Posts By Jim Washburn

Tuesday, February 14, 2012 / 12:02 pm

Tales From the Working World: The Plumber’s Surprise

What’s down your toilet hole?

by Jim Washburn

The Mamas and The Papas

One of our toilets was stopped up. After trying my usual remedies—enzyme drain cleaner, magical thinking—we got a plumber in. He and his assistants attempted the manual snake down the toilet, and when that didn’t work, they lifted the toilet off its foundation and ran the big power rooter down that gaping orifice in the floor. While it was going ka-chunga, ka-chunga for the longest while, I asked the plumber about his job. I’m always curious about people’s work, particularly if it’s disgusting.

What’s the weirdest thing he’s ever found down a toilet?

He ran through some of the more frequent offenders, which included wallets, Q-tips, clumps of marijuana and perfume bottles that had fallen off a shelf, he said, “There was one thing that did really freak me out.  There was something that had the line blocked up solid, so I ran a fiber optic scope down there. When I turned the light on, I jumped back, because there in the murk, a face was staring back at me!”

Once he had the stomach to look again, he realized it was a doll’s head that had somehow got flushed down the loo. Just the same, it made me glad I do my work at a computer. 

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012 / 3:29 pm

Injustice’s Jukebox: Phil Ochs

The sorry arc of an American true believer.

by Jim Washburn

Phil Ochs Greatest Hits

I owe a lot of my upbringing to Thrifty Drug Stores. Along with the usual drugs, notions, sundries and the best selection of 5-cent ice cream cones in the neighborhood, Thrifty had a wide selection of paperback books, more of the monthly Marvel comics titles than most racks, and a bin of discounted record albums.

At age 12, in 1967, I’d read an interview with the Hollies’ Graham Nash that Simon & Garfunkel had dedicated a song to Lenny Bruce. That was the first I’d ever heard of Bruce, but it was enough to make me plunk down 95 cents for The Essential Lenny Bruce at Thrifty, which turned my little head around.

The discount record rack was always crowded with whatever the labels were trying to unload.  There was a lot of 50 Guitars style dreck, but also mono copies of Magical Mystery Tour, the obscure Play the Electric Bass with Harvey Brooks album and Phil Ochs Live at Carnegie Hall, which was one of the better 77 cents I’ve spent.

I’d heard Ochs’ “Outside of a Small Circle of Friends” and liked its honky-tonk piano and sardonic lancing of our already indifferent society. Carnegie Hall was just folkie Phil and his guitar, singing topical songs about migrant farm workers, sundry US invasions of tropical islands and how much liberals sucked.

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012 / 11:50 am

Ding Dong the Witch: VP Karen Handel Resigns from Komen

Why is it that lousy leaders have to do something really dumb before they get canned?

by Jim Washburn

Karen Handel

After driving the Susan G. Komen Foundation into an ideological ditch by orchestrating the Planned Parenthood funding cutoff that enraged supporters, Komen VP Karen Handel announced her resignation today.

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Friday, February 3, 2012 / 8:24 pm

Erecting Hurdles in the Komen Race for the Cure

VP Karen Handel lets ideology trump science.

by Jim Washburn

Karen Handel

So the Susan G. Komen Foundation has provisionally reversed is decision to defund Planned Parenthood, after donors and decent people everywhere were outraged by that decision. Komen’s directors may have been forced to adopt a change in strategy, but don’t expect that they’ve also had a change of heart.

They’ve tried to explain that there was nothing political or pro-life in the new guidelines they adopted that denied funding to any group under investigation, and there certainly is an argument to be made for wanting everything to appear squeaky-clean and above board when you’re asking donors to entrust you with kaboodles of money.

But Jeffrey Goldberg has reported in The Atlantic that three separate inside sources have told him that Komen Senior VP Karen Handel had pushed the new guidelines and that they were tailored specifically to allow Komen to give Planed Parenthood the heave-ho; crafted to work in concert with conservative whack-job congressman Cliff Stearns' investigation of Planned Parenthood. Stearns says he suspects they are using federal funds to provide abortions (which is against the law, thanks to previous conservative whack-jobs), even though every previous investigation has proved unfounded.

The Komen foundation has amended its guidelines to now only cut off funding in the case of conclusive criminal investigations, not political ones, which is how the guideline should have been written by any sensible and even slightly lawyered-up organization.

So, OK, everything’s hunky dory now, or should be, except focus on the dispute has brought to light information that suggests VP Handel may be of a mindset that could change the organization’s Race for the Cure, which she heads, into a steeplechase, erecting ideological hurdles between women and the science and practice of breast cancer health.

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Monday, January 23, 2012 / 8:10 am

Pissed On, Pissed Off: War is the Soul-Killer

When your good, sweet kids come home from fighting a war, very often a small but essential part of them is dead.

by Jim Washburn

Marines urinating on Taliban fighters

One of several downsides to not being famous is that you can be reading the Times at breakfast, become perturbed enough at the news that you launch into a long screed about it, and your spouse doesn’t even look up from her iPad. Then a week later you’ll watch Bill Maher say nearly the same thing to an adoring audience on HBO, and your spouse of course thinks Maher is being the cleverest guy ever.

This happened the other week when the footage broke of the Marine snipers in Afghanistan urinating on their dead targets. It was shameful, and certainly bad PR—the Afghans don’t get trickle-down economics—but, reading about it, I felt the story deserved some context.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012 / 1:22 pm

A Felicitous Freeing Up of the Fela-ness of the Fela! Crew

Stretching. Changing. Happening at the Troub.

by Jim Washburn

In my current FourStory piece on Nigeria's Fela Kuti and the musical about him, Fela!, I ended up wishing that the show breathed a little more, how the show  would be more reflective of the man it's about if the music was allowed to stretch and change in the moment.

It turns out that's just what's going to happen this Friday when, after the performance at the Ahgmanson, the Fela! show band and its star, Sahr Ngaujah, are hoofing it over the West Hollywood's Troubadour for a late night show that promises to let Fela's compositions expand out to their proper 20-plus minute lengths. Wish and ye shall receive.

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Monday, January 9, 2012 / 5:00 am

Injustice’s Jukebox A1: The Music of Fela Kuti

An occasional feature in which we’ll look at music that responded to, and helped shape, the events and moods of its time.

by Jim Washburn

Fela Kuti

Welcome to Injustice’s Jukebox, an occasional feature in which we’ll look at music that responded to, and helped shape, the events and moods of its time. Oh boy, here we go:

We saw Fela! last week, the Broadway musical recently transplanted to the Ahmanson, about which critics are exulting, “It’s a breathtaking roller-coaster ride!” “unbridled joy … a poignant human rights statement!” and “be prepared to get out of your seat and shake your derriere!” to which I can only add: “Oh, it’s all right.”

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Thursday, January 5, 2012 / 11:24 am

Diocese and Desist: Skewed Morality in America’s Largest Catholic Branch

People with funny hats who think they have the moral authority to tell people how to vote.

by Jim Washburn

Catholic seal

With the Vatican-blessed forced resignation this week of Southern California's popular, social justice-promoting auxiliary bishop Gabino Zavala, the church is displaying a curious moral code: If, as Zavala did, you father children you will be forced out of the church, while if you fuck children you'll be coddled, transferred and shielded from justice.

And these people think they have the moral authority to tell people how to think and vote. If you had that sort of hypocrisy going on in your house, you would probably be circumspect when it came to telling others how to live and vote, but then, you probably don't wear a funny hat.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012 / 4:19 pm

God Makes Plans and Man Craps: Iowa Edition

The unGoogleable underdog and other ridiculous individuals.

by Jim Washburn

Republican lunatics

You recall how at least three of the Republican candidates were told by God himself to run for president? (There may be others who kept the revelation to themselves, because they're so darned modest.) Maybe God is having second thoughts.

Of the three anointed ones, maybe Rick Santorum did have some divine help Tuesday night, as the unGoogleable underdog only barely lost the Iowa caucuses, even if that loss was to cultish heretic Mitt Romney. Santorum may need still more help from on high when the two contest in New Hampshire, where polls show him with only 6% of the vote compared to Romney's 43%.

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