Atlantis Alumni

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Friday, September 28, 2012

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Romney's Heart Aches For The Struggling?

Mitt Romney:
"...the difference between me and President Obama is I know what to do, and I will do what it takes to get this economy going."
Tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans?

Philly Mayor Nutter's Unfair Tax Policies

Mayor Nutter can't wait to raise taxes on many Philadelphia homeowners with his actual value initiative. But he refuses to collect taxes from some of the biggest and richest entities in the city. Why is that? From Philly Jobs For Justice:
If you live in Philly, you've probably noticed a pattern in the way that our mayor talks about money. Every budget cycle, he tells us soberly that as much as he would like to fund everything. there just isn't enough money. We need to make cuts. Some years it's to our libraries and pools. Some years it's our schools. He tells us that the cuts are our only option. They aren't. What if I told you that there were at least 107 million dollars in institutional property taxes that Mayor Nutter is legally obligated to tax--and isn't? Bear with me--this is a little detailed, but it's important: This April, the State Supreme Court decided that all property-holding nonprofits need to meet a stringent set of criteria--the HUP test--in order to qualify for property tax exemption. Now, we're not saying that every nonprofit should pay property taxes. But when a university like Penn buys a hotel and runs it for profit, or a hospital lets land lie vacant and undeveloped--then, Mayor Nutter is legally obligated to collect property taxes. Under this Supreme Court ruling, the Nutter administration is legally required to issue tax bills to all property-holding nonprofits this December. It's on the nonprofit to take a few minutes and re-file for tax exemption under the HUP test criteria. Last year, $528 million in property taxes went uncollected due to exemptions. The budgetary shortfall that threatened to destroy our schools was $90 million. So what is Nutter's administration planning to do? Apparently, wait for nonprofits like Penn to come to them. When asked by WHYY, senior administration tax attorney Christine Bak stated, "I would hope very much some of those would contact us and want to get into some kind of tax contribution agreement again." Call 215-686-2181 today, and demand that Mayor Nutter obey the law and issue tax bills to all property-holding nonprofits this December. He needs to hold big institutions like Penn and Jefferson accountable to the same rules he holds working people to.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Piazza Navona, Rome

Is this the social center of Rome, or is the see and be seen hub at the Spanish Steps, or elsewhere?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sunday Morning On TV: The Political Shows

The Sunday morning talk shows were amusing this morning. On the Chris Matthews show, columnist Joe Klein stated "the Republican Party has lost touch with reality." Yes, I think he is onto something. Bill Clinton, a better spokesman for Obama than Obama himself, was on Face The Nation where he sliced Romney up using that Clinton finesse. The big fight was the roundtable on Meet The Press, where feckless Bay Buchanan, sister of right wing nut case Pat Buchanan, was left to fend off not only the Democrats but also conservatives David Brooks and Joe Scarborough, who trashed Romney's campaign. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, a Democrat, is extremely forceful. He and Brooks agreed that eventually the country's fiscal crisis will be solved by a multi-trillion dollar grand bargain that will include tax increases and spending cuts. Brooks thinks a national crisis of some sort will have to happen first.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fall Is In The Air

Autumn is my favorite season. The chill in the morning air is delightful. This display at the beach cottage includes our light up pumpkin and a pumpkin-colored antique toy train car from the 1920s.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

We Should Win The Redistribution Argument

The Republicans are attempting to hammer Obama with an old video tape where Obama says he favors redistribution. Well, anyone who is in favor of progressive taxation favors redistribution. The federal income tax is redistribution. It taxes (or it should tax) wealthier individuals at a higher rate than less wealthier people. This is fair. Redistribution is fair. Well off citizens should pay their fair share, which will be more than is paid by the less well off. Republicans like Romney and Ryan are radicals who favor social Darwinist economic and social policy. They want to lower taxes on the wealthy and cut the social safety net. Their policies would take us back to the bad old days of the 19th century when extremes of wealth and poverty were the norm. They are actually quite candid about what they want to do, and what they think of less fortunate Americans. We ought to be hammering the hell out of them for their detestable, unfair and unjust ideas.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

New Boardwalk

This is the new boardwalk near our house at Surf Walk and the ocean in Cherry Grove.

Obama To Be Re-elected By Default

Not since 1961 when Barry Goldwater said "Sometimes I think this country would be better off if we could just saw off the Eastern Seaboard and let it float out to sea" has a presidential candidate made such a stunning verbal mistake as Romney has with his 47 percent statement. It seems as though all Obama has to do is quietly watch Romney and Ryan deconstruct.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

LA Jazz Inst. Stan Kenton Maria

A video from about 1960...something I played when I was in a jazz band in high school...Stan Kenton's great arrangement of Maria from West Side Story.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Homage To A Best Friend

PHOTOS: (top)Marc A. Fisher ca. 1970. (bottom)Marc's first book of stories.

"I'm an honest person. My parents raised me to tell the truth, and my schoolteachers emphasized the importance of integrity."
- Marc Fisher, 1948-2012.

A best friend is someone you've known a long time, long enough so that the relationship has had its ups and downs yet you're still best friends. A best friend is someone with whom you've shared good times and bad, someone who was there for you when you needed them, and vice versa. Perhaps most of all, a best friend is one whose company you genuinely enjoy, someone you look forward to seeing, maybe even someone you take for granted...until they're gone. My best friend Marc died in late August at age 64, about 17 months after suffering a severe stroke from which he never recovered. He spent those last months in a nursing facility, valiantly struggling to make the best of a bad situation. Marc was always very social, and even though the stroke had left him unable to speak, I could see that he had made new friends in the nursing home. My visits to the home were somewhat difficult as communication wasn't easy, but Marc seemed to have basically a positive attitude in spite of his many challenges. When I last saw him in March of this year, he complained about stomach discomfort after we shared a meal. I couldn't have known then that this was a sign of a pancreatic disorder that finally took his life.

Marc and I met in about 1969 when we were both still in college. Marc was attending Drexel University, where he was a business major if I remember correctly. I was at Temple struggling to figure out what I really wanted to do. I had joined a large rock band with a brass instrument section (I play trombone), and Marc joined shortly after I did. He played trumpet. I liked Marc immediately. He had a friendly demeanor and he was a cool guy. He could do a few magic tricks and he knew how to tell funny jokes and stories. We had good times as band mates.

I got to meet his family as we became friends: his dad Joe, his mom Ethel, and brothers Jack and Scott. Scott was a high school athlete then, now he is the only surviving member of the family (Jan, an older brother had left home and was estranged from the rest of the family.) Joe had a business, and he liked to play games of chance. His sons took after him in this regard. Marc taught me to play backgammon, which I enjoy playing to this day. Marc was primarily a poker player, and tried at times to make a living playing poker. Many an evening he and I would spend hours over a backgammon board, with some sweet bourbon and cigarettes.

Marc graduated college but had a tough time transitioning into a career. While he worked from time to time at various jobs, he never really had a serious full time career position that I know of. One time I tried to get him hired at my employer, but that didn't work out. We remained good friends until my marriage ended and I came out as a gay man. For a time after that we were not close, but eventually there was a thaw and our friendship renewed itself.

The years went by and we would see each other occasionally over a cup of coffee (we both like Starbucks), or a specially made whole wheat pizza pie at MaMa's, a restaurant near Marc's home. Marc's brother Jack, who had substance abuse issues, took his own life a few years back. Something Marc and I shared was that both of us had someone close to us who died this way. My wife Adele had also taken her own life years ago while in a state of emotional distress. Jack's death affected Marc deeply. Marc surely loved his family in spite of whatever difficulties they may have had with each other.  When I was arrested and went to trial on bogus charges some years back, Marc was there to support me. After the judge threw out all the charges, Marc took me out to lunch to celebrate. We had a long series of life experiences that we shared, many more than I can remember to write about here, but more than enough to cement our strong friendship.

Joe Fisher died a number of years ago. In recent years Marc and his Mother Ethel cared for an aunt, getting her situated into a nursing home until she died. Then Marc cared for Ethel in her final years. Finally left alone, Marc had to deal with his own health and financial issues. We had coffee together one March day in 2011 at Starbucks on Montgomery Avenue in Bala Cynwd. Afterward I remember watching him in my rear view mirror turn his car onto Pembroke Road where the Fisher house is located. Later I found out that he had the stroke shortly after we met that day. It was to be our last enjoyable meeting in a long series that goes back over 40 years.

I still play backgammon and I still go to Starbucks, but I will always miss those meetings with my best friend Marc. He was a good and decent person and a fine best friend. I miss him and think about him often. He left me with many fond memories.

About fifteen years ago Marc decided to try his hand at writing. He adopted the pen name Marc MacHinery. He enjoyed storytelling, but he obviously felt that his verbal talents were not fully appreciated by those who would interrupt him:

"No longer will I tolerate such rude behavior to upset the presentation of my stories. I promised myself that all future tales would be in print and out of the reach of people lacking in proper and acceptable social graces and manners. From this point onward only those who choose to read will be entertained by my collection of stories. And so with great pride I present to you, my dear readers, my first..."Marc, Someone's at the door for you! While you're downstairs will you take out the trash? Telephone! It's for you!"

Marc gave me a copy of his book entitled "Stories From Marc's Place." As my husband Dan once told me, writing is a gift that an author gives to his or her readers, and this was Marc's gift to me. Here's my favorite story entitled "Hey, you!" from my best friend Marc's book.

With the birth of his first child (and first son), my father quite naturally wanted to pass along his name. However, both he and my mother felt uncomfortable having a "junior" as in Joseph Enoch Fisher, Jr. So they compromised and used Dad's initials, JEF, and named his son Jan Evan Fisher. In addition to having passed on his initials, a great deal of creative thought and energy was expended in the selection of these two names, Jan and Evan. Each of these two designations is somewhat less common than most names and the combination has a distinguished sound to it.

About five years later, yours truly was born and given the label of Marc Alan Fisher. There is nothing wrong with this name, however I've always considered both my first and middle names rather on the common side. Still, I have no complaints and actually, I never use my middle name anyway but rather use as my official signature, Marc A, Fisher.

Another five years passed by and along comes the third child, another son. Now you can really tell that my parents were running out of steam. They came up with Jack G. Fisher. When I asked my parents why they didn't give him a middle name, they offered up a lame excuse. "He'll be able to choose a middle name for himself when he gets older," they explained. As of this writing, my brother Jack is forty-six years old and has yet to choose such a name. As I already mentioned, I only use my middle initial and so really, the name of Jack G. Fisher is fine. A first name and middle initial is all you really need.

About four and a half years later, when my youngest brother was born, he was given the name Scott Fisher. That's correct, my parents didn't even choose an initial for him - just Scott. Now there is nothing wrong with the name Scott and in fact, I like him and the name very much. But for goodness sake, do you mean to tell me that you can't even select a stinking initial for the guy? Apparently, they just ran out of naming power.

I've always been thankful that my parents didn't have a fifth child. They were obviously out of names. The next child would've been named something like A. Fisher - no first name, just an initial. And if a sixth child were born, it would probably have just a last name, Fisher. God forbid they would've had a seventh child, it would've just been "Hey, you."

Clash With Modernity

In regard to the current crisis in the Middle East Dan wrote to ne: "in the countries of the Middle East no one understands the 'American concept of free speech.'" Of course he is right. This is a clash between modernity and the middle ages. The movie is garbage, but par for the course in this country. There is so much of that level of trash out there in the West that one becomes de-sensatized to it living here. Gay people, in particular, have been the brunt of this sort of thing for decades coming from comics like Sam Kineson (now dead), religious bigots, and other homophobes. But while we may demonstrate against a movie like Cruising, we don't go out and burn down buildings and kill people.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Late Summer Sunrise

We've been enjoying beautiful weather this week. This morning sunrise was at 6:31 AM. It's so nice to see the sun rise over the ocean once again.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Have We Become As Bad As Our Enemies?

How should a person who is concerned about civil liberties and justice vote in November? Bush/Cheney ordered "enhanced interrogation techniques" (TORTURE), a war crime, to be used on detainees in the "war on terror." Obama/Holder refuse to prosecute the CIA operatives who committed these war crimes because "they were just following orders," a defense that the United States rejected at the post-WWII Nuremberg trials. Bush defended the death of innocent civilians as "collateral damage." Obama now claims executive authority to have US citizens killed anywhere/anytime without due process, if he suspects them of being terrorists. Should we have captured Osama Bin Laden rather than assassinating him? What are we doing? What have we become? Can we afford to remain a prisoner of the US red/blue political paradigm when both sides have shredded the constitution? Read John Cusack's interview with constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley: (click on the blog title above)... Turley: "...what is really telling is the disconnect between what people say about our country and what our country has become. What we've lost under Bush and Obama is clarity. In the "war on terror" what we've lost is what we need the most in fighting terrorism: clarity. We need the clarity of being better than the people that we are fighting against. Instead, we've given propagandists in Al Qaeda or the Taliban an endless supply of material — allowing them to denounce us as hypocrites."

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Maltese Vase

We bought this pretty hand blown glass vase in Valetta, Malta a week ago. We saw a lot of glass making on our cruise because the ship hosts glass artisans from the Corning Museum. They actually have a glass blowing studio installed on the top deck of the ship. However, they do not sell glass on board. The display is for educational purposes. But in Valetta we stopped at a glass making factory where we purchased this vase.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

An Ikebana Arrangement From The Garden

I made this a few weeks ago using all home grown flowers and plants from our Cherry Grove garden.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Will The Real Obama Apppear In A Second Term?

Michael Moore has high hopes for an Obama second term:
I'm going to go with my optimistic side here (sorry, cynics, you know I love you) and imagine a Second Term Obama (and a Democratically-controlled Congress) who will go after all the good that our people deserve and put the power of our democracy back in our hands. There's good reason why the Right is terrified of a Second Term Obama because that is exactly what they think he'll do: the real Obama will appear and take us down the road to social justice and tolerance and a leveling of the economic playing field. For once, I'd like to say I agree with the Right -- and I sincerely hope their worst nightmare does come true.

2012 Election: For Progressives A Hobson's Choice

In regard to President Obama's acceptance speech, there was the good:
We don’t think government can solve all our problems. But we don’t think that government is the source of all our problems – any more than are welfare recipients, or corporations, or unions, or immigrants, or gays, or any other group we’re told to blame for our troubles.
...and the bad:
I’m still eager to reach an agreement based on the principles of my bipartisan debt commission.
Well here Obama is talking out of both sides of his mouth. On the one hand he says that he wants to return to Clinton era marginal tax rates on wealthy Americans (39.6 for the highest incomes,) yet Simpson-Bowles advocates a top tax rate under 30 percent, combined with draconian cuts to Social Security and Medicare (the "cat food" proposal that would leave many senior citizens unable to afford to eat anything but pet food.) Now Mr. Obama, which is it? The bottom line is that progressives have no real choice in this election when it comes to economic justice. This is because neither Romney nor Obama is advocating for real reform, i.e. a return to pre-Reagan era progressive taxation rates, which is what the country needs to put our fiscal house in order and restore economic fairness to our society.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Greek Islands Cabin View

The view from our cabin on board the Celebrity Equinox as we sailed near Mykonos.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Reason For The Enthusiasm Gap

The New York Times:
Democrats also have a limited amount of time left to persuade the nation to let them hold the White House and increase their position in Congress. If they don’t start talking about their fundamental principles, going beyond the easy sound bites, they will lose voters who are hoping for more.
What happened to the enthusiasm for Obama that propelled him into the white house four years ago? It's not that he has failed in many important ways to live up to his promised change we can believe in. Voters including Obama's former young enthusiastic supporters do not fault him for failing, they have lost enthusiasm for him because he didn't even try. He didn't even try for single payer health care. He didn't even try to deliver on his promise of transparency. He let Wall Street crooks off the hook; none have gone to jail for the excesses that caused our current economic malaise. He sent more American kids to Afghanistan to die instead of ending the war. In his eagerness to compromise with the Republican pigs in Congress, he offered to give away the store and sell out seniors, the middle class and the poor. That got him nowhere because the greedy social Darwinist Republicans cannot be satisfied until they have returned us to the obscene economic excesses not seen here since the nineteenth century. So now Obama finds himself needing to re-energize his base in a way that George W. Bush never had to. That's because Bush actually followed through on his promises to his base. So now the New York Times has it right: Obama and the Democrats had better start trumpeting their principles especially if they have any hope of re-capturing some of that lost enthusiasm from 2008. And this president needs to acknowledge his mistakes and re-assure Americans that he will be a more principled leader during the next four years.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Mitt Gordon Gekko Romney

Obama ran on "change" in 2008, but Mitt Romney represents a far more real and seismic shift in the American landscape. Romney is the frontman and apostle of an economic revolution, in which transactions are manufactured instead of products, wealth is generated without accompanying prosperity, and Cayman Islands partnerships are lovingly erected and nurtured while American communities fall apart. The entire purpose of the business model that Romney helped pioneer is to move money into the archipelago from the places outside it, using massive amounts of taxpayer-subsidized debt to enrich a handful of billionaires. It's a vision of society that's crazy, vicious and almost unbelievably selfish, yet it's running for president, and it has a chance of winning. Perhaps that change is coming whether we like it or not. Perhaps Mitt Romney is the best man to manage the transition. But it seems a little early to vote for that kind of wholesale surrender.
Read more:

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Cruise Finale: Palermo, Sicily

Our last port was Palermo, Sicily. We arrived in the morning and took a bus tour of the city, as well as a trip to nearby Monreale. In Monreale, the magnificent Norman cathedral contains the largest collection of Byzantine mosaics anywhere. They were crafted by master artisans from Constantinople in the 11th century. Both William the First and his son William the Second are buried in the cathedral. Those Norman kings not only conquered Sicily, but also England. Sicily is a conglomeration of many cultures, like Malta, though it was never a British colony. It became part of Italy around 1860, though the Sicilians still think of themselves as apart from the ‘continent’ or mainland of Italy. In Palermo we visited large Cathedral or Duomo, whose exterior shows the architectural styles of the Normans, Byzantine, the Gothic period, and the Baroque in its large dome. Inside, the Palermo Duomo is simply neo-classical, as it was changed in the early 19th century. We also managed to see the great opera house, the Teatro Massimo, which is the third largest opera in Europe, after Paris and Vienna. In the afternoon our ship the Equinox sailed for Civitavecchia, the port of Rome, where we will disembark. Jim had a wonderful time at the ‘splash party’ near the pool in the afternoon on Sunday. All the passengers wore swim suits and danced in light rain—our only rain on the trip. After the pool party we walked from the crowded Martini Bar down to the Silhouette Dining Room and had dinner with fellow passengers from many places: Brussels, L.A., Dallas and Chicago. Some of our companions we already knew, and others were new faces. But there’s an easy camaraderie on the ship and it’s usually easy to talk to our shipmates. Today we leave the Equinox with many memories of the Mediterranean. –Dan

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Malta: A Golden Limestone Island

Pictures from the top: two photos of the harbor at Valletta, Malta; an alley in the old capital; the co-cathedral of St. John in Valletta; distant view of the city of Mdina. Saturday we returned to the unique island of Malta after a couple of decades. The golden glow of the limestone is wonderful, and makes this strange island-nation unusual. Malta’s history is a conglomerate of many European cultures: it was a prehistoric settlement, and was variously controlled by the ancient Carthaginians, the Romans, the Byzantine Empire, the Arabs, Normans, Spanish, the Knights of St.John and the English. The people have their own language (a cross between Spanish, Arabic and Italian) as well as speaking English, since this island was a former colony of the British crown. No doubt the reason for Malta’s many permutations was its importance as a strategic point in the Mediterranean, from ancient times through WW II. The Knights in particular left a rich architectural legacy of Renaissance and Baroque buildings in the former capital, Mdina and the current capital of Valletta. We took a full day tour of the island and saw some highlights. In the great and lavish Baroque co-Cathedral of St. John (religious seat of the Knights) are two works by Caravaggio, including his largest painting, “The Beheading of St. John.” All the drama that one admires so much about this wonderful Baroque artist exists in that masterpiece. There are magnificent views of the large harbor from the gardens in the city. We also drove to Neolithic ruins, and after an extensive lunch at a Radisson hotel in the countryside, we explored the older city of Mdina. The Cathedral in that town is the seat of the Archbishop. Our guide Fiorilla was charming and humorous and delighted in showing us her native island. We returned to the ship only a short time before departing for Sicily.--Dan

Cruising Fun.

Jim and Dan boating on the Bosphorus; a frozen blue Margarita poolside; Jim at the 70s disco tea dance.

Turkish Folk Dancing On Board

Friday we were at sea all day making our way from Istanbul to Malta. However, before we left Turkey we were treated to a performance by a Turkish folk dance troupe on board our ship. The dancers were talented and energetic and performed for almost an hour in costume in spite of the heat.