Monday, September 29, 2008

Econ 101

I took too many econ classes as an undergrad. You don't need college econ 101 though to understand this statement from Dean Baker: "And house prices are not going to come back. This is like We are not going to get the price of $200,000 homes in central California back up to $500,000."

Sunday, September 21, 2008

An economic meltdown?

From Jared Bernstein: "Jeez...watching history unfold in front of you like this is sure worth the price of admission, ain't it?"

I'll say. The events this past week in Washington and New York are staggering, breathtaking and unbelievable.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Zion for all of the Mad Men

The scene: 1960. The Village. New York City. A small bar with random arty acts, one after the other. Next up, a vivacious redhead, a struggling actress who is “artful” in a performance-artist self conscious way. Out of nowhere she takes command of the room with her strong voice:

“Last night
I dreamed of making love to Fidel Castro,
in a king sized bed at the Waldorf Astoria,
‘Viva La Revolucion!’ He roared, as he vanquished my dress.
Outside the window Nikita Kruschev watched us, plucking a chicken.”

The crowd claps, and calls for the redhead to remove her sweater. She does, but in an artful way, only briefly exposing herself.

Our hero, Don Draper, is at the bar with one of his mistresses. As he puts out a cigarette he says in a manly and detached voice "I should go, too much art for me," but she holds him back . . . and then the music begins . . . the act that they came to see. They sing "Babylon” (lyrics by David Carbonara):

By the waters,
the waters,
of Babylon.
We lay down and wept,

and wept,
for the Zion.
We remember

we remember
we remember
the Zion.
The strumming guitar and the voice combine into a powerful song as images of Don Draper’s wife and daughter interact at his suburban home, his other mistress (a client and businesswoman) goes about her business with melancholy—knowing she will never have what she wants most; a partner in the firm and a female employee wrap up their evening dalliance and exit an elegant hotel to go to their separate homes.



The haunting music and lyrics mock the contradictions of the lives of the characters.

The writers are pushing each of us to at least ponder: Where’s our Zion? Is there such a place?

The scene is from Mad Men, a show on AMC (cable) that I discovered recently and watch via DVD. It’s set around a New York City ad agency in 1960. The women are treated like dirt, the men get away with inexcusable behavior. Everyone drinks and smokes too much, and the lives of the characters are complex and riveting. Nearly fifty years have passed since 1960. So much change, yet so little.

I wish you could hear the accompanying music, but to these words . . . I bid adieu:

We remember, we remember, the Zion

Good night from my Zion
An aluminum home on wheels in a barrio of Phoenix

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Moving day plus one

Moving is not a fun thing--it ranks at the top of the list of stressful things in life.

Yesterday I moved out of the Biltmore neighborhood and back to my Airstream in a less elegant part of town. The move came with some serious doubts, but the previous tenants (who were there for seven-plus years) came by this morning and told me how much they'd loved living there. That was good, because I wasn't feelings so hot about things!

I have another new home--or at least a new location for my Airstream that includes the bare basics for now.

Monday, September 01, 2008

The luck of the American

Here I am again, in a spectacular place--and on a tight budget too. Telluride, Colorado is eight hours by car from Phoenix. I got a ride up with a man whose Honda gets close to 50 miles per gallon. We're visiting friends who have a house up here and it's near the end of the weekend in this legendary mountain town.

The entire town of Telluride is designated a national historic district. It is expensive. The town is picture perfect, with quaint victorian houses and a beautiful business district. Telluride is nestled in a box canyon with towering mountains on three sides.

The setting can easily suck you in. When you're here, it's easy to forget the rest of the world. Aspens, pines, and ski runs cover the sides of the mountains.

We're headed back to the sonoran metropolis (Phoenix) shortly.

The Telluride Film Festival is going on this weekend. I saw three films:

  1. "With a Little Help From Myself" A French film set in the ghettos of that nation. The story follows Sonia, a black woman, through the daily trials and tribulations of her life. Her son is arrested, her husband dies, she is sexually assaulted, (and more). Through it all she soldiers on. This small budget film was brilliantly done. The actors shined--especially Felicite Wouassi. It felt like a punch in the gut to me--it was very depressing to see the struggles of life illustrated in the story. As one thing is piled on Sonia after another, you admire her for her ability to press on. At the end of the day, what other choice do we have? The Felictite, lead actress, and the director were there in person.
  2. "You Must Remember This" A documentary by Richard Schickel on Warner Brothers--the studio. Narrated by Clint Eastwood, this documentary goes from 1950 to the present and discusses how the studio and its films have changed in five plus decades.
  3. "Prodigal Sons" By far my favorite film. Directed by Kimberly Reed who took a hard look at herself, her life, and her family. Reed is a transgendered woman. Formerly Paul, Kim became a woman while in her early twenties. He was the quarterback of the Helena, Montana football team, but never felt like a man. The story is about her journey as well as that of her family. Her adopted brother, who has serious mental health issues, finds out as an adult that he is the biological grandson of Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles. The story is gripping, and the film very well done. Kim Reed's entire family was in the theatre except for her adopted brother--who is prominently featured in the film. This was a hard hitting slice of life.

Last, but not least, I was introduced to Kelvyn Davila, a talented Ecuadorian artist . You can see some of his work at

The perfect mountain town

A view of Telluride.

Rick the host

One of my hosts this weekend.

10,000 feet over the sea

An Aspen grove on our Saturday hike.