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 k / o
                                       politics + culture

Sunday, July 31, 2005

bookstores and coffeeshops

When I think of:

  • Papyrus
  • Odegaards
  • Shambhala
  • the Hungry Mind

  • what comes to mind are the smells, the narrow aisles, the countless hours I spent in each of these bookstores. There's just something cool...something organic, friendly and particular about the disheveled nature of the local book shop. Of course, none of those listed above exist anymore.

    A friend of mine, sitting at the family-owned cafe we both like to frequent, said to me:
    "You know, my financial adviser just told me to invest in... insert name of major coffee chain ... and I'm torn. It'd be a good investment, I'm sure. But wouldn't it drive places like this out of business?"

    It's an interesting thought. You could be sitting drinking coffee while your portfolio was effectively working to pull the chair out from under you.

    We can all agree that we love neighborhoods with local bookstores and coffeeshops. And we can all agree, on some level, that local ownership has real advantages....a dollar you spend at a neighborhood business tends to stay in your community, bouncing around from business to business. An owner/proprietor becomes a part of the fabric of a neighborhood in a way that a manager who commutes and parks in a parking lot does not.

    Nothing guarantees that any small business will last forever. What's always got me, though, is that nothing guarantees that a large business will either. In fact, it's always seemed to me that the exponential growth in major chains in this country will someday bump into that reality in a very visible way.

    We progressives have always been falsely seen as simply being about regulation. I disagree, we have, all along, also been very much about innovation in business and entrepreneurship in ways large and small. Just think about recycling and REI and natural foods. Think about fair trade coffee and stores like the Body Shop and Global Exchange.

    Is there a way to grow and compete and still be connected to the community, ie. to achieve some balance here? Is this a moment to enunciate a "green economics?" Is there an innovative way to keep our communities lined with locally-owned, persnickety bookstores and coffeshops in the digital age? From what I can see, the mainstream isn't even trying to answer these questions.

    Shouldn't we?

    Saturday, July 30, 2005

    the zeros: linkin park

    Linkin Park, a nu-metal band from Agoura Hills, CA exemplifies the kind of music that can best be summed up as "adolescent angst." Their music, influenced by hip-hop, techno and metal, and whose core audience is young men, has emerged as one of the ubiquitous "sounds" of this decade.

    Breaking the Habit, a typical Linkin Park song from 2004, mixes pop melodrama, techno beats, and hip hop scratching so buffed and produced that it's pretty much unrecognizable as such. There's no hiding that this is pure radio fare by a band with platinum hits and the resources of a major label behind them. You can check out their neo-noir, multi-media version of the song, and its anime video, here (flash req'd.)

    The key lyrics are in the chorus:

    I don't know what's worth fighting for
    Or why I have to scream
    I don't know why I instigate
    And say what I don't mean
    I don't know how I got this way
    I know it's not alright
    So I'm breaking the habit
    I'm breaking the habit

    This is music for the OxyContin era. It's got a post-talk show pop-psychology vibe....as if these guys grew up with Sally Jesse Raphael and Dr. Phil blaring from the TV. In that context, the song is also remarkable in how it uses the language of doing something: breaking a habit, starting again, fighting, instigating...to convey a powerful tide that drives in the exact opposite direction.

    Anxiety, powerlessness, disabling introspection and the language of addiction permeate Breaking the Habit. Although the lyrics imply a "turning point conversation" with an unnamed friend, what the song is saying is the opposite: I'm going to my room, I'm checking out. I'm breaking a habit. This ambiguity, between the self-destructive, ironic mood....the narrator is not breaking a habit in any normal sense of the word...and the use of a language of action and sincerity, is emblematic of a decade where words often come with an ironic kick from their opposite meaning. We live in times of contradiction.

    The clearest statement the song makes is one of emotional confusion, of an impotence that blocks understanding and impedes dealing with what life is throwing at you. There's a surprising falsetto, an earnest "pop softness" to the vocals. Despite the anguished scream that the song builds up to, its main impression is one of vulnerability, confusion and a desire to escape.

    If this is music for an era of pill-crushing and meth addiction, it's also music that was created in the context of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. (You can read the lines of the chorus to imply a kind of PTSD.) Early in 2003, one member of the band made this statement in an interview that exemplifies the 'disaffectedness masking over real concern' we hear in their songs:

    DJ Mr. Hahn said that the band wants to play everywhere around the world, and he feels that Linkin Park fills a valuable role as an escape from reality. When asked how he and the band are handling the world's political unrest, he said he's trying not to overload on the news since it's out of his control.

    "Well I actually don't really pay attention to the news that much just because there's so much going on," Mr. Hahn said. "It's kind of depressing because there's a lot of things going on that's beyond your control. The only fear I have is airports shutting down so we won't get to travel around the world to tour. Basically what we do is more on the upside is provide entertainment for people. As far as there's a war going on, that's completely distant to what we're trying to achieve."

    (In 2004 another member of the band, Dave Farrell, donated $75,000 to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation which aids the surviving family members of U.S. Special Operations forces killed in combat.....and the band itself participated in Live 8 and Tsunami Relief efforts.)

    Like most young people, many U.S. Military personnel are into Linkin Park's music. This can been seen on message boards and in this profile of one returning veteran, Spc. Catelina Varelas, from the Arizona Daily Star:

    It's hard to sleep in her mom's West Side home without the familiar lullaby of mortar shells exploding in the distance. Varelas is only seven days removed from her stay in the Middle East - where blasts at all hours were common at her Army base in the Sunni Triangle. She falls asleep with headphones blaring Linkin Park in her ears. Peace and quiet and home don't yet comfort Varelas, who says she "came out of her shell" after shipping out on Feb. 10, 2003.

    -Arizona Daily Star 3/19/2004

    Linkin Park and the war in Iraq come together in that quote. The image of Spc. Varelas retreating to her room and listening to Linkin Park's music as a way of coping with her return from Iraq fits precisely with the mood of Breaking the Habit. It is also an image that, in so many of its particulars...a female veteran, her service in the heart of the combat zone, the odd, contradictory tone of newspaper article, and Ms. Varelas herself, alone, listening to Linkin Park on headphones as she falls asleep in her mom's house....could only have come from this decade.

    These are the zeros.

    {This is the first in a series of essays looking at things that are emblematic of this decade of ours.}

    sound bites

    From today's NYT:

    "The problem is far bigger than gasoline prices tomorrow morning. It is what will be the state of energy in 5 and 10 years from now in the United States. I can tell you, we will be safer. We will have more jobs, we will have an electricity system that is safe and sound. We will have diversity of energy sources and supplies built in our country for us."

    -Sen. Pete Domenici, R, NM author of the Energy Bill that passed yesterday 74 to 26 in the Senate.

    "Our nation's energy crisis has reached historic levels. We need policy whose boldness is commensurate with that crisis. But that's not what we're getting. Instead, we're getting a pork-laden, lobbyist-driven dream bill."

    -Senator John Kerry, D, MA voting in opposition

    Which guy would you fire?

    Thursday, July 28, 2005

    a brooklyn wedding

    The wedding was in the Picnic House, a beautifully-windowed 1920's building in Brooklyn's Prospect Park.

    The bride and groom, like so many Brooklynites before them, stood beneath a Chuppah and professed their vows. A gorgeous day settled into what became a warm and glorious night.

    We did what people do at weddings. We ate. We drank. We enjoyed the company of old friends. I danced a cumbia, and got away with it. I attempted a salsa, and got my ass laughed off the floor.

    It was a good crowd. Yes, present among us were left-wingers....labor organizers, journalists, professors and noted documentarians. But you wouldn't have known that from looking at us. It was like any New York wedding. Kids running around screaming. Sweaty adults weary with laughter and drink. A mix of people.

    The Picnic House overlooks the Long Meadow of Prospect Park, and I stepped outside onto the terrace to visit with my friend, Tom. It was dark out, and an acrid, burning smell hung in the air. We looked at each other and didn't say a word.

    The Twin Towers, or I should say the burning rubble of the Twin Towers, were still burning...and a wind had carried the smoke to Brooklyn.

    Such was life in New York City in October, 2001.

    Someone once told me that losing the Twin Towers, metaphorically, was like losing your two front teeth. Your tongue kept looking for them and they just weren't there.

    For me, I recall taking breaks from work in the late-80's on the park benches in the plaza beneath the Towers. All those people, all those office workers...the throng that would go in and out of those buildings on any given work day. And the way the buildings themselves stretched up into the sky. People worked up there. It was unbelievable.

    I didn't know anyone who died.

    One friend worked at Windows on the World. She survived because she wasn't at work that day; so many of her coworkers did not. Another friend saw the first plane, before it hit, from Greenwich Village, flying way too low over the city. Another friend's brother was walking out of the subway when the second plane hit; he could feel the rumble of the impact. A colleague of mine's children were at home that day in Tribeca; they saw the whole thing from their living room window.

    I remember, one night before the wedding, sitting with friends in Brooklyn. One of them said he was walking on the Promenade after it happened and had found a laminated airline safety sheet. He said a rain of office paper descended on Brooklyn after the Towers collapsed.

    I'm not a New Yorker anymore. I did not go through that day. But I did walk through a New York City still papered with the faces of the missing. I did listen as folks talked about what it was like...how, in the days and weeks after the attack, people came together, and, like some giant, monolithic, lumbering organism, the city slowly decided to move on.

    As far as I know, most New Yorkers aren't the kind to talk about 9/11 all the time. That's not their way. I guess that's why we haven't heard these stories over and over again.

    As far as the talking goes, that's been for other people.

    cartwheels in the locker room

    Robin from Girl in the Locker Room, a fine blog in its own right, sent me a link to Danyel Smith's Naked Cartwheels....which I hadn't seen before.

    Combining nyc, hip hop, writing, w/ a wry take on life, cool features like: a Progressive Women Blogger's Ring and a fresh use of visuals...I think you'll like it.

    (And now you can actually go there with a fuctioning link....argh.)

    herzog on the radio

    Fresh Air today was about Werner Herzog's new film, Grizzly Man, documenting the life and death of Timothy Treadwell, "amateur grizzly bear expert and wildlife preservationist."

    Funny thing is, after hearing the piece, I don't want to see the movie, though you might feel differently. Radio was, for me, the perfect medium to take in this challenging subject matter. Herzog is amazing here. Smoky voiced, insightful and, as always, occupying a space somewhere between obsession, malevolence and redemption.

    A great...uh...listen.

    getting to know Grover

    Awol points to this must-read interview w/ John Cassidy in the New Yorker online about Cassidy book subject, and GOP behind-the-scenes power broker, Grover Norquist. (boo, hiss, growl). Cassidy's advice at the very end is the not-to-be-missed quote:

    "Democrats need to reach out to some of the groups that Norquist targets. As he points out, gun owners, people who don’t like paying taxes, and people of devout faith add up to more than sixty per cent of the voting population. If the Democrats completely write off these groups, their electoral prospects are poor. And the Democrats need to do a better job of exploiting the divisions and potential divisions within the Republican coalition. Social conservatives and libertarians don’t agree about a lot of things, nor do economic conservatives and poor rural farmers, but Norquist and Rove somehow manage to keep them on the same team. Finally, the Democrats could do with finding a left-wing version of Norquist. She or he must be out there somewhere."

    Paging Mr. Moulitsas...

    hmm...not exactly how it turned out...

    Fellow blogger Speaking as a Scientist delivers some quotes that will make your head spin. Here's one:

    " a leader must uphold the honor and the dignity of the office to which he had been elected. (applause) In my administration, we will ask not only what is legal, but what is right. (applause) Not just what the lawyers allow, but what the public deserves. (applause) In my administration, we'll make it clear there is the controlling legal authority of conscience. (applause) We will make people proud again, so that Americans who love their country can once again respect their government.

    -George W. Bush, Pittsburgh, October, 2000

    You think they're still clapping?

    Wednesday, July 27, 2005

    they knew

    Here's two salient quotes from a significant NYT Story by Neil Lewis on the ongoing revelations about the torture of prisoners under BushCo.and how the Bush Justice Department overrode the advice of its own military:

    Maj. Gen. Jack L. Rives, [advised] the task force that several of the "more extreme interrogation techniques, on their face, amount to violations of domestic criminal law" as well as military law. General Rives added that many other countries were likely to disagree with the reasoning used by Justice Department lawyers about immunity from prosecution. Instead, he said, the use of many of the interrogation techniques "puts the interrogators and the chain of command at risk of criminal accusations abroad."

    Rear Adm. Michael F. Lohr, the Navy's chief lawyer, wrote on Feb. 6, 2003, that while detainees at Guantánamo Bay might not qualify for international protections, "Will the American people find we have missed the forest for the trees by condoning practices that, while technically legal, are inconsistent with our most fundamental values?"

    And this:

    The former warden [of the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq], Maj. David Dinenna, testified at the end of a preliminary hearing for two Army dog handlers accused of abusing Iraqi detainees. Major Dinenna said that at a meeting in September 2003, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, then the Guantánamo commander, talked about the effectiveness of using the dogs.

    So United States Military lawyers warned the Bush Administration and the DoD that our treatment of prisoners was in violation of international law, U.S. law, military ethics, and, in fact, common sense. That didn't stop General Miller, however, from talking about the "effectiveness" of using dogs in a September 2003 meeting with the warden at Abu Ghraib. We learned from the Taguba report what followed:

    Taguba's 53-page report, classified "Secret" and dated April 4, 2004, concluded that U.S. soldiers had committed "egregious acts and grave breaches of international law" at Abu Ghraib. Taguba found that between October and December 2003 there were numerous instances of "sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses" of prisoners.
    Source:Wiki: Abu Ghraib (graphic)

    We all know that if the American public doesn't see it...then it didn't happen. How much don't we know?

    one summer night a year ago

    We had one of my favorite exchanges ever on dailykos. Everyone was bickering for, I don't remember what reason, and I wrote this diary....


    It's all about summer, and memory, and community. Try it. You might like it.

    high fructose corn syrup

    Is this stuff in everything or what?

    (This neglected gem from the dailykos plumbs the depths of it.)

    Tuesday, July 26, 2005

    props to Cometbus

    I don't think I've ever mentioned this.....but if there's one voice I (and many other bloggers, if not blogging in general) owe a lot to it would be:

    Aaron Cometbus, author of the self-published zine Cometbus.

    He's doing other things now, but for a while it seemed like wherever I was hanging out, (which often used to be in record shops), there'd be this black and white punk magazine, Cometbus, and I'd buy a copy. Heck, I even found one in French one time.

    The writing was honest, raw, reflective. It captured a moment, the punk moment. And then kept capturing it. Every issue of Cometbus seemed to get at the core of something: friendship, heartache, music, independence, loss...without really being "about" that, at all. There's a great collection of his work reviewed at Rain Taxi...check it out, if your interest is piqued...it's a big book, an anthology, and sometimes I'll see cool kids reading a battered copy at the cafe and think:

    Cometbus lives...and so does his description of how a lot of us saw the world in the 80's and 90's.

    urban democrats for you

    Here's list of writers, thinkers, artists and leaders who lived in cities, who embraced the life of cities and their citizens. They are democrats, free thinkers and reformers in the simplest sense of those words:

    Benjamin Franklin, Walt Whitman, Dorothy Day, James Baldwin, Irving Howe, Langston Hughes, Jane Addams, Frederick Douglass, Harvey Milk, Studs Terkel, Lou Reed, Sam Adams, Malcolm X, Horace Mann, Bernard Malamud, Helen Levitt, Bella Abzug, Upton Sinclair, Richard Wright, Fiorello LaGuardia, June Jordan, Emma Goldberg, John Dos Passos, Claude Brown, Diane Arbus, Jim Jarmusch, Joseph Mitchell, Saul Alinsky, Barbara Jordan, Susan Sontag, Hart Crane, Richard Avedon, Spike Lee, Thomas Paine, Ralph Ellison, Sekou Sundiata, Julia Ward Howe, Sidney Lumet, Saul Bellow, Audre Lorde, Jacob Riis, Eleanor Roosevelt, Al Smith, Lupe Valdez, Walter Reuther, Mike Davis, Jesse Jackson, Alfred Kazin, WEB DuBois, Michael Harrington, Clarence Darrow, Robert Frank, Jane Jacobs, WH Auden, Jaime Escalante, Allen Ginsberg, Alice Waters, Patti Smith, Victor Navasky, Frank O'Hara, Chuck D, Ishmael Reed, Richard Rodriguez, Teri Gros, Nelson Algren, Pauline Kael, Paul Auster, Vaclav Havel...(to be continued...with your help...)

    letter from an urban democrat

    When I walk out my front door, and step into my neighborhood, into the streets of my city, I am greeted with the a scene replicated in cities across this country: a panoply of faces, of races, of styles and fashions, the sounds, the singing, the symphony of urban America.

    I could be in Oakland, or I could be in Milwaukee. I could be in Philadelphia or Miami. I could be in Houston, in Seattle or Cleveland. I could be in St. Louis, or Atlanta, or Memphis. Each city has its flavor, has its own particular vibe and sights and smells: but if there is one thing I would like to convey to you today it is that for millions of American citizens, these big cities are our home.

    We love our cities and embrace their diversity. There is something beautiful about it, something fundamentally American in it. I can't tell you what it's like to sit for dinner at Le Cheval, a popular Vietnamese restaurant here in downtown Oakland, and look around the room and realize that, table after table, in face after face....one can see represented the peoples of our world: African, Asian, Latino, European, Pacific Islander....oftentimes sitting side by side, at the same table, with family and friends...in one glance it seems you can take in the future of our nation and our world.

    Now, diversity presents its challenges as well. I know urban teachers who are working their utmost to bridge barriers of language and culture, to give kids the education that every American deserves. And yes, there are tensions and conflicts, as there always are when so many, embracing so much difference, live in such a concentrated locale. But whether you are from a family that has deep roots in this country or you are an aspiring citizen new to our shores, we manage, us urban Americans, overwhelmingly, to get along, to cooperate in building the common language and culture that reforges every day the amalgam of voices that has made America great.

    I have lived in cities my entire life, side by side with neighhbors of all backgrounds and creeds, and, in my first essay on this new blog, I would like to state something simple and clear: in my experience, we urban Americans love this country deeply. We are patriotic citizens like everybody else. No more and no less. I intend to write about that.

    I write to you today from Oakland, California, with all the benefits and limitations that vantage point affords. I am an urban democrat with a small 'd'....and an urban Democrat as well. I aspire to write essays that will be true to my roots, to my reality, and at the same time help forge a politics that reaches out from that point of view to the rest of our nation.

    In its simplest terms, I aspire to write in a way that communicates and does justice to the people I see, every day, when I step away from my computer and into the streets of this city that I call home.

    this is kid oakland blog

    (or, as you can see above....k/o...for short.)

    My name is Paul Delehanty and I live and work and write in Oakland, California. I've been writing as kid oakland since the first days of scoop at dailykos.com and you may know me from there, or from my participation at blog communities like booman tribune or my left wing. However it may be that you've found your way here...welcome!

    Think of this blog as a place to find writing from one progressive writer's point of view. I try to keep the links and content here fresh and reflective of the best writing and voices available on the net. Topics of interest include: electoral politics, national and international news stories, and California life mixed with essays and links on music and culture. If you liked my essays on dailykos, you'll find pieces like them here and links to other writers who work in a similar way.

    Simply put, k/o is a place to find writing by me, kid oakland, all in one place, and links to a whole lot more.

    Your comments and tips are always welcome. You readership is very much appreciated.


    Contact me: kidoaklandatcomcast.net

    Sunday, July 24, 2005

    holding pattern....test....holding pattern....test.....

    Hello....hello...clearly this is a blog in progress,

    please feel free to click on some of the links to the right if you'd like....and stay posted for some content here on the front.


    and feel free to drop a comment below if you'd like

    (and thank you to wendell gee, awol and myshkin for their help!!)

    kid o.