all take a deep breath, shake hands, take stock and get to work on undoing some of the damage and building a better future.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

i voted, i think

here in Hollywood I went down to my usual polling place at the gay and lesbian community center (how do you like that, red staters?) and there was a full-on haus frau tussle going on between the lady who thinks she should be in charge and the lady that says she's in charge, all about this InkaVote ballot checking equipment

but before I get to that I have to tell you that one of the younger volunteers had her little boy there behind the sign-in desk- the little darling took one look at me and said:

"ooh, mama- he looks just like The Undertaker"

(I thought about offering to embalm the little fucker, but kids will be kids)

so the yammering went on while I tried to concentrate on voting- i checked my little black dots and all looked right, but i really wanted to try this electronic ballot checking machine

which is on another floor. hence the confusion- we at the orange table apparently needed the volunteers to draw a small orange "o" on the back of our ballot before we went downstairs to check the ballot in the (democracy-killing) gizmotron

(this explains why i heard one of the whip-smart volunteers yelling into her cell phone "i been volunteering for 12 years - they didn't tell me at the training nothing about no stairs! now she comin' in here tellin' me what to do- I don't work for her- i'm suppose to tell HER when my peoples are going to lunch? and I aint stayin' here late- no way!")

so i go downstairs and look for the StInkaVote machine- I stuck my ballot in the slot marked INSERT BALLOT HERE and ...nothin'

I notice the touch screen is on a "test" page, and I see the EXIT button- but I figured the volunteers must know what they're doing- the first lady called over some dude- he proceeded, from the "test" page - to touch all of the "test" options

(at this point I'm dying to reach over and tap the EXIT button)

he looks at me and tells me "it's not working" -then the BOSS LADY comes over- the one that caused the lady upstairs to go into her caniption fit- and SHE starts touching all of the "test" buttons

finally, I spoke up- "how about we hit the EXIT key until we get to the start page?"

that worked- good God- three volunteers hovering around this infernal machine and I fixed it

I mean, God bless these people, but I doubt they know how to use an ATM , let alone protect our democratic rights

so in goes the ballot- zip- and boss lady cheerily tells me "that's it!"

well where did my ballot go?

into the machine


(the machine spits out a receipt, which I reach for)

no that's not for you- that's a test receipt

now I thought, since I didn't vote for Senator (f-u! Feinstein- hope your granddaughter doesn't have to go to Iraq!) that that might show up as an "error"

nope- the machine just ate it right up... thank god it has an orange "o" on the back!

so I think i voted...

UPDATE: I went to www.lavote.net to find the # to call to CRY "FOUL!" and found this here pdf that explains to me that the gizmotron is actually the pbr and that it did what it was supposed to do... (unless there's a shredder in that god damned thing)

Happy Voting, SUCKERS!

-The Undertaker

Monday, November 06, 2006

vote, you sons of bitches, VOTE!!!

well I'm not in Colorado, but I sure wish i could vote for this one...

i'll be voting early tommorrow- and keeping an eye out for the next big STEAL

if the repugs maintain control of the us congress tomorrow, then I swear to god they stole it, and it's TIME

time for the real thing- revolution in the streets...however that manifests itself

here in LA people will probably just bitch about the impeded traffic and welcome Imperial Governor Moff Schwarzenegger's draconian death squads/traffic cops...

we'll see...