Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Almost Like Spring

Oh there I go, speaking of the most mundane of topics -- the weather. But this afternoon was a gorgeous, nearly fall like day in JunkThief Land (a.k.a. the eastern Mission-24th Street Strip). So JunkThief was thrilled to pull out one of the nearly dozen signature corduroy blazers and stroll the avenues, catch up with a friend over coffee and feel a little less like a hermit for a change. How fitting that in three days JunkThief will be in the land of eternal spring on the south shore of Lake Atitlan.

(And, yes, I know the comment about the candid shot of JunkThief -- "If you didn't smirk so much you might get more dates!"

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More thoughts on the 60/40 equation

For anyone that felt my statement of Milton Friedman being a 60/40 (bad/good) equation when it should be more like 98/2, this article confirms the latter equation. Add in there Jeffrey Sachs and the beloved Bono and their coloring book simple remedies for ending poverty. Okay, this may be too much of a merging of my work and JunkThief life, but that was actually one of resolutions for 2007 -- merge. Only connect. Only connect. Bono, you asked? Do I need to need go into that one?

A cool review

Thanks to Eva in Burlington, Vermont, of the Deadbeat Club for the glowing endorsement of this site and for posting the Patti Smith YouTube rendering of "You Light Up My Life." She has a great site and some fun videos that are sort of a younger, female and less disturbed version of Spalding Gray monologues. Always a mix of funny and insightful musings on pop culture, modern life and the granola set. It's good to see someone on YouTube under 40 weaving a good story and not attempting to rap or re-enact Jack Ass.

I'm glad to see she's promoting such a wonderful reworking of a song I used to hate. I've long been working a mix tape that I call "Strange Covers." It keeps evolving, but here are some for the list

* Nina Simone - Feelings (I found it on YouTube once but have since lost it)

* Debbie Harry y Los Fabulosos Cadillacs - Strawberry Fields Forever

* Queen Latifah - California Dreaming

* Zeitgeist - Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain

* Mina Mazinni - Mack the Knife

* Cathy Berberian - I Want to Hold Your Hand

* Aretha Franklin - Nessum Dorma


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Shades of Gray and Gravy

Is it just because I keep getting more gray hair that I think I’m one of the few who sees in shades of gray? Or would I be happier if I could just dumb down and see the world in black and white. A few minor headlines and documentaries got me thinking about it today.

Plans are underway in Florida for a
celebration of the death of Castro. His death will signal change in Cuba but not the kind that the right-wingers in Little Havana long for. I’m sure they’d like to have Eisenhower back in the White House as well. Castro is sort of like abortion – you can’t talk sensibly about being ambivalent on the issue with either side. I’d say I’m 60/40 on Castro (60% bad, 40% good). The U.S. could learn from the Cuban health care system, and he gets points for standing up to the U.S. for five decades. Even if you can look past human rights abuses – many of my friends can – how can you say it’s healthy for a country to have the same leader nearly 50 years. Yes, the country was run by thugs and colonists for centuries, but it only went from worse to bad.

Michael Moore. Ew, does anyone listen to Michael Moore any longer. Amazing how he can always tie any global issue back to his home town of Michigan. Beloved pudgy blow-hard, the Rush Limbaugh of the Left, he seems to have perpetuated that to have credence you must crucify sartorial style. Watching the Peace rallies in D.C. this weekend, it was heartening to see Jane Fonda not in a mink but also not in a Mao jacket. He’s probably in the 60/40 equation as well, mostly the correct message but inept in delivery and attitude. Why be the Left’s gravy boy answer to Rush Limbaugh when you could be the question instead?

Milton Friedman was profiled on PBS last night. He is a man I’ve had held up as the embodiment of evil for the past 30 years or more when I joined a friend attending the University of Chicago for a protest against his Nobel Prize. Seeing his personal story, it was clear that he was a probably decent husband and father and a man I probably could have enjoyed visiting in Vermont on his farm. Having spent most of my career embroiled in work to help the populations that his free market philosophy never benefits, it’s hard to see him as not being a devil. But had he ever spent time on a farm in Sri Lanka or Burkina Faso instead of Vermont, perhaps he would have come to realize the holes in his philosophy. There is also the fact that he played a pivotal role in convincing Nixon to end the draft, albeit because he felt the military should enter the market economy and be more competitive.

Junk Thief TV - Episode 11 (Patty Hearst: Living Out Loud)

Our favorite local madcap heiress is back recalling her glory days and making some new memories under the disco ball.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Dreaming of Scott, Not Dream Girls

Although I will undoubtedly get around to seeing Dream Girls, I do not consider it an outrage that it did not get a best picture nod from the Oscar voters. (I consider it a crime that Little Miss Sunshine is on that list instead of the many, many much more worthy and less derivitive indies, but that's another story). Oh, sure, Dream Girls, is not a bad retelling of an old story, but I can't say it touches my soul. Maybe if it had real soul music in it, then I might feel that it did. What I want to know is when I will finally have the chance to see 30th Century Man, the Scott Walker doc that will be showing in Berlin next month. I could find good justification to get on Lufthansa just for that. In the meanimte I can take some solace in rewatching this 10 minute feature from the Culture Show. I take comfort in adding decades to my life with the inspiration of Scott managing to be cooler and sexier at 63.

Donnie, I still think you can change

I finally got around to watching the doc Jesus Camp this weekend, the disturbing, albeit flawed chronicle of three kids under the age of 12 who are already evangelists. Released just before the Bush empire's implosion was fueled by the fall of Mark Foley and Ted Haggard. Haggard, of course, is featured late in the film. And spooky as all the kids, parents and other ministers can be, I believed them as human beings. Haggard was simultaneously paranoid and arrogant, a professional ass and control freak that can't deal with a camera crew that he is not giving the marching orders to.

While Haggard is now in some bunker in Colorado Springs (perhaps next all those missles for him to probe in his free hours) being deprogrammed, his former call boy is working on a tell all book to be released this June.

As is often the case with DVDs of even the mildest intrest, it usually leads me along some web path, and in this case it bought me to this week's tempest in the blogosphere of the YouTube/MySpace "hoax" of the Donnie Davies who beams with pride of having been delivered from fagdom. He even has his own music video. Both MySpace and YouTube yanked the offending video, and he fought back with a few mildly amusing rants, all in character.

Donnie, it turns out, is a Texas-based actor named Joey Oglesby exposed by Joe.My.God, among others.

It all reminds me of our dear old friend Betty Bowers and the gang at Landover Baptist Church with their effective ex-Negro ministy and Rex Ray, doing his part to reach out and deliver the homos from sodomy. They have been at it for over a decade now.

Though technically all in good fun, these parodies, I feel a little sad after watching them. Maybe it's because that growing up in the heartland, I encountered too many "Donnie Davieses," self-loathing and overly eager to please and always feeling out of place wherever they end up. I can relate to that to a degree in that I've felt out of place everyplace I've lived even thought I was never in the closet.

Patti Smith

For any who took offense to episode of 10 of JunkThief TV, here is Patti Smith singing "You Light Up My Life" on ABC TV's "Kids Are People Too," making a statement that weird combinations are what pushes life forward. Trying to imagine such unlikely couplings in 2007 is hard to imagine. 1979 was really the year of the child...

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Junk Thief TV - Episode Ten

Saddle up for a great hit from 1975!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Our Lady of the Komodo

Oh come let us adore them! How glorious that the virgin Komodo dragon has given birth without exposure to a male. Now that bright star in the East makes perfect sense. Sadly, all I can offer is the thump of my little drum-a-tum-pum. Oh, I can't wait to see the pictures of them little babies. Worth 10 times the price of the ones of that ugly little Brangelina creature.

How fitting this news comes the same day as news about the research on gay sheep. And to think just last night Bush made an acknowledgment of global warming. Maybe nature is finally reordering the balance of the past six years.

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Andrea Feldman Channels Merman

"Nothing to hit but the lights!" exclaims Warhol superstar Andrea Feldman. Gypsy was already a post-modern take on show biz, but she gives it deeper, weirder meaning. RIP Andrea, who jumped 14 floors with a rosary in one hand and a Coke bottle in the other.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Junk Thief TV - Episode Nine

Lenya, Osaka's House of the Rising Son and Italian rent boys. It doesn't get much better than this!

Friday, January 19, 2007

And now there is only Mama Michelle

This news item today reminds me to mention that my JunkThief TV tribute to Cass has had the fastest growing traffic of all episodes to date. I doubt my long planned Dory Previn tribute will be such a traffic builder.

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La Splendeur des Amberson (The Magnificent Ambersons)

Though I love it in English, it gains more power en Francais. Though "Cet echalas qui me fai signe!" is not quite "That queer looking duck waving his head at me like that!"

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Six degrees of 'hair-UH'

An e-mail late yesterday from a JunkThief connection we’ll call “a friend” inquired if I ever had a link to the actor named Tim Holt, best known for his appearances in The Treasure of Sierra Madre and The Magnificent Ambersons. While I know the latter film quite well and have seen it multiple times and respect the former more slightly from late show viewings as a teen, I did not know that Holt ended up in Harrah, Oklahoma, and hosted a TV show called Tim Holt Western Theater on Oklahoma City TV from 1959 to 1960.

I’ve always known the tiny town of Harrah (for those not in the know, it’s “hair-UH” not “Hah-rah” like the tacky Nevada casinos) as a place on the eastern edge of Oklahoma City. In recent years it’s become a booming site for McMansions on ranchettes, typically with sprawling edifices of 5,000 square feet or more in a style known as prairie provincial, a weird mix of field stone and Gallic silhouettes. Something called "Australian closets" -- shaped like a horseshoe and about the size of a San Francisco studio -- are quite common in these places.

I did not know until checking out the city of Harrah’s official website that it claims to be the home of not only Tim Holt but also Dale Robertson and the Warner Brothers, though apparently not the ones of James Cagney and Daffy Duck fame. What’s particularly odd about Tim Holt was that he was born in Beverly Hills and whiled away his final years in Harrah. Oklahoma-Hollywood connections usually go the opposite direction.

Well, it got me to thinking that I did, in fact, have a possible Harrah-Hollywood connection. Around 1963 or 1964, my grandpa Ralph, who was a city slicker with a fancy for spiffy horses on the weekend, bought a famous trick horse from someone near Harrah that had a movie connection. The horse had a trick of being able to say its prayers. Though a Unitarian with a disdain of evangelicals, my grandfather was perhaps passing comment about Bible-thumpers by having his penned equestrian boarder perform this stunt on cue.

So, the mystery is unsolved at this point. Perhaps I’ll update my YouTube tribute to my grandfather that is here at some point if I am able to solve the riddle: What was the name of the horse, and did Tim Holt once straddle it?

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Velvet Welk

So smooth and tasty -- one of those odd of yummy combinations like chocolate and mustard!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Junk Thief TV - Episode Eight

This episode is a random meditation on the junk left behind after the holidays as we tour the Mission District.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Last plane out of Dodge

Remember all that talk last week about San Francisco being 35 degrees colder than Manhattan, and how mild it was in the upper Midwest? That wasn't the real reason I went there, and things were not quite as warm as promised, but Illinois, Iowa and Michigan were all in a range of 28-45 from Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday I flew into Oklahoma where it was 75. I was well aware of a winter storm coming in for the weekend but was advised by multiple sources that it would not come in until late, late Friday night. So I was assured that my 3 p.m. flight to Phoenix was a no brainer.

When I woke at 6 a.m., the ice (which is expected to collect 2-3 inches) was already falling, so I was at the airport before 8 a.m. I looked at every possible option as flights started being cancelled shortly before 9 a.m. The board of flights filled with red and the dreaded words "cancelled" with one little glimmer of light "Phoenix - 2:56 p.m. - on time."

A co-worker made it out on one of the two flights that made it that morning and mid-afternoon to Kansas City, delayed by four hours and after being cleared after five de-icings.

The plane from Phoenix arrived just 10 minutes late and a window of 50 minutes to clean and retool for my flight. It was literally the last flight out, as Southwest announced it would not fly until at least Monday. Others said the airport would likely close by 3 p.m. and not open until Tuesday, maybe Wednesday.

Yet our plane boarded, we were told that we'd have 15 minutes to de-ice and all our connections would be made easily. The de-icing was repeated three times and took 90 minutes. We were cleared to take off...and then there was an announcement. A few customers "had been shouting," and wanted to get off. So we had to go back to the gate and let them off. Once there, the customers raised a ruckus over insisting that their bags be removed. They were. We spent 45 minutes de-icing as the sun set and the words "We're screwed were repeated down to the 80 year old woman from Lawton two seats back.

At 6:08, we were cleared as the little Moscow on the Prairie faded as we forged through clouds and emerged into a pinkish horizion.

I arrived on another planet named Phoenix where the ground crew as in shorts and polo shirts. I made it home in ample time to sort mail a full hour before the 11 news.

And they are complaining about the "cold" in Northern Califorina!

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Goodbye city life!

Okay, I had my six hours in Chicago this afternoon before heading off to Dekalb, Decatur, Iowa City (which is really a big town, not a city) and eventually Battle Creek. How fitting that I've been finisning up the Omnivore's Dilemma on this trip in the heart of ADM, Monsanto and miles and miles of soy and corn.

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Monday, January 08, 2007

When the Moon Is in the Serpent's House

For those JunkThieves who don't have time to head down to the Alemany flea market or other venues of vintage vinyl or other junk, I strongly recommend visiting Frank's Vinyl Museum. Besides such gems as Ethel's disco album, a couple of Mrs. Miller's hits and others, there is this newer entry. The Nashville Country Singers apparently managed to afford a little sound equipment but not the lyric sheets, so they sort of improvised the words on Aquarius to come up with the "moon in the serpent's house" which may actually be an improvement and makes more sense. Where was that seventh house anyways?


Saturday, January 06, 2007

Drought: Officially ended

Okay, I said earlier that if not as a resolution, then as an intention that in 2007 would give dating, itimacy, a go for it again. Surely sometime in the first six months. Not a week into January, and at least a couple of tick boxes can be checked off. I plan to repeat it. It was affirming if not an epiphany. I don't want a epiphany, I doubt my heart could take it. Well, it probably could, but I want it to be a real one not just faking it. It was okay. Not awesome, amazing, fabulous.

Regardless, some observations:

  • I do like waking up with someone next to me in the morning, but three to four times in a month is enough. The rest of the time I'd rather be in bed with the cat.
  • If an overnight stay is involved, the stakes have to be really high if I am not going to do it in my own bed. I travel enough that I consider it torture to use someone else's sheets and towels in my own town.
  • My fear that I'd officially joined the walker and prune juice set has been pleasantly shattered by more than one less than 30-year-old for whom there was mutual attraction. Mutual attraction, mind you, not compatability (emotionally, economically, spiritually). It was pleasant, and there won't be repeat performances. Thus, I took his number without comment and did not offer mine.
  • If any person I am dating ever suggests that we "just hang out together," I will be clear on my intent and not compromise on this ever again. Being forced to "just hang out together" is up there with being hung by your fingernails or on the noose next Saddam.
Okay, that's as close as I will go to details and will let the metaphorical images tell the rest of the story. I don't want those Nielsen folks to ranks this site TV-14. But, as promised plan to see more about life and the future, not death and the past this year on JunkThief.blogspot and JunkThiefTV

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Bean there, done that

While decidedly more important issues rage on with the power shift on the Hill, in Iraq, Darfur or even locally in Hunters Point, we have a little controversy going on in my corner of the Mission. over the past year we have seen several dramatic shifts take place here along the eastern end of 24th Street. Some might say it began with the filming of the Will Smith vehicle The Pursuit of Happyness with the house a few doors north of 24th and York serving as the family home. Ironically, although the production crew spent weeks transforming the corner to look like the early 1980s, most of the shots that made the final cut of the film used contemporary not vintage images of the neighborhood. We've seen a retooled Rossevelt Tamale Parlour, a waiting list weekends at the Saint Francis Fountain and a number of hipster shops popping up. But perhaps the real barometer is a now raging tempest in the coffee urn of three new coffee shops on the scene. First was Progressive Grounds at 21st and Bryant, a nice addition that has a location already in Bernal Heights. Not a shock for the neighborhood, just a pleasant addition. L's Caffe followed shortly after, and in November came Sugarlump what many perceive as a sea change and are crying "there goes the neighborhood" -- translated the dreaded gentrification. Of the three Sugarlump has the most limited menu (to date) but oodles of hip, upscale atmosphere. It's a place that in 1998 we'd be saying "I can't believe this is on Valencia," but today would go unnoticed. bnow there is a fourth spot, Sundance Coffee, about to open at 24th & Harrison. Their sign just went up today.

In a neighborhood where having someone pee on the side of your car is sti
ll a part of the daily routine, this is big news. It's unlikely Will Smith will be coming back to just hang out in the 'hood anytime soon, but the transition will be interesting to watch.

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Junk Thief TV - Episode Seven

Reflections on the loss of my Claude Cheuvront Coddington in 1912. What did the family mean when they gave a knowing sneer as they referred to him as a confirmed bachelor?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Junk Thief TV - Episode Six

Asta Nielson, David Hockney, rockabilly legend Janis Martin, Suzy Parker and the cast of Johnny Guitar join forces to ask which is better, Manhattan or California. The answer: Montevideo.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Junk Thief TV - Episode Five

We open the 2007 season with an action packed episode. Highlights include:
* Devils!
* Silent films revisited!
* Merman!
As if that weren't enough, there is also an appearance by Zelma O'Neal and Millie the return of Millie the Glass Eyed Wonder Cat.

2006 - Textures & Tones

I have toyed with whether or not I want to do a top ten or best and worst list for the year past and have concluded that what is most appropriate is to do neither but instead a scale that borrows the three ranges of a photograph – Highlights, Shadows and Midtones. There is no judgment on the value of any of the three. And without any of the three, a photograph (or a year or a life) lakes the texture and punch to make a lasting impact.

Thus, I would conclude that this year, that I have sometimes said was a complete bust was, in fact, one with much texture and punch.


- Having a full week with my father ten days before he died and experience his face overcome with joy every moment I walked into the room. I try to focus on that in my morning mantras and meditations.

- Returning to Guatemala for the fourth time and for the first time in three years.

- Embracing a surprisingly large list of technology and gaining skills related to them. Though I cursed breakdowns of work related technology several times, the list of what I acquired this year is rather staggering: new VAIO laptop, Treo 650, replacement digital camera/camcorder and Nano, wireless network, Sony DJ headphones.

- Launching this website and accompanying videos. They are still in a crude, evolving state, but that’s part of their purpose.

- Making considerable progress on our building with a new owner coming in.

- Spending Christmas at my parents house and pulling out all of the decorations I’d been part of creating over the past 50 years and premiering a 55-minute family history DVD. Having the extended family in the house Christmas Day for a happy, shining memory to commemorate our last holiday in that house.


- A six month executive coaching program that while not unpleasant and free of any psychobabble ended with no enduring insights. If there were any it was that I came away reminded that I am not good at seeking or accepting advice.

- I did not have sex or go on one date. In retrospect of the year’s events that was probably a wise decision.

- Turning 50. I didn’t celebrate it, and most of my friends were not aware that it happened until long after the day had passed. I may be wiser than I feel, and I am surprised by the level of energy and health I have at this age.


- The death of my father, aunt and cat, subject of Episode 4 of JunkThief TV

- Feeling that I was performing at 10% of my capacity with work, despite a stellar performance review. I am in the process of addressing that.

- A two month infestation of mice that I seem finally to have addressed. Often they seemed a metaphor of how I felt about the year at times, being over-run by the nastier, dirtier aspects of nature and feeling that it, not I, were controlling my life.