Holding the Qu'ran and the Bible

Dear Dennis Praeger,

With regard to your article (
about the right of newly elected Congressman Keith Ellis
to hold the Qu'ran instead of the Bible to be sworn into Congress:

I'm moved to write you about your article. Perhaps
you're not aware of it, but the Islam faith marks its
beginning with Abraham, as does the Jewish faith and
the Christian faith. So the Qu'ran, if you've read it
(great online translation by the way at comes
out of the Bible as we know it and acknowledges the
wisdom of the Bible, and Jesus as well. Secondly,
Congessmen don't swear on the Bible when they're
'sworn in' - they raise their hands and stand at their
desks. It's too time consuming to go around and check
to see who's got what on their desk when they're sworn
in. Those pictures are done as 'photo ops' at a later
date. I'm sure Mark Foley raised his hand on a bible
at some point, but I won't belabor the point; it's not
what's in the hand of a Congressman, but what's in the
heart. And last time I looked, the Bill of Rights is
pretty specific about Congress not passing any law
that tells people what religion we should hold dear.
(or what book they need to hold to get into office)
In fact, if you get a chance, just read the first line
of the Bill of Rights.

I sincerely hope you find a way to mitigate the anger,
or hatred, or misunderstanding you have about Islam.
I'm a Christian, but when 9/11 happened I took it upon
myself to learn and understand the Islamic faith, as
well as to travel to countries where their faith is
practiced, and interview Imams to find out what the
differences really are. I was suprised at how little
differences there are between us and the people who
follow Islam. (honest! and the State dept paid for the
film!) But that took me lots of research, which, as
an intelligent person, I highly recommend you do. As
you can see from the vitriol you've engendered on your
website, I'd hate to see some crazy person cause
violent harm to an innocent Muslim because of their
faith. All because of your column. I think to equate
9/11 with Islam is to fundamentally misread what
happened on that day. You might equally argue that 19
Saudis were on those planes, and therefore Saudi Arabia is
reponsible. Or they were all dark haired -
dark haired people are responsible. It's not what's in
your hand, but what's in your heart. I pray that you
are able to find it within your heart to forgive those
who don't think the same as you, after all, as I've
learned as a Christian; love your neighbor not less
than yourself, but as much if not more than yourself.
And a fitting reason to hold the Bible in your hand,
if only to learn that one lesson.


Richard Martini


Putin & The Nuke Pill

For those of us in the West, the idea of poisoning those who know the truth is .. creepy. As y'all know, this Russian dude was poisoned by a "nuclear pill" for digging up facts around the death of a famous Russian journalist.

Here's the truth; Putin was just in office when a series of bombs went off in Moscow. Using these "terrorist attacks" as a pretext for going to war against an oil rich province, former Soviet satellite of Chechnya, the Russians went back into Grozny with tanks and troops, and have been battling the poor Chechens for six years. Only problem is; evidence points to the Russians planting those very bombs in the Moscow capital, and planting evidence that the Chechens had done it. It was widely reported at the time that one of the cars seen at the scene of the crime was traced back to people within the Russian administration - call it an official police vehicle. This famous Russian journalist was working on the story when she was executed. This Russian guy in London was working on the story of who killed her. Now he's dead, and he blames Putin (or members in his administration) for his murder.

Sound familiar?

I'll explain; the 9/11 conspiracy camp believes that the Bush administration either looked the other way or actively participated in the 9/11 attacks so that we could go to war with Iraq. The terrorist attack on NY became a pretext for our sojourn into the middle east and that oil rich region. Never mind that we went after the Taliban.. and walked away from the battle there. (Which is where "Cut and run" originated.) And now there is this huge body of paranoid people out there showing clips, writing books, and making speeches about the conspiracy.

The conundrums are all there; why let the Bin Laden's out of the country if they didn't know something about it? What about all the 'puts' made on the stocks of American Airlines, and the insurance companies hit in the WTC? Who made those trades? Why is it that the majority of those trades were made through a former CIA official's trading firm? (reported by the UK Guardian in 2001).

Here's my take on it; claiming that the CIA or the Shadow Govt of the US was behind the attack is an attempt to rectify how 'men with box cutters' could bring down two huge buildings. That's trying to diminish the ability of those who did it. I'm not going to refer to them as terrorists, because one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. (Needless to say, the Freedom Fighters of Afganistan have all turned into the terrorists who are trying to kill Americans.) So let's leave that on the table for now - if you spend anytime reading or doing research about Al Qaeda, you'll find a group of very smart, very formidable opponents. Yes, they'd worked out all the details of how to bring down a plane. Yes, they put men with box cutters on the plane, and they did their jobs well. Whether those working on the planes for Al Qaeda knew they were going to die or not is moot - they pulled off the crime of the century. With box cutters. It's arrogance for people to assume their enemies have no ability. It's equally dangerous to assume that your enemy can't pull off an attack of this magnitude without the help of the US secret services. The US Secret Services have shown gross incompetence in the war in Iraq, why would they suddenly become the cleverist of all services? You can't claim incompetence on behalf of the Bush administration, and then claim they pulled off the crime of the century.

That being said - why was Mohammed Atta allowed to traipse across the US scouting locations, sending email, dressing up like an American airlines pilot and arrested in Miami for not paying a bar tab? - Atta was no super criminal.. he comes off like a cartoon most of his trip here. And yet, he was there on the plane and able to direct a pretty amazing airstrike on America. There's some truth in there - something to do with trying to figure out what karma is about, or why the fates of the planet, or our guardian angels allowed this guy to pull off such a heinous crime. But does he deserve credit for it? Credit where credit is due.

Why haven't "they" struck again? Why should they? We've dumped all our troops, money and resources into Iraq. They know that our failure there will be their victory. However, there needs to be another key element for their plan for world domination - and that's for the Iraqi people, for the arab world, for the muslim world, to roll over and play dead for them. People in the Arab world enjoy their advances in luxury - in living - despite hating the West for its lack of religion, or its lack of spirituality. And they aren't going to roll over for Al Qaeda either, when the US wakes up and gets out of Iraq. It's another arrogant point of view to assume that the Arab world will fall apart the moment we leave it. Does anyone remember the "domino theory?"

I lived through the Vietnam era. It's incredible to me that Kissinger has the ear of the President, and that the US Generals in Iraq are pursuing a "Vietnam" strategy to get out of the country. Did no one see "Fog of War?" It's pretty clear what MacNamara says - "If I had understood that the war in Vietnam wasn't the cold war, but was a civil war, we would have been on the side of North Vietnam." That's pretty simple isn't it? In retrospect we didn't understand Vietnam. We still don't. We fought on the wrong side of the war in Vietnam. If that's not saying "60,000 American troops died needlessly" I don't know what is.

So what will happen when we leave Iraq? A civil war? Perhaps. "Al Qaeda will suddenly get nuclear weapons.." from who? Iran? Doubt it. Pakistan? Doubt it. And then what? Wouldn't it make more sense to know where Al Qaeda's power base is so that we can demolish it at a later date? If everyone that's in Al Qaeda races to Iraq to participate in the new "caliphate" - wouldn't that be a good thing? After all, it's easier to do battle with a state of bad guys, then it is to do battle with a movement of bad guys. And that's presupposing that the Iraqi people, who've enjoyed a certain amount of liberty in their non-sectarian country for the past 50 years (until we came in and destroyed it in the name of hunting down our old friend, our hero of the Iran-Iraq war Sadaam) - so now we've saved the Iraqi people from Sadaam, at the cost of 60,000 humans. And the toll is climbing every day. Eventually it will top a million. And the US will go down in history, alongside Germany, Cambodia, Darfur, Bosnia, where millions died in conflict in the pursuit of our wrong headed policies. What history proves is that we have learned absolutely nothing about anything.

But does that mean there's no hope? On the contrary, it's a breath of fresh air in Washington, Pelosi's vindictive behavior aside, but the other side of the coin is that despite mankind's relentless pursuit of power at the point of a gun, eventually even that comes to pass, and a period of peace and reconciliation comes about. Even the Maoist "terrorist insurgents" in Nepal can come to the table with the King, and form a new government by the people. And one day, peace will return to Iraq, and I can guarantee that we won't be the people bringing it to them.

Which brings us back to the "nuclear pill." I can see the minds of those in Washington turning - why were we spending so much money on building nuclear weapons when a "nuclear pill" could have done the same work? A dose for Sadaam would have saved 60,000 lives, but wouldn't have put all the money into the American military machine that needs that money to feed it. It wouldn't have jacked the prices up at the gas pump, and put record billions of dollars of profits into the pockets of the cronies, and war profiteers that are still busy emptying our nation's future into their pockets. I can think of a few people who are candidates for the "nuclear pill," but I won't post them here - after all, I don't believe in capital punishment, and hopefully I won't be given a sushi snack with a side of ginger that has a dose designed for those in this country who disagree with the politics as usual.

The Martini shot for Nov 25, 2006


Vanum Populatum

Vanum Populatum

Had a weird dream yesterday.

I've got a bad cold, and weird dreams come to me when I'm loopy from a cold.

I was visiting somewhere ancient I guess.. it almost seemed out of body. Hazy images, smoky. And I heard the words "Vanum populatum."

So when I woke up I wrote it down. Maybe I've been watching too much of the "Rome" miniseries. But then I looked up the words at a Latin translation site;

vanum means "empty, vain, false, untrustworthy.'

populatum means "ravage, devastate, lay waste; plunder, despoil, strip."

It took me awhile to decipher it;

"Strip away that which is vain." or "Lay waste to that which is false or untrustworthy."

What the f am I doing talking to myself in Latin? I don't speak Latin. So who the heck was talking to me in Latin? I'd like to know. And why so philosophical?

It sounds Buddhist to me - but coming from a Latin.. hey wait a second. Nah, Jesus spoke in aramaic, not Latin. So maybe it was a priest - I had an uncle who was a priest - but is that the kind of casual thing a Priest might say? Even to his old nephew?

I was a little shocked to say the least. But it's a cool motto:

"Devastate that which is empty, vain, false or untrustworthy."

sounds like time for a new election.

Always Connect

Always Connect

some years ago i was sitting at a table in cannes with all these high falootin' folks. i mean, there was a prince, a queen, some other royalty at the table, and yours truly. not that i belonged there. i'm always somewhere that i don't belong. but that's another story. "what are you doing here?" is the most frequent question i get at unusual out of the way places. I think to myself "if you knew me well, you'd say 'hey, of course you would be here.'"

but i digress. I was sitting opposite from the great film producer ishmael merchant. this had to be ten years ago. and i made some comment like 'well this is an unsual table of folks.' and he said 'always connect.' Which he explained as things get put in your path for a reason, he believed, and that one should always try and connect with other people. which is kind of what myspace is all about.

now, it's a little peeving (is that a word?) that this place is filled with PR bots, as I call them. PR people who've created a website for their client - you see 'em around.. selling something.. sell sell sell, everything you live for" that's a line from a song in "O Lucky Man" one of my favorite films. if you haven't seen it, it's worth renting. and then the multiple persona pages - if i see someone on here that i've met or said hi to, or admire, i'll click on their pic and see if they'll add me - and then send 'em a note to see if they remember me from 'that time that we met at so and so's.' and of course, inevitably it's a fan putting up a web page.. which is kind of weird in a way - and kind of indicative of the times we live in. we live through other folks vicariously.. on the net, on t.v., on the silver screen. (are there any silver screens left?)

and yet here you are, reading this blog - which is composed of O's and 1's.. with pix attached. and we try to ascribe meaning to the O's and 1's - or the X's and O's - all with the same inherent meaning. what i've observed about myspace is that since everyone gets only a small box that you can have your pic in - or long box in the case of some folks who need to have bigger pix - everyone's the same. like going into blockbuster and seeing "Lawrence of Arabia" next to "Larry the Cable Guy" movies. (I'm not knocking Larry. I added his comedy page, he's hilarious) My point is, everything becomes relative when it's reduced in size, and scope. Blockbuster titles are all just boxes in a row. They don't reflect the hours and blood sweat and tears that have gone into these films, these works or art, or works of non art.. they're just dvd boxes in a row.

like the pix on your myspace page. just a bunch of pixels - and when you see them, you get an emotion attached to them - 'oh, i love that guy's work' or 'isn't she unsual?' or 'i didn't know he was on myspace.' of course they probably aren't, but their PRbot may print out a missive or two and pass 'em along..

which isn't to say that i haven't had some interesting conversations here.. i have. about all kinds of things.. i guess what i'm trying to say is that what it all boils down to is.. 'always connect.' it may be that we're connecting with people from our past, or connecting with people from our future.. or past lives, or future lives, or what have you. There's a law in phsyics that shows that the atoms and ions and gluons that bounce around each other have a tendency to find out other atoms and ions that they've bounced around with before.. attracted to places and other atoms they've already been.. so maybe that's also true of myspace. we're just bouncing atoms finding each other again in the ephemera of webspace.

my two cents.

My Flix on google and youtube

The Flix on my myspace page

I've just posted a bunch of my flix, or clips from my flix, or short films, or what not on this myspace page. I finally got around to uploading them, so get out the popcorn, pull up a chair and enjoy a sampling of my life. Soon I'm putting up "The Big Bang" the first film I ever did in high school, then there's my short "Video Valentino" that became my first feature "You Can't Hurry Love." There's a bunch of clips from my film "Camera - dogme ..15" because - well they're funny. And I made the flick for nothing. So the actors should be seen, because they're great in it. So, we'll see if anyone pays any attention to this stuff.. I just like having my stuff out in the planet, because it's just sitting on my shelf otherwise. The internet is not only the new yellow pages, it's the new garage sale, and the new closet where you put all your stuff - it just so happens other folks can get a gander.

And a word about Luana Ander's work - she's listed in my top 8 - she passed away 10 years ago - but I put up two flix we did - "Clones at Greaser's Palace" where she plays all the parts - it's a student film I did while at USC - Luana was in over 300 t.v. shows and 30 feature films - she's no longer on the planet, but you can visit her memorial page at - anyways, I think there might be another one on there, I forget. But she's the real deal. Enjoy.



American Idol Redux

“Tea for Two”

Here's a recap of my latest post from USA TODAY. Here's a link:

Talk about a tight race. It’s tighter than the election of 2000, and if history repeats itself, the Supreme Court may have weigh in to decide the winner - the Court being those pesky purveyors of American Supremes; the Idol Mod Squad of Randy, Paula and Simon. It was a shame to see Elliot hit the road, but there couldn’t have been a finer tribute - kudos to the editors of those ‘farewell’ videos, they capture the essence of the Idols, and in this case, showed a heartwarming depature for a kid from the pharmacy counter in Virginia who went all the way to singing in his hometown’s baseball stadium. A classic Idol moment.

I think Taylor’s first solo album would aptly be named “Soul Patrol.” Why not? They got him this far, he might as well honor them with a nod. He’s going to have a lot of fun in the studio, with or without his hometown band, and he should build on his foundations with material from his root mentors; Ray Charles, Joe Cocker, Otis Redding, or Michael McDonald. But there’s a few titles I’d like to hear from Taylor, like John Lennon’s “Imagine” done with the backing of a gospel choir, Ray Charles “You Don’t Know Me” done with Billy Joel, Van Morrison’s “Real Real Gone,” or any Muddy Waters tune, as long as he plays his blues harp on the tracks. He might give a shout out to Ray beyond the pearly gates by doing his own version of “America the Beautiful;” he’s got a shot of being asked to sing that at every down home grits fest they can get him to roll up his sleeves for. Kelly Clarkson scored with her version of the “Star Spangled Banner,” but “America” is more suited to Taylor’s chops. Other oddities come to mind; Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks “I Feel Like Singing,” a version of “Soul Man” with Clarence Clemmons backing him on sax, or “Midnight Rider“ with Dickey Betts‘ new band, “Great Southern.” His choice of Michael McDonald for the Idol Cd was sharp, but can’t wait for him to have some fun with “Sweet Home Alabama” or even my hometown anthem “Sweet Home Chicago.” I’d like to hear his take on Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” if only to see if he can match Jeff Buckley’s haunting version, which I can‘t seem to get off my car‘s CD player. As for duets, big blues voices like Chaka Khan, Aretha Franklin, or Bonnie Raitt would all have some fun with the funky white boy’s joie de vivre. I’d shy away from getting mired in the insipid song list the Clive Davis assembly-liners churn out for the Idol contractual CD’s - they’re hard to sing, have little or no soul, and although sell piles of ‘units‘, taste like Chinese fast food; listen once, you’re still hungry for something more substantial. Suffice to say, if it don’t fit like an old boot, don’t put it on your foot. Mr. Hicks is a triple threat, being able to sing, play guitar and harmonica, and despite having pitchy moments, technology can smooth out the pitchiest voice - including stars like Rod Stewart who returned to the show to prove why he sounds so good in the studio. (My mom asked why she couldn’t vote off Rod after his performance on the show.) The odd occasion Taylor hits a clam can be ironed out in post, and his live shows will drown out any sour notes via his megawatt enthusiasm. As for a producer, I’d drag Grammy winning Russ Titelman out of his Hudson River digs, and get him to work the same magic he did with Eric Clapton, Chaka Khan, Rickie Lee Jones and Randy Newman, among others. If Taylor stays true to his roots, he’s going to have a Kelly Clarkson career, no matter if he wins the Idol crown or not; it’s time for another “Blues Brother” wave to sweep the country. I thought Taylor should win from the moment he picked up his harmonica and wailed it at the gob smacked judges, seconded by my two year old dancing around the house chanting his name like a mantra. She‘s got his vote, even if it’s by a half point.

Kathering McPhee knocked “Over the Rainbow” onto Waveland Avenue, and wouldn’t hurt as a title for her first solo album. She really can sing a capella, and I’d love to hear her do a rendition of Tracy Nelson’s overlooked paean “When You Went Away.” I also loved the snippet of coloratura she did with Andrea Bocelli; perhaps she can strong arm curmudgeon David Foster into getting Andrea to do a Lucio Dalla “Caruso” with her. As odd as it sounds, a pairing with Kellie Clarkson would make synergistic sense - politics aside - since Simon pointed out how similar they can sound. Would love to hear them both wail on “It’s Raining Men.” Mac’s performances of Whitney Houston, or other “big vocalists” demonstrated how fearless she is at attacking songs that are out of her range - in the case of her own choice of material, I’d allow people like Simon to tell her what to sing, and how to sing it, as he was on the money with “Rainbow.” She may enjoy doing the wild stylings of a Christina Aguilera, but it rarely feels organic - and she’s scored best when she was singing fun songs, heart breakers, or even Aretha, when she obviously felt she had nothing to lose by kicking off her heels and rocking the house with “Think.” This is the kind of material she can own, and the women vocalists she’s tried to emulate by giving the songs the Michael Bolton full-throated blast have been the least successful. However, that being said, I’d like to hear her version of “Piece of My Heart,” Joni Mitchell’s “California,” Sting’s “Fields of Gold” or even a standard like “Autumn Leaves.” As for a producer, I’d cozy up to Glen Ballard, who when not winning Grammy’s for his work with Alanis Morrisette, has been known to create magic even in the San Fernando valley. I think Katherine is well poised to snatch the crown from Taylor, and I’ll polish my own apple by noting previously she’d have the chops to “sail under the wire” to the end. Her dad’s ubiquitous tears aside, I just happen to believe Taylor’s going to be doing the tears of joy with that smidgen of a point that decides the victor. However, my choice for Kat’s most sentimental duet on her solo album would be one with Elliot Yamin, who would bring a jazzy feel, an emotional lift and a cute counterpoint to her talented vocals. After all, wouldn’t they make the perfect American Idol twosome?

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