Saturday, March 30, 2013

Skid Row Diary 10

July 26  2003       Saturday  Day 14

   Well, I didn't go to Trimar yesterday and I needed some cash so I would have to go today, although riding around on a bus in the hot weather didn't appeal to me.
   Nothing appealed to me. Not even staying in my room and isolating.
   I slept through breakfast, and didn't leave the building until 9:30, the sign in deadline. I brought along the Rama book in my backpack so I could read and not have to think about anything.
   First I picked up a whole bunch of stuff at the 99 Cent Store. Beef stew, cheese ravioli, tamales, chile mac, all of that canned. 2 coffees, 4 teas, 3 audio cassette tapes, and 2 video. A bottle of jalapeno peppers, etc. My backpack was full and heavy as I left the store and waited at the bus stop for 165.
   It took its time in getting to me. I was a sweaty, limp puddle when it got to me.
   "Forrest Gump," had just began as I entered the plasma center. A film I had once owned and had seen 483 times, but which still affected me in different ways each time I saw it. Today I was interested in how the other characters in the film reacted and intermixed with Forrest, especially the Robin Wright character, Jenny. Tom Hanks was very lucky to work with such a great supporting cast.
   I must admit I got a little misty near the end... again. Tom Hanks breaks character a little bit during the grave seen and talks like Hanks rather than Forrest... just a little, but the scene is still very effective.
   It's embarrassing to be in a room filled with fellow derelicts having our blood sucked out of us and getting misty.
   Damn movie.
   My friend Aurica was busy working in another room and had no time for me today.
   I was ready to go when the film ended. My blood timed this perfectly.
   I purchased a Super Lotto ticket at the 7-11 across the street. I hadn't eaten all day so I also purchased a "green burrito" whatever that is. It wasn't green and looked like a regular burrito to me. I heated it in the microwave they had there, paid for it, took it outside to a shady spot to enjoy it, all the while looking out for the bus that would take me back to Van Nuys.
   I finished the burrito and was then thirsty. The bus hadn't arrived and was due. If I went inside the store to get a cold soda or something the bus would surely come and leave me there. So I waited some more.
   In the hot sun, the heat reflecting nicely off of the concrete sidewalk around me. I watched two buses come and leave going in the opposite direction.
   I waited some more.
   In the hot penetrating sun... sun of the mid-afternoon.
   I began to feel slightly sick from the green burrito I had just eaten.
   I waited and waited.
   At that point I waited some more.
   And then just a little bit more.
   And one more time I waited.
   The bus finally came... no two buses came, one right behind the other, which made no sense whatsoever. I got in the one that stopped  as the other leapfrogged ahead.
   Hot, tired, exhausted... drained of life giving plasma, I made it back to the Weingart by 4:00. I ate dinner then went to my room. I watched police chase dangerous criminals on Fox television. Then "The Hungry Cat Curse" episode of "The X-Files."
   At 8:00 I watched the most beautiful blonde woman in the history of the universe in a remake of "Mighty Joe Young," a big gorilla movie.
   Maybe I missed it, I was fairly busy, but I don't think any explanation was given for Joe's size. Gorilla's usually grow to 15 feet tall, do they? I mean the characters in the film thought his size was unusual too, except Ms Young, Joe's lifetime friend, but nobody asked why he was so big. Radiation like the giant ants in "Them!?" A glandular problem?
   Just one more thing I had to worry about.
   I went to sleep immediately after the movie was over, and dreamed I was dancing with Charlize Theron 10 years in the future at the Academy Awards.

July 27           Sunday    Day 15

   A wasted day for me. I felt down, and wondered what the hell was the matter with me. I can't last 2 weeks without back sliding into depression which initiates other useless behavior, which further depresses me.
   Why me? Why did I have to be like this?
   My mind is my own worst enemy. You have to be like something, I tell myself. Not everyone can be happy. We've been taught, conditioned since birth, that there is a good and bad way to live. If you want to have a good happy life all you have to do is conform, believe as everyone else does, value what everyone else values. Work hard, obey all laws, be patriotic, don't ask too many questions, have simple friendships, get married, have children, raise them to do exactly as you have done. Do all that you can to be happy and think your life has real meaning. When you die you'll have family and friends who will grieve and miss you for a week or two, then they'll forget you, except maybe on your birthday, and they will live their own lives until they die and are forgotten.
   What's the point? Might as well have remained a whiff of undifferentiated nothingness. As Kurt Vonnegut points out, "Watch out for life."
   My mind, my worst enemy, will kill me if I let it. Like a virus that kills it's host, it doesn't know what's good for it.
   I take arrogant pleasure in not being a conformist, by not valuing what most in my country values, what most of them cherish and believe, what makes most of them happy. My arrogant pleasure turns to dull pain readily. My conditioning makes me wish to conform, to be just like "normal people," who I suppose are all devastatingly serene, secure in their likeness, their greed, their love. My mind tells me correctly that there is no such thing as a "normal people." It is a fantasy, a fiction, perpetrated by those who don't wish to think about anything too much. To make the rest of us feel guilty for believing differently. There's no end to what my mind will do to kill me. It's very resourceful and elastic. Back and forth, over and over. Dumb mind. I don't know what to think anymore. Every course of action seems futile and no longer worth any effort. No thought is reassuring, no thoughts that aren't teaming with doubt and insecurity. What's the point? Always back to that question. What's the damn point of it all?
   Vonnegut also tells us the point of life is to be the eyes and ears of God. But Vonnegut, admittedly, is full of crap, and that he doesn't know what's really going on anymore than I do, or anyone else.
   Some people know how to be happy though. I know there's a few out there who are content.
   My mind tries to tell me that with all of the problems in the world, real problems... pain, poverty, suffering, indifference, famine, ignorance, over population, hate, impatience, that my little worries don't add up to a hill of beans.
   That's my mind trying to kill me again.
   And my mind tells me, on top of everything else, that I'm getting old. That I don't have very much time left to do anything significant. If Don Vose, my counselor at the Rancho Antonio Boys Home and self proclaimed mystic, has his way, I only have about 4 years left to live (he read my palm, so it must be true), the miserable son of a bitch.
   My mind's right on that one, I am getting old, but so is the universe. So is everyone else.
   So what to do? What to do?
   I watched a whole bunch of crappy movies, that's what.
   First, "Bloodsport," starring Kate Vernon, then "The Pennsylvania Miners Story," which oddly enough concerned some miners in Pennsylvania.
   After that, having switched channels to a Jackie Chan movie on channel 13, at 9:28, unbeknownst to me, Bob Hope died, not too far from where I was laying down on my rack. I wouldn't know about that until tomorrow afternoon when I was writing while listening to the radio. NPR to be exact, so my dreams tonight were not affected by his passing.
   Instead I dreamt I was in the middle of a vicious pillow fight with Kelly Bundy, from "Married with Children," Tiffany Malloy, from "Unhappily Ever After," and Chrissy Snow from "Three's Company."
   Hey, I have no control over this stuff. They're dreams.

July 28        Monday   Day 16

   Mr. Hope was one of those individuals who had been there, been around, off and on, for my entire life. He was already 53 when I was born, with most of his greatest work already behind him (yet with one more “Road” picture to be made 6 years later. Although he was not my favorite comedian of that era (Jack Benny has that distinction, Laruel and Hardy next)), I never the less enjoyed his work immensely, and looked forward to seeing him whenever I could. Most of the reason he held such a dear place in my heart was due to the work he did in the films he made before I was born, and later discovered via local television broadcasts. His many years of work in radio (a career in itself) was lost to me, and his many TV specials on NBC were not all that enjoyable. Born in London, he was an Angelino since the 30s, I would often see his Toluca Lake estate from the hills of Universal Studios.
   On the occasion of his 100th birthday, 2 months ago, several television specials had aired on NBC, and PBS, which I had watched, so I did have the opportunity, as did the country, to get reacquainted with him and his work, just before his passing it turns out. I had at one time quite a few of the films he made with Bing Crosby on video tape, but I’ve lost them, along with almost all of my other possessions, due to my erratic lifestyle.
   What a life he lived! What a good man he was, despite being a human being. I will miss knowing he was still alive.
   Gregory Peck, Katherine Hepburn, David Brinkley, Buddy Ebsen & Hackett, already gone to us this year.
   Now if we can only get rid of Rickles…
   I was writing in my room, the only part of the day not wasted, when I heard of Mr. Hope’s death. I was stunned, and couldn’t move for a moment or two.  He was old, yes… 100 is no joke, but to actually die… how rude. Very inconsiderate and selfish if you ask me. We needed him and he went away.
   I suppose he can be forgiven. He had earned a good rest.
   I wish his spirit well, although I don’t believe in spirits. I wish his family well, and indeed, and I really hate to say this but it’s apt and true, thank you for all of the memories. Not only your work, but for whatever I was doing when I watched it, and for the kind of life you led, for all the Christmas’s you spent away from home entertaining our troops, for all the laughs, all the jokes, for the kind of man you were. A true inspiration.
   And I was inspired. After the sadness, and after I started ruminating upon my own life once again, I didn’t exactly make a decision, that never works, but came to an understanding that it’s alright to be me, I don’t need to pretend to be anybody else. I only need to expect what is possible for me to do. That’s all. It still won’t be easy because I am capable of doing a lot of stuff, I know that about myself. But it will be better than trying to live continuously to what I am not, and could hardly be. I’ll never be an astronomer, rock star, great writer, male prostitute, billionaire, movie star or director. I am a good man with a good heart, which is enough. The only thing I’ve studied my entire life was literature, so I will continue to study and learn more about it, from other people, when I return to school, and not try as hard to learn about law, although I won’t give that up either.
   I felt like a big, huge, old weight had been taken from me, and I felt much better. I was happy. I smiled.
   I then took a break from writing and finished the “Rama Revealed,” book. The death of the protagonist, Nicole des Jardins and her husband, got me kind of misty. All of the characters in the novels, except Katie, were rather cartoonish, but still… we’d been through so much together.
   Later when I slept I dreamt I was on the road to Morocco with Dorothy Lamour.

July 29    Tuesday   Day 17

   I spoke to Larry yesterday, my new job developer. I went to our 10:00 appointment only to be told that he wasn’t there, and to come back at 1:00. I was told that he was at a meeting.
   I then walked to the One Stop to check  my Email. Nothing. No messages from John Manzano either. I called Mr. Porter at the Food Stamp Appeals office and was told I was liable for $403 in food stamps, even though I had never received them. I had expected this. I told Mr. Porter to cancel my hearing.
   When I saw Larry at 1:00 he faxed my resume off for a customer service job, and made an appointment for me to return Monday at 8:00.
   I began reading Stephen King’s “Everything’s Eventual,” today. A short story compilation. I read “1408,” a pretty scary one concerning a hotel room which was the home of a decidedly antisocial entity, that had killed 30 or so paying guests over the years. Technically, a difficult story to pull off… how can an empty room be a good antagonist? How can it be so deadly within such a short period of time? Half of the effect was in the well written set up prior to the room being visited, one quarter was what happened in the room itself, and the rest by the reader wondering what it was that was wrong with room 1408, which King wisely left a mystery.
    King said this story scared him when he wrote it. I have no doubt of it.
   I still did not get much accomplished today. I’m biding my time, getting ready to spring upon the world like a coiled cobra.
   I did buy today’s Times, and read for most of the afternoon about the life and career of Bob Hope.
   Gary Porch returned to us. He’d spent the last two weeks as a guest of the Orange County Sherriff’s Department, due to some warrant issue. Apparently he made a nuisance of himself while drunk, got arrested, gave the cops hell, and now must attend Army Substance Abuse Program (ASAP) meetings, and abide by all of the rules and regulations of the Weingart’s Veterans Program, or he goes back to the slammer for 6 months.  
   After dinner I took a little nap and had a dream in which I was interviewing  the  lovely actress Nikki Cox for the position of personal masseur.  As I was about to get a demonstration of her considerable talents giving massages, I woke up (damn it!).
   It was 7:00. Later I watched an interesting program on PBS about the possibilities of dramatic climate change due to volcanic explosions leading to tangential effects such as the rise of the plague which may have been a contributing factor in the fall of the Roman Empire.
   I say, why not.
   During the evening I began to develop a slight discomfort in my chest. It wasn't painful, more like a strange pressure, like a ball of gas had lodged itself just below my sternum. I didn't think anything about it at first, but it continued throughout the night making it rather difficult to sleep. I didn't sleep, in fact I was awake, reading, or watching television until after five.

July 30   Wednesday     Day 18

   I stopped reading and switched the TV back on at 3:37, to be rewarded with the beautiful visage of Marina Sirtis, yet making another guest appearance on "Star Trek, Voyager," with that "A Team" guy, Murdock.
   I watched until it ended at four, then turned the TV and light off and attempted to sleep. I felt tired, but sleep would not come to me. The weird feeling in my chest didn't help matters any. I wasn't having a heart attack, my pulse was slow and steady. No pain really, just the nagging feeling that something wasn't quite right.
   I gave up on sleep, turned the lights back on and began reading the title story of King's book, but it became so bogged down in characterization that was not required, in my opinion, to carry the story along. I finally became so frustrated and tired that I finally drifted off at around 5:00, or so. Thank you Mr King. God bless you.
   I dreamt I was giving Mimi Rogers a massage she would not soon forget, for about 5 hours, until I woke up near 10:00. The pain, or rather the discomfort in my chest had disappeared.
   I thought about going to Trimar today. I silently talked myself out of it.
   I did see John Manzano at the front desk at lunch time. He didn't see me though, and I didn't say anything to him, thinking he'd stop by my room later. He never did.
   I spent a good portion of the day writing and listening to NPR. I also began re-reading Peter Straub's masterpiece "Ghost Story," whose title is misleading as it's actually a Gothic monster story... sort of. The quality of the writing, of expression is intimidating. "There was nothing that was not banal," instead of "everything was banal." Not bad for a guy who lives in New York.
   This is a genre novel, so the lack of humor can be forgiven I suppose. "The Haunting of Hill House," had few knee slappers within it. But I've never read a book of Straub's that was balanced, as Stephen King does so well (I still laugh every time I remember a line from "The Raft," when the protagonist was trying to fathom the origens of the aquatic oil slick creature that was hunting him... "Or maybe Arthur Godfrey pissed out some atomic bisquick..."
   Humor is always good... except at funerals.
   Unless it's Graham Chapman of Monty Python.
   John  Cleese delivered his eulogy:
   Graham Chapman, coauthor of the "Parrot Sketch", is no more. He has ceased to be. Bereft of life, he rests in peace. He's kicked the bucket, hopped the twig, bit the dust, snuffed it, breathed his last, and gone to meet the great Head of Light Entertainment in the sky. And I guess that we're all thinking how sad it is that a man of such talent, of such capability for kindness, of such unusual intelligence, should now so suddenly be spirited away at the age of only forty-eight, before he'd achieved many of the things of which he was capable, and before he'd had enough fun.
   Well, I feel that I should say: nonsense. Good riddance to him, the free loading bastard, I hope he fries. And the reason I feel I should say this is he would never forgive me if I didn't, if I threw away this glorious opportunity to shock you all on his behalf. Anything for him, but mindless good taste...
   But I digress.
   "The word 'blowupidness,' is a word that's been bandied about a lot lately," is another good line. I heard Homer Simpson come up with that one today.
   I watched an interesting PBS two hour documentary focusing on the Watergate fiasco of thirty years ago.
   It was a foolish mistake, and Nixon deserved impeachment, but I still like him. He was predictable, smart, profane, dedicated, a true political animal. He was a tad paranoid, but just because you're paranoid doesn't mean people aren't out to get you.
   Later, I watched a sort of debate between the man who began the Housing Authority, helping to get homeless people of the downtown area into affordable housing, and one of the developers in the area who are currently building and leasing high end lofts on the periphery of the skid row area, and who wishes to expand their jurisdiction, wishing to drive the homeless away, or make them disappear. The developer didn't understand why the homeless needed to be concentrated in one small area and wanted to farm them out to the San Fernando Valley and Santa Monica, and other such places.
   She didn't understand fully the homeless infrastructure that has developed downtown over the decades. Specifically the missions and other institutions that minister to the unfortunate people who inhabit this place, like the Union Rescue Mission, the Los Angeles Mission, the Midnight Mission, the Salvation Army's Harbor Light and Safe Harbor facilities, and the Weingart, where I find myself, and many others, all of which would be hard pressed to pick up and move to different locations.
   Of course the simpler question remains, why doesn't the developer go develop somewhere else?
   Because the city wants to get rid of it's homeless problem. LA would like nothing more than to sweep it's homeless under some big rug.
   I also watched an informative program concerning the author Gore Vidal, someone I admittedly didn't know very much about. I'd seen him in "Gattaca," of course. Who Hasn't? I feel I need to learn more about him and his work. Anybody who made William F Buckley threaten to punch them in the face bears further investigation.
   I went to sleep and dreamt that the lovely comedic actress Joanna Storm took me skinny dipping in the cement pond before we went frolicking in the forests of Mirkwood, trying to avoid the giant spiders that live there.

Friday, March 29, 2013


Hoover Dam

Rachel Maddow Thinking Big

   The Minnesota I-35 Bridge was an eight-lane, steel truss arch bridge that carried Interstate 35W across the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 140,000 vehicles crossed the bridge daily. I use the verb was because the bridge, opened in 1967, collapsed at 6:05 p.m. CDT on Wednesday, August 1, 2007. It was during rush hour. The structure and deck collapsed into the Mississippi River and on to the riverbanks below, the south part toppling 81 feet eastward in the process. Approximately 100 vehicles were involved, sending their occupants and 18 construction workers up to 115 feet down to the river or onto its banks. Northern sections fell into a rail yard, landing on three unoccupied and stationary freight train cars. 13 people were killed and 145 injured.
   A possible design flaw in the bridge was discovered, related to large steel sheets called gusset plates which were used to connect girders together in the truss structure. The National Transportation Safety Board announced they had determined that the bridge's design specified steel gusset plates that were undersized and inadequate to support the intended load of the bridge, a load which had increased over time.
   On September 19, 2007 the Minnesota Department of Transportation announced that a replacement bridge would be built due the highway's function as a vital link for carrying commuters and truck freight.
   One year later, on September 18, 2008, at 5 A.M., The I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge was opened to the public.
   But five years after the collapse, Andrew Hermann, the president of the American Society of Engineers, told ABC News that while the nation has an aggressive bridge inspection program, the government is still not spending enough money on updating and maintaining the nation's infrastructure.
   "Congress basically lacks the courage to do what is needed to raise the funds," he said. "Bridges require maintenance, and maintenance and rehabilitation require funding... Politicians like to show up and cut a ribbon on a brand new bridge, but they don't like to show up and applaud a new paint job that may increase the life of a bridge."
   As I've previously mentioned
   I like to stroll over the 6th Street Bridge, or technically Viaduct (meaning it is made of several components) almost every morning at around 5:30. It's certainly good exercise, and I tend to lose myself in self reflection while doing so. I mentally edit the posts of this blog while walking over the bridge, getting some pretty good new ideas, or ideas about rearranging the ideas I've already written so that they may work, or flow more smoothly.
   The only days I don't walk over the bridge is when it rains, or when it is closed, either due to some kind of bridge maintenance going on, or movie filming. Or when I'm too lazy.
   It takes approximately 22.5 minutes to leave the Las Americas, reach the beginning of the bridge at 6th and Mateo, and reach the eastern side at Whittier Bl. and S Boyle Ave. in Boyle Heights, and another approximately 22.5 minutes to get back. So it's a significant walk, and on the way back, heading west over the bridge, I'm treated to the view of the Los Angeles skyline as can be seen in the 4th picture above.
   The third picture above features our world famous Los Angeles River, which was once free flowing and was once a main water source for the city. However unpredictable and devastating floods continued to plague it well into the 1930s (the most notable one being the catastrophic 1938 flood that killed at least 115 people and precipitated the recall of then-mayor of Los Angeles Frank L. Shaw), leading to calls for flood control measures. The Army Corps of Engineers began an ambitious project of completely encasing the river bed and banks in concrete, with only a trickle of water usually flowing down its middle. Environmental groups and park advocates support the removal of the concrete and the restoration of natural vegetation and wildlife.
   My good friend Terry and I at times rode our bikes along the banks of concrete on the river when we were kids, exploring the huge storm drains that feed it. We would return home covered with mud head to toe.
   Giant 20 foot long ants live in the those storm drains:
   The 6th Street Bridge however supports no ants, and was built in 1932 (the largest concrete bridge in the state for the first 13 years after it was built). It is 3,446 feet long.
   "During the construction of the viaduct, an on-site plant was used to supply the concrete for construction. However, the quality of the concrete turned out to have a high alkali content and lead to an alkali-silica reaction which creates cracks in the concrete and saps the strength of the structure.
   Current estimates are that the viaduct has a 70% probability of collapse due to a major earthquake within 50 years." -
   Indeed, every morning that I walk over the bridge I step across, or notice cracks in the concrete where I can actually see the Los Angeles River way down below me. There's one section of the north side railing somewhere near the middle of the expanse which is gone, with a wooden board bandaging the open space.
   And knowing Southern California's penchant for major earthquakes occuring during the early morning hours... well I was taking a big chance each day.
   The country as a whole has an infrastructure problem, the problem being we're not maintaining it. For the second time in a row, America’s infrastructure received a near-failing grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). They provide a report card, so to speak, grading the status of our nation's ability to maintain itself. The overall grade for the entire country now... D+. The good news, we're up from a D in 2009 (the study is updated every 4 years).
   Here's their report:
   Here's some highlights (complied by the lovely Beth Buczynski for Care 2):
   The average age of the 84,000 dams in the country is 52 years old. The nation’s dams are aging and the number of high-hazard dams is on the rise. The number of deficient dams is estimated at more than 4,000, which includes 2,000 deficient high-hazard dams.
   Much of our drinking water infrastructure is nearing the end of its useful life. There are an estimated 240,000 water main breaks per year in the United States. Assuming every pipe would need to be replaced, the cost over the coming decades could reach more than $1 trillion, according to the American Water Works Association (AWWA).

   Forty-two percent of America’s major urban highways remain congested, costing the economy an estimated $101 billion in wasted time and fuel annually.

   Over two hundred million trips are taken daily across deficient bridges in the nation’s 102 largest metropolitan regions. In total, one in nine of the nation’s bridges are rated as structurally deficient, while the average age of the nation’s 607,380 bridges is currently 42 years.

   The study evaluates 16 sectors that include things like solid waste, the power grid, drinking water, wastewater, and roads and bridges, then grades are given to each category according to certain criteria, such as; capacity, condition, funding, future need, operation and maintenance, public safety, resilience and innovation. Since 1998, the grades have consistently been near failing, averaging only Ds, due to delayed maintenance and under investment across most categories. The grades in 2013 ranged from a high of B- for solid waste to a low of D- for inland waterways and levees. Solid waste, drinking water, wastewater, roads, and bridges all saw incremental improvements, and rail jumped from a C- to a C+.
   ASCE President Gregory E. DiLoreto, P.E. calls the results "simply unacceptable."
   "Infrastructure can either be the engine for long-term economic growth and employment, or, it can jeopardize our nation’s standing if poor roads, deficient bridges, and failing waterways continue to hurt our economy," he said.
   Ms Buczynski points out that if the United States doesn’t find a way to  inject over $3 trillion into its own infrastructure in the next 7 years, the next report may read all F’s. And there is no extra credit in this class.
   This issue is fairly easy to understand. If you buy a new car and use it normally over the years, but neglect to change the oil, or put coolant in the radiator, and check the tires, preferring to spend your available cash in a state of the art stereo system and tinted windows, sooner or later you're going to break down, with repairs costing typically way more than preventive maintenance would have, and in the case of a tire blowing while traveling at high speeds, you may lose your very life.
   The same goes for our nation's infrastructure, it's bridges, railways, roads and highways, aqueducts, and energy grid, etc. If we don't spend the time and effort to maintain these vital entities that each and everyone of us use on a daily basis then they are doomed to fail.
   But the Republicans in Congress, especially the House of Representatives, are insisting on austerity measures while pursuing nonexistent spending and debt priorities. They are not willing to invest in the country and would rather see it fail while blaming the consequences of their inaction and mistaken prerogatives on President Obama. They don't care how many people die as a direct result of their ideology and hatred. They wish to keep pumping money into a bloated and inefficient  Defense Department, and continue corporate welfare, giving away billions of your taxpayer dollars to the very same oil companies that are gouging you at the gas pump.
   And sadly, all too often, the Democrats allow them to do it.
   In 1933, during the height of the Great Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt as part of the New Deal,  created the Public Works Administration (PWA), a large-scale public works construction agency. It built large-scale public works such as dams, bridges, hospitals, and schools. Its goals were to spend $3.3 billion ($57.75 billion 2012 dollars) in the first year, and $6 billion ($105 billion 2012 dollars) in all, to provide employment, stabilize purchasing power, and help revive the economy.
   Let me repeat that. To provide employment, stabilize purchasing power, and help revive the economy. I believe the nation could use some of that today.
  In 1935 the Works Progress Administration (WPA) was created. It was the largest and most ambitious New Deal agency, employing millions of unemployed people (mostly unskilled men) to carry out public works projects, including the construction of public buildings and roads. It employed 3.3 million workers in 1938 (peak), and provided almost 8 million jobs between 1935 and 1943. Almost every community in the United States had a new park, bridge or school constructed by the WPA. It's initial appropriation in 1935 was for $4.9 billion (about 6.7 percent of the 1935 GDP, and about $80.9 billion 2012 dollars), and in total it spent $13.4 billion ($209 billion 2012 dollars). It tried to provide one paid job for all families in which the breadwinner suffered long-term unemployment.
   "The direct focus of the WPA projects changed with need. In 1935 priority projects were to improve infrastructure; roads, extension of electricity to rural areas, water conservation, sanitation and flood control. In 1936, as outlined in that year’s Emergency Relief Appropriations Act, public facilities became a focus; parks and associated facilities, public buildings, utilities, airports, and transportation projects were funded. The following year, saw the introduction of agricultural improvements, such as the production of marl fertilizer and the eradication of fungus pests. As the Second World War approached, and then eventually began, WPA projects became increasingly defense related." -Wikipedia
   Hoover Dam cost $165 million (other sources say $175... about $2.79 billion to $2.96 billion 2012 dollars) to build and was completed in four and a half years, between 1931 and 1936. First power was produced in October 1936, more than two years ahead of schedule. A total of 4.4 million yards of concrete were used in its construction. The powerhouse used 17 generators in 10 acres of floor space to produce over 4 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity for California, Nevada, and Arizona. Who paid for the dam? The federal government. The federal government paid for it during the worst economic crisis this country has ever faced.
   And it has paid for itself. Residential and industrial users of electricity have been paying back the government $5.4 million a year at 3% interest over the last 50 years as part of their monthly utility bills.
   "Through the sale of power and water, a major portion of the money used to construct Reclamation projects is returned to the Federal Treasury. Hoover Dam's approximate $175 million cost was repaid over a 50-year period, with interest. Hoover Dam and power plant revenues from the sale of water and power have repaid approximately $260 million, including interest, to the Federal Treasury, principally from 50-year power contracts that ended May 31, 1987. Several contingencies, including $25 million allocated to flood control, will be repaid with interest over the 30-year contract period which began June 1, 1987."
   Economists Paul Krugman, Robert Riech, Victoria Grant, and myself (a non-economist) all believe the nation needs to spend more money to stimulate the economy and increase employment. A lot of Democrats and even the president himself believes this as well, or has indicated he does. Yet the Republicans stated mission and goals are just the opposite, to restrict spending without increases in revenue (taxes, and closure of tax loopholes and subsidies), which have a predictable outcome. The country's economy continues to be depressed and unemployment remains high. The Republicans in Congress are just fine with this. Why shouldn't they be? They already have jobs.
   As for the 6th Street Bridge, the city’s Bureau of Engineering considered building a replica or a simple viaduct before switching gears and announcing a major design competition. The 5th picture above depicts the design that won that competition.
   Paid for mostly by federal highway money, with a smattering of state and Measure R funding, construction of the new bridge is hoped to begin in early 2015 and the new bridge is expected to open in 2019.
   Those expectations were formulated before the Republicans allowed the sequestration process to initiate. Let's hope that the federal highway money mentioned above is still available.
   Because I'm looking forward to a nice, safe walk in 2019 on that shiny new bridge.

Using Pension Funds to Build Infrastructure and Put Americans to Work

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Happy Birthday Julia Stiles!

Table Dance

Picture Legend
1. Ms Julia
2. "I Love You, I Love You Not"
3. Julia and Claire, Longtime Friends
4. "The Devil's Own"
5. "Wide Awake"
6. "Wicked"
7. Love Child
8. "10 Things I Hate About You"
9. "Down to You"
10. "Hamlet"
11. "O"
12. "Save the Last Dance"
13. "State and Main"
14. Bourne
15. "The Omen"
16. Homewrecker
17. "Silver Linings Playbook"
18. Pretty Mets Fan
19. Don't Screw It Up!
20. More Bellybutton

   It's my great pleasure and honor this morning to give a great big happy birthday shout out to one of my very favorite actresses, Ms Julia Stiles!
   Julia O'Hara Stiles was born at a very early age as a small female infant in New York City. Well one has to be born somewhere I suppose.
      She is the oldest of three children born to Judith Newcomb Stiles, a ceramic artist who owned a shop in Greenwich Village (40° 44′ 2″ N, 74° 0′ 4″ W), and John O'Hara, who is, or was, either a businessman, or a second grade teacher, depending on which source of information you choose. Perhaps he was both, as it is said he helped sell his wife's artwork, as did Julia by and by.
   Here's some more confusion, depending on what source you choose, Julia is of Irish descent (just like me) on her father's side (duh!), and either English and Italian, or English and German, on her mother's side. Perhaps Julia will comment and clear up this very important matter.
   She grew up in a loft apartment in New York City's SoHo neighborhood (40° 43′ 23″ N, 74° 0′ 3″ W), which boasts the greatest collection of cast-iron architecture in the world. Imagine that. The loft served as both the family home and her Judith's art studio, so the place smelled like wet clay all of the time.
   Julia described her parents as 1960 liberals, and took part in political discussions at the dinner table at a very early age. So also helped her mom at her store beginning at 6 years old. She liked to chat up the customers I'm told.
   She developed a love for the theater also at an early age, especially the plays of some guy named Shakespeare, and kept a ceramic bust of the playwright in her bedroom, rather than a poster of David Cassidy like my sister. Perhaps her mother made the bust.
   Julia took modern dance lessons, just like me, and taught herself how to act by watching the TV series "The Honeymooners," and acting out different parts along with the show.
   "One of these days, Alice... POW!!! Straight to the moon!"
   Uuhh, I assume she was watching reruns.
   She is also a natural born writer, just like me (we have so much in common). At age 11 she wrote a letter to then New York City mayor Ed Koch suggesting he place more trash bins along the streets. Baaamm, it was done! She also wrote to the director of New York's experimental off-Broadway La Ma Ma Theatre Company, demanding an audition. Baaamm, she got it, and soon began acting in its avant-garde stage productions there, and New York's the Kitchen Theater.
   Again depending on the source, some say she began work in commercials, some that she worked exclusively on the stage. I don't know which is really true, but I don't think it really matters. What does matter is that she soon began working in movies, which is probably why we know her today. When she was 12 or 13 she was considered for the child vampire role of Claudia in "Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles," (1994) with the Cruise and Pitt boys,  but lost out in the end to that bitch Kirsten Dunst (just kidding Kirsten, we all love you here at Joyce's Take... bitch).
   She continued studying at New York's Professional Children's School and got a gig playing Erica Dansby in 5 episodes of the television show, "Ghostwriter," which was about a group of teens who go around writing books for other people. Then at age 15, she made her cinematic debut with "I Love You, I Love You Not," (1996) with Jude Law and childhood friend Claire (The Bomb) Danes. To be honest, reading the plot notes, this sounds like a thoroughly depressing film.
   She got some small parts in both a Harrison Ford movie, "The Devil's Own," (1997) about angry Irish people, and with that Pitt guy again, and "Wide Awake," (1998) starring our lovely friend Dana Delany, and written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, you know, that guy who makes movies with surprise endings, like "The Sixth Sense." But this was waaaay before he became a famous director (1 year).
   That same year Julia won her first lead role in the film "Wicked," playing a teenage girl who may, or may not have murdered her mother so she could have her father all to herself. You decide. How did she get this part? She got it by writing a letter to director Michael Steinberg, asking to be cast, and Baaamm! He agreed to cast her.
   The film was a hit at the Sundance Film Festival, but was never shown in theaters, and went straight to video. I don't know why. What it did do was to get her some notice from casting agents and film critics. Once Julia's career took off, "Wicked," was re-released on video in 2001.
   In 1999 Julia did a whole bunch of things, but three of them were to play the female lead in the TV movie "The 60s," with Jordana Brewster and Jerry O'Connell, graduate from the Professional Children's School, and be cast as Kat Stratford, opposite Heath Ledger, in Gil Junger's "10 Things I Hate About You," which is where I first became aware of her... and Heath for that matter. The film is an adaptation of Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew," set in a high school in Tacoma, Washington. She won an MTV Movie Award for "Breakthrough Female Performance" for the role, and the Chicago Film Critics voted her the most promising new actress of the year.
   In "The Taming of the Shrew," the lead female character name is Katherina, or Kate for short. In "10 Things I Hate About You," the female lead, Julia's character is named Kat. Get it? Kate... Kat. It all fits so well.
   In "The Taming of the Shrew," the male lead's name is Petruchio. In "10 Things I Hate About You," the male lead, Heath's character, is name Patrick, which has absolutely nothing at all in common with Petruchio. The name Patrick in Italian (Italy is the setting for "The Taming of the Shrew") is Patrizio. However the sneaky writer of 10 Things made Patrick's last name Verona, which is the name of the city Petruchio came from. There's the connection! Isn't it wonderful?!
   I enjoyed "10 Things I Hate About You," very much, especially the performances of the two stars, and at the end when the band Letters to Cleo sang Cheap Trick's "I Want You to Want Me," on the roof of the high school. I used to have my very own VHS copy of "10 Things I Hate About You," but I no longer own it.
   I no longer have a VHS player either.
   Here's a compilation from "10 Things I Hate About You"
   Julia was a big time movie star now. Her next film was opposite Freddie Prinze, Jr. in "Down to You" (2000), a romantic comedy which also starred Ashton Kutcher in his 2nd film role (he was working "That 70s Show," at the time) and the lovely Rosario Dawson. The movie was panned by critics and didn't do well financially, but Julia and Freddie both earned  Teen Choice Award nominations for their on-screen chemistry.
   Julia, the Shakespeare devotee, would star in two more adaptation's of his plays, playing Ophelia in Michael Almereyda's version of "Hamlet" (2000) set in contemporary New York, with Ethan Hawke as Hamlet, and with Liev Schreiber, Bill Murray, Steve Zahn, Casey Affleck, and Tim Blake Nelson. Then the very next year that wile Tim Blake Nelson directed "O," which is a lose adaptation of "Othello," which Julia starred in opposite Mekhi Phifer.
   Here's a clip:
   Those films didn't do very well at the box office. Julia's next commercial success was 2001's dance film "Save the Last Dance," with Sean Patrick Thomas. In it she played a high school student who likes to dance, and who eventually is accepted to the famous Juilliard School after Sean teachers her Hip Hop.
   Here's a clip of Julia dancing like a mad person:
   Females liked the movie and made it a success. I've never seen it, although it was on TV just the other day, and I'm sure Julia was very, very good in it. I don't like dance movies... except "All That Jazz."
   I do practice synchronized Hip Hop though.
   Julia won  the 2001 Teens Choice Drama Award for her role in "Save the Last Dance," and during her hiatus from the film she signed up with Habitat for Humanity International, an organization that builds homes for the needy. Isn't that wonderful?! She helped build houses in Costa Rica.
   I would live in a house if she built one for me.
   Julia has also worked with Amnesty International to raise awareness of the harsh conditions of immigration detention of unaccompanied juveniles, again... just like me!
   Back in 2000 she appeared in David Mamet's "State and Main," a film I enjoyed very much. In it she played a teenage girl who seduces poor Alec Baldwin.
   Poor Alec.
   And she continued work on the stage, appearing in "The Vagina Monologues," "Twelfth Night," and Mamet's "Oleanna."
   In 2000 Julia enrolled at Columbia University to study English literature. She later said that, at first, it was difficult to be a celebrity on a college campus: "In the beginning, it was a little hard, because ... I wasn't even really fully aware of what people were saying. ...I would get people coming to my door, and knocking on it in the middle of the night. But it pretty much died down." She took time off from school on occasion to pursue her film career, but graduated from Columbia in 2005 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.
   One of her classmates was the lovely actress Anna Paquin, who is the 2nd youngest actress to win an Academy Award (1994's Best Actress in a Supporting Role, for her work in "The Piano." She was 11 years old). The youngest person to win an Academy Award is Tatum O'Neal, for 1973's "Paper Moon." Also Best Supporting Actress. She was 10.
   In 2001 Julia appeared in "The Business of Strangers," with Stockard Channing (Ms Channing said of her co-star, "In addition to her talent, she has a quality that is almost feral, something that can make people uneasy. She has an effect on people." Indeed).
   The next year Julia had a small but crucial role as CIA operative Nicolette "Nicky" Parsons in "The Bourne Identity," (2002), a role that was enlarged in "The Bourne Supremacy," (2004), then greatly expanded in "The Bourne Ultimatum" (2007). They actually tried to kill her in that last one.
   Here's a clip from "The Bourne Supremacy"
   And an interview for "The Bourne Ultimatum"
   The three Bourne films Julia appeared in remain her greatest grossing pictures each making $214,034,224, $288,500,217, and $442,824,138 respectively (please notice that the one film that featured Julia the most made the most money).
   In her personal life, Julia has a thing for the Prince of Denmark, having dated him in two movies... "Hamlet," and "The Prince and Me" (2004).
   In 2005 she was considered for the role of Susan Storm/Invisible Girl in "Fantastic Four," but the part was given to Jessica Alba instead... bitch.
   In 2006 she appeared with Liev Schreiber again in a remake of "The Omen," in which she gets killed by Mia Farrow... bitch.
   In 2007 she made her writing and directorial debut with the short film "Raving," starring the lovely Zooey Deschanel. It premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival of that year.
  In 2010 Julia returned to television in the serial killer romance, "Dexter," appearing in 10 episodes in the shows fifth season.
   Just recently Ms Stiles appeared in my favorite movie of last year, "Silver Linings Playbook," as Jennifer Lawrence's sister, along with Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro.
   She's been in, and done a whole bunch of other things as well. She's a busy lady!
   And still going strong.
   She is a reformed vegan, but began eating meat again after she lost all of her blood iron. Just like me... when I was six months old.
   She likes the New York Mets, a lot. They like her too, and asked her to throw out the first pitch at Shea Stadium during the Memorial Day game between the Mets and the Arizona Diamondbacks on May 29, 2006. After a 39-minute rain delay, dressed with a Mets cap, she finally did it.
   "I was gonna throw the first pitch at a Mets game, but there was a rain delay. So I'm waiting for it to stop, and the team's manager, Willie Randolph, comes by. Now he's already intimidating to begin with. But he comes over to me and says, 'If you screw this up, they will boo you.' And I said 'Thanks.'"
   As far as her love life goes, no one knows anything about it. She may still be a virgin for all we know. She's never married, has no kids, and may or may not have dated. Who knows? I certainly don't.
   Wait a sec. While searching for photos I've discovered that Julia broke up her "Dexter," co-star, Michael C. Hall's  2 year marriage.
   In any case all of us here at Joyce's Take really like her a lot (I'm single Julia!), and wish her continued good health and fortune, and success in anything she may choose to do, and of course a very happy birthday!
   Happy birthday Julia!  

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Monsanto and the approaching Zombie Apocalypse


I will knock down the Gates of the Netherworld,
I will smash the door posts, and leave the doors flat down,
and will let the dead go up to eat the living!
And the dead will outnumber the living!

Ishtar, the Assyrian goddess of fertility, war, love, and sex... and Monsanto board member.

   So it's all Ishtar's fault! And here I thought it was just a crappy movie.
   At midnight last Sunday I happened to be watching the SyFy channel while consuming a nice salami and cheese sandwich, and right after the American Ninja Warrior competition failed to produce an American ninja warrior, the 2011 film, "Zombie Apocalypse," came on starring the talented actor Ving Rhames of "Pulp Fiction," and "Mission Impossible," fame. Yeah, the same Ving Rhames who gave his Golden Globe for best actor in a TV miniseries in 1998 to Jack Lemmon. I know, WTF is he doing these stupid low budget SyFy Channel movies for? I suppose one does have to pay the bills.
   He seems to have a penchant for zombies (who doesn't?), as he also starred in the big budget film, "Dawn of the Dead," with our lovely friend, Sarah Polley, and "Day of the Dead," with our other lovely friend Mena Suvari (now all we really need is a "Night of the Dead (oh please, somebody make one!), and "Afternoon of the Dead," and "Evening of the Dead," movies to fill in that 24 hour cycle.
   Not surprisingly, we've discussed zombies before in this post entitled "Irresponsible Climate Zombies,"
   which was really about Republican's inaction in Congress (to be fair, and I don't know why I should be, Democrats are practically just as culpable) concerning climate change. However we did discuss zombies, their sources of energy, and civilizations chances of surviving a zombie apocalypse, which quite frankly are not very good.*
   In Ving's "Zombie Apocalypse," film, for instance, one single, tiny French woman gets infected with the VM2 virus, which of course as everyone knows, will turn an infected person into a zombie. Within 28 days (a very important number in zombie lore), 83% of the entire European population becomes infected, and continues to spread globally, even to the United States. Republican members of Congress denied the spread of Zombiism, and that it was man made, until they became infected themselves and turned into zombies... however no one seemed to notice as they behaved just the same as they did before being infected.
   After six months 90 % of us Americans are zombies, which meant 10% were zombie food. The film then narrows down to a small group of survivors (low budget) who are making their way to Catalina, which is a small island off of the coast of Los Angeles, which is supposedly zombie free, as zombies are notoriously bad swimmers (theoretically, as zombies are dead and all, they could walk to Catalina on the ocean floor as they don't need to breath... because they're dead). Ving is part of that group.
   There's a lot of zombie abuse in this film, and people being eating by zombies, which is their way. I've seen it all before. I'm pretty sure I've seen "Zombie Apocalypse," before, so I turned the TV off and watched the first episode of "The Americans," on my computer, which involved sticking fingers up people's asses, and old Fleetwood Mac and Phil Collins' songs (for a moment I thought I was watching a rerun of "Miami Vice"). After that was over I turned my television back on and the zombies were still there, so I turned the sound off and went to sleep surrounded by brain eating zombies.
   With AMC's "The Walking Dead," and Brad Pitt's "World War Z," coming out soon, zombies seem to be very popular these days.
   Fictional ones at least.
   I don't know why.
   The next morning I read this article concerning Monsanto, the giant American multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation headquartered in Creve Coeur, Missouri, and the so-called "Monsanto Protection Act," which is aptly worded as that's all it does, protects Monsanto.
   The company tried passing the same act last year, but a huge outcry from consumers, and organizations such as The Center for Food Safety, the National Family Farm Coalition, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Sierra Club, and the Union of Concerned Scientists stopped the Senate from including the provision in the 2012 Farm Bill and the 2013 Agriculture Appropriations Bill.
   Yet giant multinational corporations can at times be very persistent, and lobbyists for the company got somebody in the Senate (Sen Roy Blunt) to slip in what is known as a legislative rider into the Senate Continuing Resolution spending bill, which the Senate passed in a 73 to 26 vote, which keeps the federal government operating past the March 27th expiration date of last year’s continuing resolution. The rider, entitled Farmer Assurance Provision, Sec. 735, grants Monsanto immunity from federal courts pending the review of any genetically modified (GM) crop that is thought to be dangerous, by anybody! Under the section, courts would be helpless to stop Monsanto from continuing to plant GM crops that are thought even by the US government to be a danger to health or the environment.
   The provision also gives Monsanto blanket immunity from any United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) action regarding the potential dangers of its GM products while under review (if the USDA was ever inclined to take action, which is debatable). The USDA would be unable to act against any and all new genetically modified organisms (GMO) that are suspected to be adversely effecting either human health or the environment.
   So why would Congress give up so much power to Monsanto?
   Good question. We've previously discussed comprehensively the possibility that Congress may be an itsy bitsy corrupt here:
   Right now nothing short of a presidential veto will put an end to the ruling. Is the president expected to veto the ruling? Not really.
   If you're concerned about this issue and would like it for President Obama to veto this provision, here's a petition you can sign urging him to do so:
   But Rick... what's a GMO?
   Funny you should ask. GMOs are plants or animals created through gene splicing techniques of biotechnology (also called genetic engineering, or GE). This experimental technology merges DNA from different species, creating unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes that cannot occur in nature or in traditional cross breeding. Once genetically modified crops are seeded and grown, cross pollination can occur with non GM crops, thus creating contamination.
   So what's the big deal? We've got a lot of GM crops out there already as this list indicates:
Alfalfa (first planting 2011)
Canola (approx. 90% of U.S. crop)
Corn (approx. 88% of U.S. crop in 2011)
Cotton (approx. 90% of U.S. crop in 2011)
Papaya (most of Hawaiian crop; approximately 988 acres)
Soy (approx. 94% of U.S. crop in 2011)
Sugar Beets (approx. 95% of U.S. crop in 2010)
Zucchini and Yellow Summer Squash (approx. 25,000 acres)
Also animal products like milk, meat, fish, eggs, honey, etc. because of contamination in feed and intentional modification.
   Well the big deal concerns several possible problems with GMOs, and controversies, such as:  risk of harm from GM food, whether GM food should be labeled, the role of government regulators, the effect of GM crops on the environment, the impact of GM crops for farmers, including farmers in developing countries, the role of GM crops in feeding the growing world population, and GM crops as part of the industrial agriculture system.
   Wikipedia tells us: "Advocacy groups such as Greenpeace and World Wildlife Fund have concerns that risks of GM food have not been adequately identified and managed, and have questioned the objectivity of regulatory authorities. Opponents of food derived from GMOs are concerned about the safety of the food itself and wish it banned, or at least labeled. They have concerns about the objectivity of regulators and rigor of the regulatory process, about contamination of the non-GM food supply, about effects of GMOs on the environment, about industrial agriculture in general, and about the consolidation of control of the food supply in companies that make and sell GMOs, especially in the developing world. Some are concerned that GM technology tampers too deeply with nature."
   Wikipedia also tells us that as yet no reports of ill effects have been documented in the human population from GM food.
   So why don't we just label these suckers and let consumers make their own choices about what they eat?
   My own state of California tried to pass a Proposition, number 37, to be exact, last November, but it narrowly failed. The huge amount of money supplied by agricultural and industrial interests, like Monsanto let's say, which opposed the measure might have had something to do with this.
   If it had passed California would have been the first state in the nation to pass such a law.
   Oregon's thinking about doing it right now. Last Thursday lawmakers heard testimony on several bills that require labels on genetically modified food and prohibit importing genetically modified fish.
   Supporters say consumers should know what kind of food they are buying at the grocery store, and genetically engineered fish threaten Oregon's native fish.
   Opponents say labeling foods would stigmatize the products, and the engineering process has been proven safe.
   Proven safe. That sounds pretty certain. But when you're talking about a living organism released into the environment that changes and mutates as all living organisms do, how can we be so certain?
   The answer is we can't. As powerful and as rich as Monsanto is, it still cannot predict the future, because it's an agricultural company, not a time travel company.
   No one knows for sure what these creations may or may not turn into once loosed into the world, which has already happened.
   Perhaps GM foods will safely feed the billions of starving people in the world that exist today and in the future.
   Or perhaps it will mutate into something like the ebola virus, or worse yet, the T-virus of "Resident Evil, or VM2 virus of the "Zombie Apocalypse," movie above.
   And once a zombie apocalypse starts... well it's awfully hard to stop.

*"According to a 2009 Carleton University and University of Ottawa epidemiological analysis, an outbreak of even Living Dead's slow zombies 'is likely to lead to the collapse of civilization, unless it is dealt with quickly.' Based on their mathematical modelling, the authors concluded that offensive strategies were much more reliable than quarantine strategies, due to various risks that can compromise a quarantine. They also found that discovering a cure would merely leave a few humans alive, since this would do little to slow the infection rate.
On a longer time scale, the researchers found that all humans end up turned or dead. This is because the main epidemiological risk of zombies, besides the difficulties of neutralizing them, is that their population just keeps increasing; generations of humans merely "surviving" still have a tendency to feed zombie populations, resulting in gross outnumbering. The researchers explain that their methods of modelling may be applicable to the spread of political views or diseases with dormant infection." -Wikipedia

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Happy Birthday Moira Kelly!

Picture Legend
1. Moira Kelly
2. Another version
3. In "Twin Peaks, Fire Walk With Me"
4. "The Cutting Edge"
5. With Robert Downy Jr. in "Chaplin"
6. In "With Honors"
7. Nerd
8. With Matthew Broderick in "The Lion King"
9. Sexy
10. Publicity Still for "One Tree Hill"
11. "Heros"
12. With Some Old Pals

    It is my great pleasure and honor to give a great big happy birthday shout out yesterday to one of my very favorite actresses, the lovely Moira Kelly!
   Moira was born as a small infant, at a very early age (I'm sorry, but I could not find any baby pictures on the Internet machine) in Queens, which is one of the five boroughs of New York City, the largest in area and the second-largest in population. She didn't stay there long though, and was raised in a place called Ronkonkoma, New York, which is on Long Island... as is Queens for that matter... and Brooklyn, but none of this is to to the point really, so let's move on.
   Moira was the middle child sort of Peter Kelly, a professional violinist, and Anne, a professional nurse. They had six children, and Moira was the third to appear. Peter and Anne came to the United States from Ireland, which makes Moira an Irish American, just like me.
   Like her dad, she had a musical bent, and began learning to play the violin, drums, and flute, which is a pretty diverse set of instruments when you think about it. While attending Connetquot High School she also competed in opera, which I'm sure sure how that's done. She became interested in acting and was cast in a small part in the high school's production of "Annie." She got a break when the actress playing Miss Hannigan came down with mononucleosis, which opened up a major role, and Moira got the part of Grace Farrell, who was and is Daddy Warbucks faithful secretary. 
   Moira worked her way through college, New York City's Marymount Manhattan College to be precise.
   Like a lot of people of Irish ancestry she was a devout Catholic and had dreamt of becoming a nun at one time, and it was a tough decision for her to choose which way she wanted to take her life. I'm told she discussed this with her priest, which is what Catholic people do, and we have to thank him for telling her that acting may be part of God's plan for her, which is quite a liberal thing for a Catholic priest to do.
   Moira was on her way.
   At the ripe old age of 23 she made professional acting debut in a four hour long television movie called, "Love, Lies, and Murder," as a teenage murderer. That movie also starred a young actress named Sheryl Lee, with whom Moira would work with a little later.
   She continued in small roles in "The Boy Who Cried Bitch," and the Dustin Hoffman vehicle, "Billy Bathgate," before being cast as Donna Hayward in David Lynch's motion picture prequel to his television show, "Twin Peaks," appropriately named, "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me," which starred the aforementioned Sheryl Lee. The part of Donna Hayward had been played by the lovely Lara Flynn Boyle, who would go on the play the alien antagonist in "Men in Black II."
   Moira felt she needed to consult with her priest again due to an explicit sex scene.
   I love this priest.
   I was a big fan of Lynch's work since "Eraserhead," and the television show, and this prequel, and I became aware of this talented lovely young actress in this film as her performance was quite noteworthy. But I also became aware of Sheryl Lee, Phoebe Augustine, and Heather Graham as well. But that same year (1992), I saw "The Cutting Edge," and I became very aware of Moira, as did a lot of others.
   Here's a clip with Moira and D.B. Sweeney:
   Moira spent over two months in figure skate training with D.B. and they became close friends and so remain.
   That year she was also cast opposite Geena Davis in LaVerne DeFazio's "A League of Their Own," but she had hurt her ankle while working on Cutting and the role went to Lori Petty instead.
   The next year she co-starred with a young Robert Downy Jr. in Richard Attenborough's "Chaplin," playing two roles, Chaplin's first love and then his fourth wife. I guess the production was running low on cash and couldn't afford another actress. In any case she was wonderful in it.
   I first became aware of Downy in this film and remember thinking he was very talented and should also have a bright career ahead of him. This was of course before all of the drugs and jail time. But fortunately he straightened and became an international star after "Tropic Thunder."
   Here's a clip:
   The next year she starred with Cuba Gooding Jr (she's worked with a lot of juniors) in "Daybreak." Before accepting the role she felt the need to once again talk to her priest.  "Being a Catholic, I wondered if it would be against my religion to play a girl who has premarital sex." He told her "it was okay, as long as my artistic intentions were true and I wasn't doing it for the notoriety or the money."
   She should have put this guy on retainer and have him follow her around.
   In 1994 she appeared with an actor I see on TV about three times a freaking week, Brandon Fraser, and Joe Pesci in one of my very favorite films, "With Honors." Here's a clip:
   This film is also notable, at least for me, for using the only song by Madonna that I like during the closing credits, "I'll Remember." Here it is just for the pure sweet hell of it:
   That year she supplied the voice for the lion Nala, in "The Lion King." Now I don't particularly care for animated films, but I did see this one, and while I was watching I kept thinking that voice sounded familiar. Now I know why.
   She also appeared with Tim Roth and Edward Furlong that year in  "Little Odessa." 
   In 1995 she was a target for Daryl Hannah and Keith Carradine in "The Tie That Binds." 
   Moira went on to work in many fine films such as "Drive, She Said," and  "Dangerous Beauty."    She starred in her own television show, "To Have and to Hold," before playing Mandy Hampton in the first season of "The West Wing." In 2003, Kelly began playing single mother Karen Roe on the teen drama One Tree Hill.
   Here's a clip:
   In 2000 she married businessman Steve Hewitt, and they have two children. Her daughter is named Ella and was born in 2001, her son is named Eamon and was born in 2003.
   In recent years Moira has guest starred on television shows such as "Law and Order," "Heros," and "Numb3rs."
   In 2011 a 3D version of "The Lion King," was produced for a limited theatrical run. Here's a interview with her promoting it:
   Isn't she wonderful?!
   And all of us here at Joyce's Take wish her and her lovely family continued good health and fortune, and of course a very happy birthday!
   Happy Birthday Moira!