Out of date, but not untimely because San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee is having to address the OWS camps spreading across SF right now. In fact, I understand that they are planning to set up house in front of City Hall. At the same time, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan is coming under heavy artillery fire for her handling of the horrible tear gas incident in front of Oakland City Hall Tuesday night.

I drove past the camp just the other day with my son while en route home from  his sax lesson on International Boulevard. The camp was dense. Very dense. The chaos that ensued at 4am must have been horrific. That said, Quan is now fumbling quite a bit in her  handling of the situation. Does this surprise me? No, not really.

Back when Quan was doing small, private parties to garner support from and take the pulse of perspective voters, I attended one at the invitation of someone who had a private connection to Quan. It was more or less a SWOT analysis for the candidate and I was fairly sure she could not wage a strong enough campaign against power house and uber politician, Don Perata, whom I interviewed many times back when I was a street reporter.

But what  remember most about that evening was how evasive Quan was in her handling of questions. This was a room with no more than 10 people in it. I pressed her pretty hard on a financial matter. But with a strand of hair hanging straight in her eye, Quan kept batting away my question. Forget the hair, she didn't want to answer me. So, I didn't vote for her.

It will be interesting to see how the spin machine plays for the next few days if not weeks.

I have enormous respect for what our police do. And I also know that children were in that camp. Quan must have known that too.

P.S. Two of the kids on the sofa in this video went to my son's school. And recently did a presentation there about their YouTube work. We also spent time talking with Hammer at a party recently. And I sat next to Willie Brown on a flight across country not that long ago. What can I say? I am six degrees of separation from this video.
I don't know if you've heard about, it but a company called StarvingEyes Advergaming Productions put out a very controversial on-line game called: "Teapartyzombiesmustdie". I will be honest and admit that I played the game out of curiosity. It is a first person shooter game where you go around killing zombies many of which bear the likeness of Tea Party celebrities including (among others) Sarah Palin, Michele Bachman, and Glen Beck. To accomplish this you employ an array of weapons including crowbars, machetes, axes, pistols, AK47s and shotguns. The game description reads: “The Tea Party zombies are walking the streets of America. Grab your weapons and bash their rotten brains to bits.”

The game has several levels and three main areas that you enter to perform your deeds. These are the Fox News building, the Americans for Prosperity organization building, and the trailer park (where you find Sarah and Michele). Every time you go from one level to another you are presented with a little pearl of liberal wisdom regarding Tea Party shenanigans. If the zombies prevail it is stated that you died because "you didn't have health insurance" and that that is too bad because "there is no such thing as God and death is for eternity". If you win you are treated to a final graphic where a donkey projectile-defecates on the Tea Party crowd.

Needless to say the conservative media went wild claiming this game proves that liberals are not the kind tolerant people that they pretend to be. While I think this is an unfair generalization, I can see their point. This game is way more extreme than Sarah Palin placing the famous crosshair over Representative Gabrielle Gilford's district which caused all that furor. In any case, a campaign to call Advergaming's clients resulted in the game being taken off-line. However, if you want to catch a glimpse of what it looked like, you can check out  this video.

Now let me get to my point. It is easy to dismiss this game as the work of a nutter. Even within the rank and file of liberals you will find extremists, and a few of them are bound to have programming skills. But there is something that worries me.

Over the years I have played several violent video games (Duke Nukem, Starcraft, Halo, etc.) and they all involved killing aliens or some total stranger not identifiable with any group in our current society. But in this game many of the zombies bear the likenesses of real people and the language is also unabashedly vitriolic (e.g. stupid white trash birther rednecks, lobbyist pigs, Fox New Anchor Barbies). Teapartyzombiesmustdie makes me think of one of the most infamous games ever made, Juden Raus! (Jews Out!).

Juden Raus was a board game that was made in Nazi Germany. The object of the game was to deprive Jews of their property and make them leave the city. The game was not created by the Nazis and, ironically, it was not viewed favorably by them as they thought that it trivialized their policies toward Jews. However, the game did resonate with the anti-Semitic beliefs of a significant portion of the German population.

By evoking Juden Raus I do not intend to draw parallels between the political situation of Nazi Germany and that of the United States, or the situation of the German Jews and the Tea Party people (they are obviously very different). My point is rather that the zeitgeist that had been created in Nazi Germany made someone feel that it was perfectly fine to make this board game and put it out into society envisioning that it would be played by both children and adults. This is my fear regarding Teapartyzombiesmustdie. What made the head of StarvingEyes Advergaming Productions, Jason Oda, think that it was OK to create this game (which he described as a "personal project") and place it online? 

Could it be that the level of polarization, meanness, and hatred in U.S. society has reached such a high mark that some people feel it is acceptable to cross lines they would have never dared to cross before? I take solace in the fact that the reaction to the game was swift and that it was taken off-line. This proves that there are mechanisms in this country that allow groups that feel discriminated to fight back. My concern is what happens when individuals on one side of the political divide get more and more frustrated with the other side, which they regard as a threat, but also consider to be brain dead and not worthy of even trying to reason with? What other lines will be crossed in the future? Is this the spirit of our times?

What do you think?

I want to thank Laura for giving me the opportunity to guest blog at her website. I am Phantomimic, the peculiar eclectic writer. Please visit me at http://phantomimic.weebly.com or follow me on Twitter (http://twitter.com/#!/Phantomimic). Thank you!

You don't have to like or support President Barack Obama. I just so happen to do both. 

You don't have to mock or deride President George W. Bush.  I just so happened to do both.

But I've also never published a website with THIS as my mission statement:

"O teach me, Lord, that I may teach
the precious things Thous dost impart;
And wing my words, that they may reach
the hidden depths of many a heart."

Welcome to Parenting Freedom, where many a photos of Sarah, Trig, and Family Palin reside (dozens, to be honest.)

So too, does this photo:

So, here's the thing:  I am a member of a non-denominational church in the San Francisco Bay Area. I am actually on the Altar Guild - in fact, I was in charge of Easter this year and I'm happy to report that the lilies and the palms went up on the correct days.

It is through this mainstream Protestant church that my husband, son, and I got started working at the Berkeley Men's Shelter every month. 

I've often said, it's all good in the Bay Area. Your color, religion, party affiliation, sexual preference and citizenship status matters not one bit to me or to anyone I know. You want to love it, marry it, just sleep with it, or smoke it, makes no difference to me, as long as it's over 18.

I just hope the Lord one day teaches so-called Christians who post racist crap like this on their website, while citing verse, that this is not what He meant by blessing us with freedom. It's interesting what is hidden in the depths of many a heart.





In 1966, the nefarious SMIRK organization, headed by the cave-dwelling Green Goose, hired two agents, Ali and Bo Bo, to kill an American spy hot on the trail of the Goose’s weapon of genocide.

I try to imagine myself clutching my six year-old knees and laughing in delight as this news was delivered from our black-and-white television set. Fred Flintstone was the special agent hired by our prehistoric government to take out the Green Goose. Fred was thrilled to become “a spy…a double zero guy.” He lured Wilma onto a pterodactyl-powered airliner to pursue his bellicose opponent in far off Eur-rock.

“I wish we were already there Fred. I feel a little nervous,” Wilma fretted in First Class.

“Nonsense, honey, there isn’t a safer place in the world than right here,” Fred chortled.

From a few rows back, Ali seethed, “Let ‘em have it” as he hurled a machete into the forward cabin, nearly scalping Fred before slicing through a curtain marked “PILOT” and coming to rest in the captain’s hat.

In the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, I watched this film relic alongside my six-year-old son who was recovering from bilateral leg surgery. It was his 13th surgery, and this time he suffered from horrendous nighttime panic attacks. We were mentally and physically depleted while my husband was stranded close to ground zero. I chose to rely on some humorous family films to prevent reality from penetrating our household.

My son remained oblivious to the unfolding tragedy back East. Laid up in double casts, he was delighted with our laugh fest. Ali is the tiny, dark skinned man, he explained to me. Bobo was the big guy wearing the Fez. I was mortified by Hannah-Barbera’s prescience but mimiced my son’s spontaneous laughter. Before he returned to school, I lied blatantly, telling him that two bombs had exploded in New York City. Then to overcompensate, I waxed about the beauty and magic in our world until my child interrupted me by pointing to the TV: Fred Flintstone had captured the evil Green Goose inside a torture chamber. The deadly missile was aimed into space where the warmonger would explode.

“What a terrible way to go” Fred lamented just before the credit roll.

By day, my son attended school in a wheelchair. By night, he was tortured by demons in surgical scrubs holding him down under his surgical gas mask. One day after school, he met me with a “this just in” voice to say that two planes had crashed in New York City. He saw no relationship to my earlier lie and I refused to connect the dots for him. His psychic world was damaged enough. The word in the playground was about some bad Middle Eastern guys, “like the ones in Indiana Jones,” he punctuated.

After school, I would heave my child onto the daybed to return to Hollywood as soothsayer. Four men wearing Fez hats chased Indie. One Arab leaned in close to our American hero, a heartbeat away from death, and said “My soul is prepared, how is yours?” My son was spellbound while I chewed my cuticles. “The brotherhood has been prepared to do anything to keep the covenant safe,” another Arab told Mr. Jones.

The film concluded, uncannily, in a cave hugged by inhospitable mountains. The final scenes were cluttered with bad guys in Nazi hats and turbans. There was even a man wearing a turban under a red fez - the proverbial cherry on top - holding a machine gun to Jones’ back. Again, the American hero won. Not just because he chose the real Grail but, as the wizened knight points out, because he found “illumination.”

Our repertoire of Hollywood hysteria was beginning to run thin. I still hid the newspapers and kept news sources turned off because our nights were a hellhole of anger and panic. By day, we laughed uproariously as Sonny Bono purchased a clumsy bomb from the airport drug store to tote on board the Lunar Shuttle. I recalled Airplane II as a laugh-riot in the '70s. How could I not remember the impotent, bomb-clutching Bono as he threatened to blow the flight to smithereens before Ted Striker, handsome American hero, and other passengers, closed in on him? The relevance was mercifully lost on my child, as it was in an earlier scene when an elderly lady was grabbed at gunpoint from the x-ray machine while four bazooka-toting guerillas in flack jackets and army fatigues breezed through. On the verge of a primal scream myself, I emitted an audible gasp when a young boy took control of the computer console at the lunar shuttle command center and forced a plane to crash. 

My husband returned home and my son eventually walked again. On this anniversary, I am busy analyzing my former taste in humor. Why was it we we have always been collectively ready to laugh at the loser, the impotent, the swarthy guy who chose the wrong Grail? I am tripped up by the hypocrisy that made this okay. When anniversaries warrant it, we still embrace the rhetoric of standing united, but just look at the script we ourselves wrote, repeatedly, across so many decades.

Really, though, I digress when what I need to do is rewind last night’s video. This is the Bill Murray spy farce where some aged sleuths try to re-ignite the Cold War in spite of the loser who works for Blockbuster Video.

“New weapons, new poisons!” the British spy chief exults. “Happy days…happy days.”

For what it's worth, here are my marathon stories. 
While training to run the Chicago Marathon in 2000, I ran the San Francisco Marathon as a "half" in order to establish my time and see where I was in my training. That meant that I ran 13.1 miles in San Francisco (Lord have mercy, those hills!) And at the age of 39, I ran it in a little over 2 hours. I was most certainly not a sub-two-hour runner. I've cropped my son out of this photo. But I am holding him to my leg, with a banana in my hand. And I'm proudly showing my MEDAL to my husband. I have no idea where the person is who took the second leg of the race. (And I have no idea why I was wearing earrings. But I wasn't wearing a lick of makeup because you just sweat it off and who cares!) It doesn't matter. I crossed MY finish line. And I got my medal. 

Here I am having finished Chicago a few months later. 26.2 miles. Wrapped in mylar, whooping it up with my child. My medal visible, my timing device still on my sneaker (I sorry I don't have a better photo on my computer.)
Here's one thing I'll say about running marathons, or even 5Ks. I never, ever wore cotton. In fact, I didn't know anyone who did. It's heavy and gets soaked with sweat. That means you carry wet cloth over your body instead of letting the sweat evaporate or get wicked out by synthetic material. I also shed whatever warm clothes I wore to the starting line before I started to run. Meaning I handed them to my husband or left them in the car. Why? Well, what else are you going to do with them? Throw them on the ground en route? That sure gets expensive if you run a lot of races. Besides, you warm up in no time. Also, too, the swag you get at races is fun. Often times, I'd put on the race T-shirt after the race in order to get into something completely dry. 

That's not to say that I did everything right. I mean, I also slapped a lot of hands held out to me in Chicago (what a fabulous town for a marathon!) and then wiped my nose right afterwards. But you're not really thinking about good health habits when you're running long distance. 

In shorter trial races, did I pass people? Sure. But when you're a faster runner, you don't generally start with the walkers at in the back. You just know where to position yourself.

Those were good times. My joints can't handle it now. But boy, it was fun. And it was also local. Other than flying to Chicago to run in a (thank God, flat!) marathon, I never drove more than 15 miles from my home for a race. Never had to. Never would have crossed my mind to. Unless I had some ulterior motive. Or a burning desire to see the Iowa countryside.  Just sayin'.  

Keep the open thread going. I love our conversations!

Our earthquake had a name. Loma Prieta. It rocked our world in October 1989. It literally brought us to our knees and left me homeless. I moved in with my almost fiancé, now husband, that very night.  Here is a photo of a corner building similar to mine:    
Earthquakes are terrifying ordeals. They offer no warning and don’t roll the way you think. They are very noisy beasts, something you don’t expect. Loud. Way too loud.

There are different kinds of quakes. Some roll, building up slowly. Others snap sharp and short. The Loma Prieta quake started and then refused to stop. It just kept going and going and the pipes and windows all around us just kept exploding and imploding. It was a terrifying and messy affair. Holding hands. we crawled out of the building together.

On the street aftershocks literally knocked us to the ground. Someone ran through the streets screaming that the Bay Bridge had fallen down. A few blocks away, two buildings had pancaked and were split wide open like doll houses. A thin stream of smoke curled up out of one of them. An open gas line would make this the bon fire of the century by evening. A young woman, my age, also engaged, died in the building.

I moved in with my husband that night. It wasn’t what nice girls from New England do, but I was homeless.

Since my building was “red tagged” as uninhabitable, I wasn’t able to go in and get possessions for a few weeks. At that point, we salvaged what we could and let the bulldozer get the rest. In the meantime, foreign tourists flocked to the Marina District like vultures. We were pushing grocery carts with remnants of belongings through police tape and they were snapping pictures like it was Disneyland.

The east coasters, especially those in the big cities, must have been so frightened by their Tuesday terror. We had experienced warm-ups to our big one: 3’s, 4’s and 5’s through the years to prep us. So when it hit the big time, we were still frightened out of our minds, but at least we knew to get in the door jam because it wasn’t just the Divisidero bus thundering by. They probably had little experience at this and I’m sure everyone’s thoughts went to one thing and one thing only.

In reality, running out of a building isn’t too smart. Remember:  brace yourself in a door jam or crawl under a desk or table. Earthquakes love brick and glass because they fly through the air with the greatest of ease. 

Seems fault lines run all through this great nation of ours. And I’m not talking Dems versus wing nuts.

Earthquakes. Wow, they are so not fun. I am thankful this one wasn't worse. 

I’ve written before about our work as a family at the Berkeley Men’s Shelter. We love it, if that’s the right word, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that we are giving back to our community in some small way. Our work in the kitchen is almost Zen-like, offering quiet, contemplative time before we organize and serve at a frantic pace in the dining room.

When each night is over, the Novaks will be the ones not hoarding food into pockets and bags because we know where our next meal is coming from.

The reason I say this is because while I know I should be writing pithy statements on the coiffed hair debate last night, or the state of the state fair in Iowa and who, gasp, might actually show up, I truly can’t stomach the thought. I will leave the morning after QB-ing to those who write - and pith - much better than I.

So, permit me to turn the conversation around a bit. We hold this truth to be self-evident: for every person to live a good life, someone must live a tougher one. For me to eat in McDonalds, someone has to be there to flip my burger (okay, I don’t eat mammals, but you know what I mean.) For me to “feel good” about working in a homeless shelter, someone must be homeless.

It is a given that someone will always have more than us, while others will suffer a great deal more as well. What I find remarkable is that people can actually not care about those less fortunate. That someone, namely a politician, can spend so much time and energy meeting with lobbyists or beating back tax increases, when they really need to roll up their sleeves and scrub pots and pans after 50 men have inhaled what looks like their last meal. You cannot look these people in the eye and feel anything but compassion.

Barbara Ehrenreich has just penned this terrific essay on the state of the nickel and dimed here in America. As a follow up to her phenomenal best seller of a decade ago, the author touches base on how things have so deeply not improved since the time she doffed a waitress uniform and gave it a whirl at surviving on $5 an hour. It’s a must read reminder that while the media has mourned the plight of the middle class and their mortgages, folks who never quite got a leg up in life are now hip deep in shit and holding their noses.

And while you’re at truthout, stop on by this article on “bad black moms” by a young writer who reminds us that life squats on some people like a venomous toad. The argument is made that poverty is criminalized in America. If life is bad now, what are the chances it will ever get better?

That’s my poverty rant for today. Both these writers do it better, so I want to steer you their way.

And I want to remind myself that when we begin to argue about who has to clean up the kitchen tonight after dinner, what a blessing it will be to have that to groan about. How about you?

"Don't worry. Your secret is safe with me."

At least,  I would like to think that Levi whispered those words into Mrs. Todd Palin's ear at that moment.

I love this photo. I'd never seen it before someone tipped me off to a bucket (an obsessive-compulsive collection, really) of photos on a Christian, home-schooling, Obama-hating, mother's blog. 

It's the only time I've seen this cluster of photos from this angle. Levi's eyeing the camera. I love it.

Now, let's take a moment to review what Levi told Vanity Fair magazine, shall we?

“Sarah told me she had a great idea: we would keep it a secret—nobody would know that Bristol was pregnant. She told me that once Bristol had the baby she and Todd would adopt him. That way, she said, Bristol and I didn’t have to worry about anything. Sarah kept mentioning this plan. She was nagging—she wouldn’t give up. She would say, “So, are you gonna let me adopt him?” We both kept telling her we were definitely not going to let her adopt the baby. I think Sarah wanted to make Bristol look good, and she didn’t want people to know that her 17-year-old daughter was going to have a kid.”

Vanity Fair
September, 2009

I was having a conversation about this very quote just the other night with someone. I know we've all hashed it out before, but I'm going to do it again. I've never really made my peace with it.

Seventeen, Levi. Really? Sarah would keep her oldest daughter's pregnancy a secret while on a national campaign? No one would ask where the teenager was hiding out? Or why a woman with five kids who had supposedly just birthed the last one that would need intensive intervention for a long time, would suddenly adopt another baby? For no good reason? Really? The rumors wouldn't have gotten the best of you all just as they did in real life and send a national press corp to discover the truth? Really?

Then how come Kathy Griffin said sixteen? How come sources in Wasilla say sixteen. How come nothing, absolutely NOTHING in this entire story adds up? How many puzzle pieces can there be that don't fit into a wedge created by the piece next to it?

So, any bets on what will be in Levi's book? He's sort of damned if he does, damned if he doesn't. Tell all. Tell nothing. It either won't be enough information, or the right information for just about everyone. 

So who can Levi please? Did he write it to set the record straight for the child widely believed to be his?

Or does he forever regret sending that shot across Sarah's bow in the VF article?

Will he only spill as much as will make him money? Who's to say. Whatever it is, I hope his "ghost" does him proud, cleans up his grammar, and provides the perfect story arc and character development that will make readers applaud the book and encourage others to buy it.

Meantime, Levi's sister, Mercede, has gone for broke. Buck naked with new boobs...and she looks fabulous!!!  

Gryphen has the first link to a page with some of the Playboy photos toward the bottom of his post. And at first glance, Mercede is a gorgeous girl with, I hope, a bright future ahead of her. She's got guts and stamina and I'd take her word any day over that pack of lies from the misfits to the north who squatted on her life. 

Now, I know this might sound sexist, and I know the economy is shot to hell right now. But I'd like just one investment banker, or attorney, or software developer to take this girl out to dinner. I'm talking a man with money (or woman if that's what she's into). Someone Sadie can bedazzle with those blue eyes and that perfect skin. Someone who will help lift this girl out of the mess created by everyone around her and give her a chance. And I say this because I've seen it happen to others. And it could change her life far faster than four years of education will. At least for now. (Damn I wish I had Kathy G. on speed dial.)

So, I say fly, Sadie fly. (and I mean that literally: Jet Blue is adding 1,900 new jobs in the next year!!) Take those photos and work it girl. Go for the gusto and grab the brass ring and all the other cliches that apply. And if there's an investment banker out there reading this:  take the girl to dinner for god's sake! 

Sadie is beautiful and her brother is damned, no matter what he does. That's my two cents. 


This wraps up the Week of the Photo – the special find that reinforces for us how fortunate Mrs. Palin was to have endured an easy one month pregnancy and look so, well, darn compact at 8 months along.

Palin's pregnancy tale inevitably brings up the subject of medical professionals, what they knew, did, and possibly covered up. Which is why I found this story on the PBS NEWSHOUR so intriguing.

Imagine a sitting president, in the throes of an economic meltdown, undergoes a medical procedure that he hides from everyone but a handful of doctors. Everyone, mind you, including his own vice president.

Grover Cleveland was so intent on keeping secret his surgery for mouth cancer, that he elected to have the operation performed while at sea, bobbing along the choppy Atlantic waters between New York City and Cape Cod where he recuperated in relative peace.

This was, of course, long before the days of the Intertubes and iphones. Yet, imagine sending someone as important as the vice president (security detail) packing so your secret could be kept as quiet as possible.

Imagine having physicians not tell a soul, except for the one doctor who had to explain to his partner why he was stepping away from the office for a bit (lesson one on how leaks start).

And how about the journalist who was vilified for decades for breaking the story that he confirmed from that very doctor! And imagine President Cleveland denying it! Lying outright about his physical condition!

For which, I might add, he wore a prosthetic so that no one would notice the sink hole in his cheek or his missing teeth.  You can learn more HERE about Matthew Algeo's new book The President is a Sick Man.

So as the Palins have proclaimed:  nothing to see here. No fake tummies. No dark secrets. Reporters are horrible. And it will take decades for the truth to come out. Also. Too.

How hilarious to find this on Huffington Post.  Christina Romer lives not far from us. Our kids went to the same school, and summer camp, for many years. I used to shake her hand when she would greet in church on Sunday mornings.

Not long ago, my son and I bumped into Romer and part of her family at the grocery store.

"You're back!" I exclaimed. They smiled and said hello.

Minutes later, examining vegetables near one another, I hastened to explain how we recognized them while not expecting them to remember us. Actually Romer and her husband did, which was rather impressive.

I then recounted seeing the two of them on TV entering the seating area during the inauguration and how they were beaming.

"In fact," I added, "You were always smiling and so poised on television. Were you sad to leave Washington?"

"Christie" as she is called by many, smiled and said no that she was definitely glad to be gone.

"The weather?" I pressed.

"No, not the weather," she smiled.

We left it at that. It was good to see Romer back. Even better to hear her weigh in with that brilliant mind of hers again on TV. 

And FWIW, I stopped thinking highly of the credit rating agencies back in 2008. Digby does a better job on this topic than I. Stroll on over to Hullabaloo and check out the latest hullabaloo on the recent setback for the U.S.  Pray it away, Rick!!