Sunday, December 23, 2007

fcc ruling

hey all--
here's my column from saturday. i'm out of town starting xmas day, so it might be a while before i post again. busy with all this christmas shite. does anyone else absolutely HATE shopping? i mean, i hate it in general, let alone when everybody else in the entire fucking world is also shopping.
in fact, i'm stalling right now, avoiding going out into all that.
oh well. read and enjoy, and please scroll down to the end to get the link to sign the protest letter to congress re: the fcc ruling.

Carpe Diem: FCC Threatens Free Speech Again

Kurt Brighton
December 22, 2007

Did you ever wonder why you can turn on a radio in Peoria, Ill., and hear virtually the same classic rock line-up as you hear on a station in Petaluma, Calif.? Or in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.?

Did you ever stop to ask why virtually every television network and chain newspaper not only went along with the run-up to the Iraq invasion, but in some cases actually led the cheerleading—despite the Bush Administration’s demonstrably fact-challenged rationale, which was leaking out even then?

Your answer lies in a bill that was signed into law not by some heartless Republican business tycoon, but by Our Boy from Arkansas, Smilin’ Bill hisself: the Telecommunications Act of 1996. And now the Federal Communications Commission has just ruled in favor of degrading media ownership restrictions even further, voting 3-2 to allow companies that own newspapers in the nation’s top 20 markets to also own television stations in the same market. Some observers say that a close reading of the proposed policy shift would allow this cross-ownership in any market, regardless of size.

The rule change would open the floodgates for conglomerates like Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, Gannett and the Tribune Company to further constrict their chokehold on what news is worth reporting. It’s even more chilling to think that these half-dozen or so CEOs would have even more dominance in defining what constitutes news in the first place.

Hope you’re a big fan of the type of “news” offered up by Nancy Grace, Glenn Beck and John Gibson.

All of this means it’s a good time to assess what has come to be our new media reality as a result of the Telecom Bill of 1996, since the same type of high-minded sounding rhetoric about “deregulation” and “competition” was employed to dampen the public’s fears back then. Since 1996:

• Cable television rates have risen nearly three times the rate of the Consumer Price Index.

• Radio conglomerates like Jacor/Clear Channel have gobbled up stations nationwide, control concert venues, and reap massive billboard advertising revenues, among other holdings.

• Minority ownership of television and radio stations has dropped to 3 percent and 8 percent respectively.

• Finding it easier and cheaper to produce content at a handful of “news factories” scattered across the nation, local content has diminished precipitously on stations and in newspapers owned by these conglomerates.

All told, we the people blew it in 1996 when we allowed the muscle of the conglomerates—aided and abetted by the fealty of congress members to their corporate overlords—to shove this anti-competitive, anti-free speech, anti-American bill down our throats.

We should not stand idly by and let the same interests pull the same trick.

This time around it looks like there is at least more awareness of the inherent problems: at a series of six public hearings staged by FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, 99 percent of public comments were against the rule change. In some cases, the comment period lasted well into the night, as people lined up for hours to have their two-minute say on the matter.

Also, a group of 25 senators has threatened to override the FCC’s recommendations, and prominent House members are voicing similar threats.

But it’s not over. The problem is that without congressional action, the vote-pushed through by Bush-appointee Martin over the objections of, well, nearly everybody—will stand. To make your voice heard, go here
and sign’s letter to congress asking them to overturn the ruling.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

mad about madd

here's my latest column from the paper. if you want more info on MADD and DUI law, i suggest these sites.



Carpe Diem: Drinking Becomes MADDening

Kurt Brighton

4:05 p.m. MT Dec 14, 2007

All right Fort Collins, you’re not trying hard enough.

Men’s Health magazine recently released its list of America’s “most dangerously drunk” cities, which was topped by the No. 1 drunkest city, Denver, with Colorado Springs coming in at a respectable third. Even Aurora made the top 100. But Fort Collins didn’t even make the list.

Excuse me?

I guess the editors have never been out in Old Town on a weekend, when one can witness our flourishing Idiocracy convening for its weekly meetings.
In all seriousness, the criteria with which the editors selected cities for this dubious honor are somewhat dubious themselves.

Some things make sense: They started with each city’s numbers on alcohol-related liver disease, and the Department of Transportation’s statistics on alcohol-related fatal car crashes. Keep in mind that DOT counts any alcohol involved in any way in an accident as “alcohol-related.” In other words, if you are dead-cold sober and you strike a wasted pedestrian attempting to cross Interstate 25 during rush hour, that gets counted as an “alcohol-related accident.” Who was actually drunk in the collision—or if they were even over the legal threshold for DUI—doesn’t matter. But we’ll let that one go.

Here’s where the criteria begin to get even fuzzier. Next up, the editors compared each city’s “number of binge drinkers,” data gathered by the Centers for Disease Control. A binge drinker is defined by the CDC as someone who has five or more drinks in one sitting.

Or as the staff of the Fort Collins Now calls it, lunch.

Seriously, though, how did the CDC come by this information—a telephone survey? Did they send observers into various bars in each city and count the number of drinks each person had on a given night? And what if those five drinks happened on one night, but not for the rest of the month? Is that person still a “binge drinker?”

Another factor in the rankings that employed questionable use of statistics is the number of DUI arrests in each city. The higher the number, the higher a city’s ranking.
Question: If more drunks are being pulled off the streets, doesn’t that make a city safer? If Barney Fife is napping in his squad car in Dustville, Kan., while drunks weave past him on their way to the next bar, isn’t that more dangerous?

Finally, the last factor entered into the data was a Mothers Against Drunk Driving “report card” in which the organization assesses the efforts each city is putting into reducing drunk driving. This organization has been so corrupted by a growing ultra-conservative puritanism and the power and money that flow their way—as long as they keep the nation in a constant state of low-level panic about drunken drivers—that any statistics or studies they produce should be questioned. And then jettisoned immediately.

While MADD may have started out with the best intentions, these are the same people who are pushing to have interlock devices installed on all new vehicles—devices which are used to prevent habitual DUI offenders from starting their cars after blowing into an on-board breathalyzer. If a driver shows any alcohol in their systems, the vehicle won’t start—fine for someone who has racked up DUIs in the double digits. But what if you or I have a glass of wine with dinner? Or, God forbid, even two?

MADD made nearly $4 million in 2005 alone just from its Victim’s Impact Panels, a court-ordered re-education technique used in Colorado and other states for those convicted of DUI. And the nonprofit socked away almost $13 million in taxpayer funds in 2004 alone.

For years now, the organization’s agenda has been sliding down a slippery slope from preventing dangerous drunken drivers from hurting people to preventing anyone from drinking any amount and then operating a vehicle. Or maybe from drinking at all. There’s a difference between being impaired by alcohol and having alcohol in your system, and MADD has successfully blurred that line—and it is reaping the financial benefits.

Understand, this column is not meant to advocate drunken driving, or even drunken stupidity on foot. It’s to suggest that instead of swallowing whole the fear-mongering and incremental suspension of liberties that accompany the DUI issue, we should question any organization that finds its power and funding enhanced as a result of it.

And that includes the police.

been too long...

it's been a week since i posted here, and that is indeed too long. but the reasons for it are good ones, at least.

one, last week i went and saw "A Child's Christmas in Wales" down in Boulder, and did another review for the Denver Post. very exciting stuff. the drive down there itself was exciting enough, in a horrible kind of way: it was one of those nights when it was maybe 10 degrees out, and although they had cleared the snow from the roads, the entrance ramps onto the freeway all had snow - and therefore ice - dragged onto the road. in addition to the patches of ice and snow, there was also low-lying fog in nasty, blinding patches periodically on the way down and back.

now, in colorado there are apparently two schools of thought on dealing with fog on the highway, both of which are quite fun. one involves slamming on your brakes hard, despite the fact that fog is moisture, and when the temperature is so low, that means more ice. not to mention the cars coming up behind you who won't be able to see you until they're right on top of you.

the other school of thought says you should just keep going at exactly the same speed you were traveling at before, vision be damned.

along with everyone else on the road.

somehow i survived. to make matters worse, i was running late, of course. but i made it to the show, and it was a lot of fun. if you've only read dylan thomas, and not heard his works performed aloud, i recommend it. his language is so playful, using words as much for the way the sound and feel coming off the tongue as for their meaning. you can also access some recordings of the poet himself reading his works at this site, and audio interviews from the BBC at this site.

i also had a story published in westword about will hoge, an awesome musician of the blue-eyed soul/southern rock persuasion, an article that may have gotten me in trouble with my tenuous position at the post. they have exclusivity agreements with their writers that i was unaware of, though i should have been. oh well--we'll see what happens.

at any rate i had fun talking with him--one of those easy-going, unpretentious musicians who is easy to talk to. you'd be surprised how many musicians are either completely unequipped to deal with having a conversation with a stranger, or who are so full of themselves that an honest conversation is nigh-impossible. hoge was neither, just a regular guy whose job happens to be playing music.

the other thing i've been working on in my full-length play. i've got a newfound enthusiasm that is bordering on obsession. i've been waking up at these ridiculously early hours, and devoting myself every day to working on it--but not because i'm forcing myself to. rather, i am COMPELLED. which is a nice feeling. i have the story just about where i want it, and i'm heavily into chopping it down to a manageable size. i don't know if it's any good, i don't know if it will ever be produced, or if people will even like it when they read it on the page, but i love it, and that is all that matters to me at this point.

that, and that i will by god finish the bloody thing. i'm on revision #5, if that gives you any idea of the work i've put into it.

three, we've started rehearsals for "the harvey project," a really cool new play that has never been produced. i'm playing the lead, harvey smith a writer (heh heh) who has trouble staying in relationships (heh heh) and who is actually living in a world that is the final project of capricious God, who, it turns out, is a callow student. (!)

i'm having a lot of fun, and the director seems to have made good choices in casting. also, my dear friend nikki is AD-ing the show, and Judi, who directed 'noises off,' the last play i was in is probably going to play god's professor. heh.

well, that's my massive update. c ya.


Saturday, December 8, 2007

led zeppelin reunion

faces of death

here's my latest column from the paper. :P


By the time you read this, the much–anticipated Led Zeppelin reunion show may have already happened. It’s going down on Monday the 10th at London’s O2 Arena, and just by reading this, a deluxe DVD box set has probably already been shipped to your house, and your credit card charged $79.99.

That’s not to say the whole thing is simply crass commercialism. The demand is certainly there for a Zep reunion; in fact, as natural showmen, the three surviving band members have coyly dropped hints about the possibility of more performances coming—by expressly denying that any such arrangements have been made. Another teaser-denial is circulating, with organizers of the Bonnaroo Festival denying that Zep will be playing there. Though the band has left the door open to playing more shows, bass player John Paul Jones for one has said that the band has been offered “hundreds of millions of dollars” to tour North America, but that he wouldn’t even consider it—if he didn’t think it would be fun.

We’ll see how much fun the aging rockers have, come Monday.

Originally the band was asked to play a 40-minute set, but deemed that too short. After all, as Jimmy Page told, even three Zeppelin songs complete with all the solos could easily top an hour. The band has reportedly stretched out its set list to 90-plus minutes, and Page is confident the show will near two hours, although he claims he doesn’t have the energy left to pull off a three-and-a-half hour show anymore.

And why would he? He was born before World War Two ended, and spent a good decade or more living as the prototypical “golden god” of rock, consuming more whiskey and drugs during in that short time than most people would be able to survive – or even afford – over the course of a lifetime. Who can blame the guy for being tired?

Which brings me to my point: is anyone else sick of aging rockers tottering out on stage with their intravenous drips and colostomy bags tucked carefully beneath their costumes, which are hanging over withered, skeletal bodies—or worse, exposing years of soft living draped over the beltline of their too-tight jeans—attempting in vain to pull off what they did so effortlessly 30 years ago?

Don’t get me wrong—I grew up on this stuff, and I still listen to it occasionally. Although I discovered these bands after their heyday had passed, I started out as a classic rock kid, devouring Zep, the Who, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix—you name it. The bands of this period are undoubtedly some of the greatest examples of not only modern musicianship, but also of the sheer effrontery, innovation and balls that rock is supposed to possess.

And I have nothing against performers re-interpreting their songs from a bygone age. I actually have 1981’s “The Secret Policeman’s Ball” on my turntable right now (yes, I have a turntable) because I wanted to re-examine Pete Townshend’s astounding acoustic performance of “Pinball Wizard” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

But when you start getting Roger Daltrey and Townshend touring as “The Who” even though Keith Moon died nearly three decades ago, and John Entwistle snorted himself out of existence a few years back—while celebrating an upcoming tour—the whole thing becomes sort of depressing. Back to the incredible musicianship of these bands: does anyone believe that Led Zeppelin would ever have achieved the heights – literal and figurative – that it did if John Bonham had never been part of it?

Why, then, is it reasonable to expect that the remaining three members can recreate that magic 30 years later?

It’s almost worse when all or most of the band members are still kicking. A Rolling Stones concert is, simply put, a sad thing. Their albums post-1980 are worse. The Eagles charging a minimum of $100 for a seat at one of their tired, barely-civil, retread shows is downright shameful.

It’s just not the same, folks. It was an enchanted moment when these bands first played, a perfect storm of post-adolescent dissatisfaction, joy and rage all balled up into a crashing symphony bordering on the supernatural, which cannot be recreated no matter how badly you want to return to that time.

Move on. I hear The MySpace has one or two bands on it. Maybe it’s time to check out something new.


Friday, December 7, 2007

areyou an asshole?

would you like to find out?

here's a test - the Asshole Rating Self-Exam, or ARSE for short - that can help you determine if you are or not.

of course, true assholes will probably have no idea that they exhibit the behaviors listed in here, so it might not be that accurate. :)

but a fun friday diversion, anyway.


Thursday, December 6, 2007

dreams, lost and found

images from dark passage, explorations of abandoned buildings

so, i've long been interested in dreams, what they mean, etc. but i don't subscribe to the literal translation of dreams; that is, i don't own a 'dream journal,' or any books that purport to 'interpret' your dreams for you. instead i think that what you feel when you are having them, and the emotions you have as you awaken from them are the most important thing, not, 'you dreamed of an oven--that represents you mother.' or 'an open umbrella is a woman.'

not buying it. it isn't that simple, i don't think. if dreams are your subconscious mind playing around with images, thoughts, and emotions that you experience in your waking life--that is, images, thoughts and emotions that you normally process with your conscious mind--then there is no real way for your conscious mind to logically deal with them. they are pure creations of the subconscious, a place that, by definition, we cannot get to consciously. therefore, any attempt to fence them in with conscious thought is worse than useless--it alters the pictures and feelings by forcing them to fit into categories for which they are simply not meant.

one of my favorite authors, william burroughs wrote an interesting and strange (believe it or not :) book about dreams late in his life, called 'my education.' in it he posits that the dream world we sometimes get to see in our sleep is the real world, and what we are living in from day to day in our waking hours is fake, a construct designed to confuse and hinder us, to prevent us from understanding 'reality.' he refers to something he calls the 'dream-wiper,' who comes along in the morning to wipe away your tiny glimpses of reality, and place you squarely back into your fake, grey, unimaginative world.

i'm not sure i agree with all that, but i think he is onto something with the notion that there is a world in there that is separate from this one, and that it is one we cannot fathom consciously. and, the book is especially interesting in that, as a writer who wrote so eloquently of strange, almost mocking worlds that mirror our own, burroughs has seen some bizarre and powerful images--whether they were in his head, or the result of heroin withdrawal is really immaterial--that have populated his books throughout his career, and which somehow resonate even more than so-called reality.

so, i admit it: i do like to write down dreams, when they are clear and when they seem to be particularly disturbing/resonant/emotional. i use some of the images and feelings in stories; in particular i seem to always have dreams in which i am trying to get somewhere that i really need to be, usually through some large and unpopulated building, perhaps somewhat crumbling, with many twists and turns. (that might be why i like that dark passage site so much; the images almost seem to have come from my dreams.) interestingly, there is almost always a door or passage i go through which is the wrong way to go, and through which i cannot go back, like a one-way door.

analyze that, mr. freud. :)

anyway, here's one from last night. don't ask what me what it means, and please don't try to have me committed:


two very distinct and sharp dreams, the first of which I recall better. There is a conference of some kind, a work retreat, and I am in a strange town with a bunch of people from work, only I don’t know a lot of them. There are some people from coop’s, sandi, specifically, but I don’t recognize most of them.

We are at some large and sprawling complex, many low-lying buildings with almost a military air about them, or at least with that cheap, government feel, like old state universities used to have. At first we are all hanging out in a common area, talking casually about what we are here for and what is going to happen. It seems there is to be a restructuring of the way we do business, whatever business it is (although there are coop’s people here, the workplace we all share in the dream isn’t the restaurant.)

Soon we are called to the meeting, and everyone takes off. For some reason, I have to go elsewhere before I go to the meeting, and I am separated from the group. Naturally, this leads to me being unable to find the room where this big ol’ important meeting is taking place. I search through this desolate and broken-down compound, and often the doors are unavailable to me, so I end up crawling through windows. at one point I see a car that is jammed up against and part-way into a building’s window, so I crawl into the car, and attempt to get through its safety glass which has been replaced with a plastic board of some kind. Every room I get into is desolate, unlit, and dusty, and has no egress into other areas of the building.

At one point I do encounter a sort of reception area, where busy people are running around and there is a front desk type of situation, but I don’t ask anyone for directions. I am walking down a hallway, thinking I am making progress toward my goal, when it suddenly occurs to me that I can use my cell phone. I call Nikki, and as I am asking her directions, the phone cuts out. I try in vain to get her on the phone again, but to no avail. Then I hear her voice on the intercom saying, ‘Kurt? Can you hear me? You want to go down the hall to the left…’ etc.

I follow the instructions as best I can, and end up on a lawn with all the people from before, who were attending this meeting. They are on a break of sorts. I ask sandi what’s going on, and she says that they didn’t want to start without me. Apparently darth vader is leading this meeting, and he just stood at the front of the room shuffling through papers, waiting for me. The other thing sandi informs me of is that it looks like I might have been chosen to lead in the new configuration of the organization that is being announced today, because everyone else attending got only a thin folder with a form paper inside, whereas they held back a crystal orb of some kind that it seemed like darth was waiting to give to me.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

carpe diem 12.1 - black friday

doesn't that look like fun?

here's my column from 12.1, re: black friday. i will never understand this day. i hate shopping so much, even normal, everyday shopping that i won't even go to the grocery store at 5:00, when everyone is getting off work. my ex knows i would rather eat lead paint and chase it with roofing nails rather than go to home depot on a sunday afternoon, and you'd have to sedate me to get me in a walmart pretty much anytime during the day.

i would absolutely freak out and go into a claustrophobia- and stupidity-induced coma if i were in one of the above pictured scenes. but anyway...

thanks to everyone who came and saw noises off--we had a great time doing such a silly show, and i will miss it--eventually. right now i'm still in recovery, although i've already started reading the next play i'm doing, 'the harvey project,' at openstage etc. will write more about that later.

also thanks to everyone who took the time to read my first theatre review in the denver post, on white christmas.

anyway. column from sat. happy shopping, everyone!


CARPE DIEM 12-1-07

The political primary cycle has long been known in certain circles as “the silly season,” and with good reason. We get endless recycling of stories about Barak Obama’s alleged drug use and what that might mean if he were elected. We get stories about Hillary Clinton’s “waitress-gate,” when she was alleged to have not left a tip for an Iowa waitress. And now there’s theories about the meaning of Mitt Romney’s underwear—a set of words that should never, ever have been strung together except in the Romney bedroom, and maybe not even there.

“Silly” hardly seems a strong enough word to cover this endless filling of empty space in print and on 24-hour news cycles.

What, then shall we call this most odd time of year, the period that has expanded to encompass the time between Halloween and December 26, a period when many Americans seem to go completely bat-shit insane?

I think we should call it “the schizophrenic season,” since all the tenets that Christmas is supposed to stand for go out the window entirely. For instance:

Black Friday: ‘Tis the season to witness grown men and women in malls bashing each other to the ground like chubby hockey players who happen to be wielding credit cards instead of sticks in order to get…a television? A vacuum cleaner? A game system?


We’re not talking about people struggling to survive, not fighting for food, or shelter, or to spare their offspring from the path of a speeding train, mind you. We’re talking about saving $50 on an X-Box 360 in order to spare poor Johnny and Susie from…boredom. For a little while anyway.

Welcome to the spirit of “giving.” But of course, when you think about it, this shopping madness isn’t about the giving. It isn’t about the people for whom the presents are being bought—it’s about the bargains the shoppers perceive themselves getting, and their sense of victory in feeling that they have pulled one over on the stores. It’s about buying something for someone else—or yourself—and getting the cheapest possible price. At least until December 26 when all the prices drop anyway.

So, at the heart of it, Black Friday, the kick-off to the so-called “season of giving” is actually about greed on the part of shoppers, and it’s about greed on the part of the stores, which, (shh! don’t tell anyone!) make money anyway.

But back to our collective schizophrenia.

The War on Christmas: This lovely little hateful canard gets thrown into the mix earlier and earlier every year too. This year Fort Collins had the dubious honor of having Bill O’Reilly, in his blinkered and stubbornly uncomprehending way accuse the mayor of killing Christmas by suggesting that holiday lights and decorations that aren’t blatantly Christian might be nice for people of different faiths.

So, let’s get this straight: every year, around the time when supposed Christians celebrate the supposed birth of The Prince of Peace, we get these vicious little trolls coming out of the woodwork screeching about how someone, somewhere is trying to kill Christmas because the lights on College Avenue are white instead of green and red? Or because the clerk in Target said “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas?”

And we are meant to believe that poor, downtrodden Christians—a group which, according to a 2002 Pew poll, are a tiny minority making up 82 percent of Americans—are under siege. We’re told that there’s a chance that the big bad atheists or non-denominational non-believers—or God forbid, Jews and Muslims—might be involved in an insidious plot to wipe Christmas from the face of the earth.

Why must a time of year when we are purportedly celebrating love, peace, hope and renewal be so tarred with hatred, vitriol, anger and greed?

And if it’s going to be that way, we should just call it what it is: The Schizophrenic Season.

Words of wisdom spoken to reporters by the waitress who supposedly got stiffed by the Clinton staff (but who actually got a portion of a $100 tip on a $157 check):

“You people are really nuts.”


Saturday, December 1, 2007

white christmas

very exciting news! got my first theatre review for the denver post! read it here.

i went and saw "irving berlin's white christmas," which, if you know me, is right up my alley. i'm all about the sweet, nostalgic warmth of family and holidays, chestnuts roasting on an open fire, singing christmas carols, freakin' sleigh bells...

okay, that's bullshit. i'm not a terribly sentimental person, to put it mildly. :)
but i have to say that, even walking in the door knowing that i was in for a light holiday romp based on an uber-sentimental bing crosby film from 1954, i was prepared to take in the show based on what people who like that sort of thing might like, if that makes any sense. that is to say, i was trying to watch it through the eyes of someone who is drawn to treacle and nostalgia, and prepared to ignore my own inner groans.

that said, these people put on an awesome show. it doesn't drip with sentimentality, they don't manipulate the audience--too much--and it is quick-moving and has some sharp bits of humor and acting that make the overall message of holiday spirit and falling in love not only tolerable, but actually fun to watch and kinda sweet.

god, i'm not saying this very well. all i mean is that not only did they do a great job with what they had to work with, they also did a great job in general, even for the jaded cynic in the audience.

whew. check out the article. it hopefully makes more sense than i am making here. :)