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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Saturday Beefcake: And the Mousse You Rode In On

The response "... You and the donkey you rode in on" must have come from Jesus Christ's bittersweet triumphant entrance into Jerusalem on what it is allegedly Palm Sunday. Well, maybe that's not the origin of that saying. It seems that Jesus the Christ might have made a bigger splash charging into Jerusalem on a stallion or some such -- but there's this Judaeo-Xtian penchant for humility, a sado-masochistic approach to life which might end up in torture and crucifixion.

Still Xtianity's basic tenet and dogma is Resurrection and New Life -- something like eating chocolate which for many does provide a sense of well being. Therefore, in honour of the Chocolate Jesus and the upcoming sacred season of the celebration of new life here is a recipe for some absolutely revitalizing chocolate mousse. Just sinful. He might have done better to ride into Jerusalem with a little orange brandy flavoured mousse if not exactly mounting one.

The press around this time of the Christ's life has placed too much emphasis on big, burly Roman soldiers beating the crap out of him and then nailing him to a cross while rabble rousing Orthodox Rabbis lobby for that exact same thing. Let's face it, the guy is God and he chose not to smite them. There must have been a reason.

Everybody seems to forget that Easter is Christianity's chief feast where Jesus gets out of his grave and offers life eternal. It's about life and celebrating the glorified body and all that.

With that in mind, here's a horse (not some namby pamby donkey) and some bodies, while not exactly glorified point to some kind of glory. Glory be!

Julee Rosso's Dark Chocolate Mousse

This serves twelve from her book Great Good Food with some variations. She labels it, "Dense and satisfying but the egg yolks and cream are gone."

Semisweet Chocolate, 500 grams, chopped
Unflavoured gelatin, a tablespoon
Espresso, a small dense cup
Grand Marnier or Cointreau, a double shot
Non Fat Yogurt, one cup
Non Fat Ricotta, one cup
Egg Whites, 4 at room temperature
Sugar, a quarter cup or equal amount sugar substitute

1. Blend the yogurt and ricotta (pass the ricotta through a sieve before doing so to make it smoother) in a blender or by hand. do not use a processor.
2. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or a reasonable facsimile thereof. Stir until smooth and completely melted. Cool slightly.
3. Soften the gelatin in small saucepan with a quarter cup cold water, then dissolve over medium high heat.
4. Add the coffee and liqueur to the gelatin and slowly whisk until it thickens slightly -- "enough to glaze a spoon but not to jell" -- Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Cool to room temperature.
5. Whisk in the melted chocolate and the yogurt/ricotta blend. Stir until well blended. Allow the mixture to cool for 20 minutes or so until it is room temperature.
6. Beat the egg whites to peaks. Beat in the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time. Fold the egg whites gently into chocolate mixture, blending well.
7. Either dig in and eat it until you fall over from gluttony or do the Xtian thing and share it with others. Oh, make sure it gets chilled for two hours. Patience is a virtue.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Hoc Est Enim Corpus Meum: What's the Fuss?

Geez Louise! Jesus has been depicted in the most grotesque manner since time immemorial. Lest we forget the plastic Jesus adorning dash boards. Or the gross Sacred Heart with his heart's blood literally flowing from a crown of thorns around it. It was Seder when the man himself said "Take and eat, for this is my body." Christians of the Eucharistic and Apostolic traditions believe in either consubstantiation or transubstantiation. Religion doesn't get more goofy than that -- eating a piece of bread believing it to be God. Okay, so maybe Cavallaro took it a step further and with a bit of wry humour -- a chocolate Jesus at Easter time. OK, forget about the antioxidants, it's a tastier treat that goes a little deeper than Cadbury and all that.

Yes, and it's a Jesus with genitals. He is the Son of God and is both God and Man according to many -- men have genitals -- just in case no one noticed, the good artist put them on display and made them edible.

When a communicant receives the sacrament are they not eating the entire Christ? It's not just cheese and crackers.

From the New York Daily News:

A controversial artist outraged city Catholics yesterday with plans to display a nude 6-foot chocolate Jesus during Holy Week.

Cosimo Cavallaro's anatomically-correct candy Christ, titled "My Sweet Lord," was made from almost 200 pounds of dark chocolate. The sculpture is to be displayed in a street-level window at the Roger Smith Hotel's Lab Gallery on E. 47th St. starting Monday.

Go here for the complete article.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

And She Can Act, too: Alicia Minshew

It's no wonder that Richie Herschenfeld is in a constant good mood. Look who he comes home to:

This, from a recent Soap Opera Digest:

It had to happen eventually. Kendall’s surrounded by children, her own, her sister’s, Ryan’s and Annie’s, Babe’s and JR’s. And these children absolutely adore her. In fact, Shane (Little A stand-in) loves Minshew, 32, so much that he almost wailed with dismay when he saw she wasn’t in her dressing room, ‘cause he wanted to play and show off his Buzz Lightyear Valentine’s Day card he made for her. Firmly in a committed, loving relationship with boyfriend Richie (Thorsten Kaye/Zach introduced her to his best friend, and the rest is history), Minshew can’t help but muse on what it’d be like to marry and expand the family unit. She’s not quite in the family way mentally, but she’s close, able to see her fantasy life as a blend of marriage, kids and career. Kaye’s been pushing us to do it already, laughed Minshew. If she ever did, it would have to be with his best friend and her boyfriend Richie—who balances off her bubbly but ampy personality nicely. “He is all goodness,” she explained. “He was born that way; he doesn’t have a malicious or negative bone in his body. I can be malicious! I can be negative! I’m certainly not like that all the time, but the point is, he’s not, ever.”

There are a lot of similarities between the emotional roller coaster of Minshew and Kendall, but there’s also so much growth. Both started from an insecure, worrisome place, weirded out about everything that could possibly go wrong. “Before, if I didn’t have a moment to sit and recharge, I would cry or shake or have a minor meltdown,” admitted Minshew. With growth, for both of them, came calm, and a peace within. However, the two are nothing alike in the bitch department, she stressed. The May 28th-born health nut maintained that she possesses none of the “messed-up” issues of a Kendall.

Both Kendall and portrayer Minshew miss the original Fusion babes something awful. First chance Minshew gets, she’s over to the West Coast to hang with her buddies Terri Ivens (ex-Simone), Rebecca Budig (ex-Greenlee) and Amelia Heinle (ex-Mia; Victoria, Y&R), like old times. Budig even encouraged her in a recent Valentine’s Day e-mail correspondence to “get your asses out here, we’ve got the guest room all ready…” But it’s not like there’s a shortage of fresh, new girl power at AMC. There’s Alexa Havins (Babe), Melissa Claire Egan (Annie), Eden Riegel (Bianca), the girlfriend in spirit, Cameron Mathison (Ryan), it’s cool. –Soap Opera Digest, “Goal Tender” by Mara Levinsky, March 27, 2007

Go here for the rest of the photos of the lovely Miss M

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Pat Tillman: Beautiful Man Who Will Never Come Home

A post from last November: The fake outrage from Mr Bush and company last week over Mr Kerry's mistake re: Iraq was worthy of something Vince McMahon might have scripted
for a scenario worthy of WWE. It only masked the real outrage that most people feel about this horror and how in reality the powers that be exploit those who may believe that their choices are limited and that signing up might just expand their horizons as depicted in the disturbing adverts with young men trying to talk their parents into letting them go into the army, and none more so than the young black man telling his mother, "It's time for me to be the man." Put aside that it is a poorly written line and reflect on what it says to young people and what the army allegedly does for them.

Galway Kinnell's poem, Another Night in the Ruins from 1966 speaks of his brother's death.

In the evening
haze darkening on the hills,
purple of the eternal,
a last bird crosses over,
‘flop flop,’ adoring
only the instant.

Nine years ago,
in a plane that rumbled all night
above the Atlantic,
I could see, lit up
by lightning bolts jumping out of it,
a thunderhead formed like the face
of my brother, looking down
on blue,
lightning-flashed moments of the Atlantic.

He used to tell me,
“What good is the day?
On some hill of despair
the bonfire
you kindle can light the great sky—
though it’s true, of course, to make it burn
you have to throw yourself in ...”

Wind tears itself hollow
in the eaves of these ruins, ghost-flute
of snowdrifts
that build out there in the dark:
upside-down ravines
into which night sweeps
our cast wings, our ink-spattered feathers.

I listen.
I hear nothing. Only
the cow, the cow of such
hollowness, mooing
down the bones.

Is that a
rooster? He
thrashes in the snow
for a grain. Finds
it. Rips
it into
flames. Flaps. Crows.
bursting out of his brow.

How many nights must it take
one such as me to learn
that we aren’t, after all, made
from that bird that flies out of its ashes,
that for us
as we go up in flames, our one work
to open ourselves, to be
the flames?


David Bianco over at PlanetOut.com tells us:

In April 1971, a second and larger Moratorium Against the War was held in the capital, with an estimated 10,000 gay people taking part. Later that year, 15,000 gay protesters swelled the ranks of anti-war demonstrators in a similar march in San Francisco. GLF members carried signs saying: "Soldiers: Make Each Other, Not War" and "Bring the Beautiful Boys Home."

The point is this, how much more human life has to be wasted? The fake issues of cowardice and supporting the troops turn this war into something it is not: a noble cause keeping us safe.

And yesterday this appeared:

Family of Former Football Player Lashes Out at Pentagon

Voice of America News

27 March 2007

The family of former U.S. professional football player Pat Tillman has lashed out at the Pentagon, accusing the military of criminal wrongdoing following Tillman's friendly fire death in Afghanistan.

In a statement, the family alleged Pentagon officials tampered with evidence and deliberately deceived them on how Tillman died.

The Army knew almost immediately that Tillman had been killed by his own unit in April 2004, but for several weeks did not dispute initial military reports that he was killed by enemy fire.

The family charges the military awarded Tillman the Silver Star under false pretenses to conceal the events of his death, while exploiting Tillman's death as a "recruitment poster."

Pentagon investigators have found no criminal negligence in the events following the death of Tillman, but they say "critical errors" were made in reporting his death and failing to provide accurate details to his family.Investigators have recommended that nine officers, including four generals, be held accountable for the missteps.

Tillman turned down a multi-million-dollar contract with the National Football League in order to join the elite Army Rangers after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

The Tuesday De-Briefing: Alec Musser II

Alec was the original subject for a de-briefing when terrific photos of his modelling undergear were discovered. Go here Musser is an original in more ways than one -- well, not so much that he wanted to parlay his modelling career into acting. His look is unique and he has a wry humour about him and doesn't seem to take himself too seriously. The little time viewers get to see him bring Del Henry to life, he brings to it classic All My Children best portrayed by Michael E. Knight in his Tad Martin persona. That Alec gets little screen was the reason his first de-briefing was called for. Well, there were other reasons, obviously.

So, now here he is in the June issue of Men's Workout and there is no mention of who he is. Yo! What's the use of de-briefing this fine man if you don't let the world know who he is. OK, it is shamelessly shilling for him -- not to his knowledge -- still it lets the rest of you know that this beautiful creation of a man is out there. So, once again the de-briefing of Alec Musser is called for as long as the masterpiece is named.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Elton John: Gloriously Reigning

Back in 1984 when David Zard booked John into Italy for dates in Bologna and Milano, never mind that at one of the venues The Cure outsold Elton [where are they now?], Elton was sitting in the backseat of the limo with his then manager John Reid and was fit to be tied when he realized that both Reid and Zard had failed to inform him that he was performing in a tent as opposed to a venue with real walls. There was a combination of fear, awe and amusement as Elton bounced all over Reid and the back seat exclaiming, "It's a tent! It's a tent!" Elton bounced all over Zard backstage as well. The concert, nevertheless, went off without a hitch.

The entourage was another story -- there were more hitches than one could keep track of.

There is no one like him -- the true Queen of England, gloriously reigning. Happy 60th!!

Thank you, EJ, for all you do to combat AIDS.

Lest We Forget: The Democrats ...

... and their embarassment of riches:

Jon Robin Baitz at Huffington Post

bears stealing and reprinting:

His hair is slicked back in a way that accentuates the new fullness of his face. At the hotel, Mr. Gore's perma-smile folded his narrow eyes into slits as he milled his way into a ballroom. Afterward, he accepted his customary standing ovation, slipped out a back door and into the back of a Lincoln Town Car, looking almost presidential.

The above quote from a front page New York Times article on Al Gore's trip to Congress last week possibly might hold a small bit of interest to students of the Times. It's got a familiar whiff about it: There's something nicely cynical in its elegant Timesian construction. After all, it's authors, Mark Liebovitch and Patrick Healy (it takes two to be cunty sometimes), manage to make fun of both the weight and the man's mission in one smooth little dispatch, which is always a good trick.

Never mind that Gore's having a sort of astonishing second act, never mind that he's probably right on just about - oh -- ALL of it when it comes to the catastrophe of the planet. The little quote above reminded me of something that I think happens to Times writers after around age forty-three: Right around the time when you first need glasses, if you work at the Times it seems you begin to also to be in terrible danger of developing an almost predictably Waughian allergy to earnestness. Anyone else notice this? Where the hell does it come from? It's almost as though Times writers become sort of Ox-Bridgeians manqué, striving for and attaining a kind of low level acid imperial doubtfulness. (Exceptions perhaps being Messrs. Rich, Krugman, and Herbert on the op-ed pages).

In its political coverage, the arrogance of working for an entity roughly the size and temperament of the State Department seems to result in writers catching a disease wherein humility and introspection vanishes and is replaced by the calcified arrogance of the long-term commentator. Who is used to the audience, and who loves the job they landed ("Mom, I'm working at the Times!").

This, of course, is the AGE of the commentator, this is the golden age of the opinionated with access. I am not immune, and am showing off even as I type, which is actually why I so seldom post on the venerable Huffington Post, but that's another story and Groucho Marx has written it before and you know what I mean (clubs, members, etc.).

Anyway. The good journalists at the Times with their Burberry Trench Coats and their remarkably similar tortoise shell glasses (and hearts) should maybe remember when being bitchy and supercilious and ever-so-clever that they were at the cutting edge of a gang who had a "perma-smile" on their collective faces as they gave this wretched, wretched administration a free pass on September 11, 2001 which has yet to be entirely revoked. The paper of record is usually, in this, the first decade of the 21st century, the paper of abdication and tone-deafness. Instead of writing about Gore's fat face, these guys should be thinking of other stuff, but that would require soul, which anybody can tell you, is to be smirked at once you've made it to Page 1 "above the fold."

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Song of the Week: Patti Labelle

Oh, People

[Andy Goldmark; Bruce Roberts]

If we are one big happy family,
no one would have to beg to eat.
If we live in a world of dignity,
no man would have to live on the street.
If I tell you you're a part of me,
there's no need for disbelief.
Here is my hand,
to let you know that what we dream we
all can hold.
Apart we are weak together we're strong.

Oh, people we are writing this song.
We're all living these words together forever.
There's no reason we can't live and be one
Build the world that we want together.
For as long as you stand here by me we'll live on.

Think of all the possibilities

that the eyes of a child can see.
Think of all the opportunities
that float right by you and me.
Take my hand and we will know
all that we dream will be our own.
Apart we are weak together we're strong.

Oh, people we are writing this song.
We're all living these words together forever.
There's no reason we can't live and be one
Build the world that we want together.
For as long as you stand here by me we'll live on.

There will be no sides to take
If we can change the course we’re on
There is a future at stake
There’s room for us all

Oh, people we are writing this song.
We're all living these words together forever.
There's no reason … oh no …. We can't live and be one

[Ad lib to fade …]

The Brothers & Sisters Watch from Televisionista

30-year old Wildfire hunk Eric Winter begins his 2-episode guest starring stint on ABC's Brothers & Sisters on April 15 in episode #19 entitled "Game Night". It is not clear what went wrong with his character, Jason McCallister, the gay brother of Rob Lowe's Senator McCallister, who...

...was originally conceived as Kevin Walker's serious romantic interest in a multi-episode arc. Now it seems his storyline which begins with the first date that turns into a complete disaster may last much shorter than the one of Jason Lewis (Chad) who did not exactly click with all of Brothers & Sisters fans.

The actor is involved in a Hugh Jackman produced pilot for CBS called Viva Laughlin! also starring Melanie Griffith, 24's D.B. Woodside (the assassinated President), Twin Peaks' beauty Madchen Amick and Jackman himself. If the pilot is picked up Winter may not be able to return to Brothers & Sisters.

Oddly enough, it appears the producers have also changed the name of his character, who was originally called Todd. Above is one of the first promotional stills of Eric Winter from the April 15 episode.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Saturday Beefcake: A Hearty Trio

Continuing with love for all things Italian, three hearty dishes are presented today that should satisfy.

Stufato di Peperoni e Cipolle

Onions, 6 white, sliced
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 Yellow and Red Bell Peppers, cubed
2 Green Bell Peppers
Mint, 2 sprigs, chopped
Coriander, 2 sprigs chopped
Parsley, 2 sprigs chopped

1. Place the onions in a deep and wide pan, add about a quarter cup of the oil and cook over medium heat until the onions wilt.
2. Add the peppers, salt and pepper. Fold in coriander and and mint. Cover. cook over medium to low heat for about thirty minutes until there is little liquid remaining in the pan.
3. Garnish with the parsley.

Melanzane al Forno

Eggplants, four
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Tomatoes, seeded and diced
Basil leaves, four, torn
Mint Sprigs, 4 chopped
Marjoram Sprigs, 2 chopped
Italian Parsley Sprigs, 2 chopped
Balsamic Vinegar
Preheated Oven 375F

1. Cut off the eggplant stems and slice in half lengthwise
2. Score the flesh in a criss-cross pattern, salt and pepper, drizzle with a tablespoon of the olive oil.
3. Place on a baking sheet with the scored side facing down and bake for 30 minutes.
4. In the meantime toss the tomatoes with the basil, mint, marjoram and parsley in a bowl, sprinkle with balsamic vinegar and about a quarter cup of the olive oil, salt and pepper.
5. When removed from the oven and place the eggplant on a serving plate scored side up. Spoon the tomato mixture on top of the eggplant halves and "marinate" them for at least two hours before serving.

Patate e Funghi al Forno

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Potatoes, four peeled and sliced
Wild Mushrooms, 500 grams, trimmed and sliced
Parmigiano Reggiano, about a quarter cup grated
Heavy Cream, 2 cups
Unsalted Butter
Italian Parsley, minced, 2 tablespoons
Preheated Oven 375F
Large oven to table pan, generously oiled

1. Saute the potatoes in a pan until they are golden on all sides, add the mushrooms, cook for five more minutes. Salt. Pepper
2. Mix the parmigiano and cream in a small bowl.
3. arrange the potatoes and mushrooms in the oiled roasting pan and pour the cream mixture over them.
4. Top with cubed unsalted butter, about two tablespoons
5. Bake for about twenty minutes or until the potatoes are soft
6. Serve hot garnished with the parsley.

In the realm of satisfaction and things Italian the June issue of Men's Workout is chock full of hearty treats -- for starters there's actor/model Rocco Santini and health club manager Roger Morello from Connecticut. The magazine does a very good job at being both didactic and entertaining -- and it doesn't have to be kept in a plastic bag. It makes sense to have a final page for cooling down after experiencing Santini and Morello, although it seems hardly the case given the photo of Mark Dalton from Keith Munyan Photography. No complaints -- let the oxymoron flow.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Edwards '08

The campaign goes on; the campaign goes on strongly. Elizabeth and I talked about this … Basically, as I mentioned earlier, we’ve been confronted with these kind of traumas and struggles already in our lives. And we know from our previous experience that when this happens, you have a choice: You can go cower in the corner and hide or you can be tough and go out there and stand up for what you believe in.

And both of us are committed to the cause, we’re committed to changing this country that we love so much. And we have no intention of cowering in the corner.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Thank You, Televisionista

Congratulations to the cast and crew of freshman hits Ugly Betty and Brothers & Sisters, major blockbusters Desperate Housewives ... and Boston Legal which all made the cut for the 2007-2008 season.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Trevor St John's Announcement

Hi. I'd like to announce the arrival of Aidan Lee St. John into the
breathing world. He appeared at 4:03 a.m. on Wednesday the 21st,
weighing in at 7 lbs 5.2 oz. He is happy and healthy as is his
mother. And although he has no job and still lives with his parents,
he seems like a decent enough chap. And I couldn't be more pleased.

Trevor St. John, Father

Nothing Like A Pansy ...

... following the Vernal Equinox to welcome Spring when a young man's fancy is just that. A sturdy, yet beautiful, flower

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Tuesday De-Briefing: Christopher Daniels

Acknowledging once again the penchant for men named Chris in these parts, it is also acknowledged that a Chris of whom more needs to be seen is professional wrestler, Christopher Daniels. While the ever popular and hard working star has changed his look over the years, one persistent quality is his panache and charisma. He is the Fallen Angel and has built a ring persona that capitalizes on the thin line between canonized dogmatism and wicked, wicked ways. Daniels seems a cut above the typical pro grappler -- less true these days -- in that he seems to have a brain, i.e. he's articulate, to coin a phrase from Senator Biden.

He is appreciated in all of his incarnations and calling for his de-briefing would only make the world somewhat more entertaining and definitely sexier.

Polish Legislated Homophobia: No Joke

The Polish government is to ban discussions on homosexuality in schools and educational institutions across the country, with teachers facing the sack, fines or imprisonment …

President Lech Kaczynski, [alleged closet case] the twin brother of the prime minister, has given his support to the law, claiming that the future of the human race is dependent on discrediting homosexuality in the classroom
During a visit to Ireland last month, he said: "If that kind of approach to sexual life were to be promoted on a grand scale, the human race would disappear." …

"I am embarrassed to hear of such a proposal," said Robert Biedron … "Poland is like an island drifting away from the rest of Europe ... don't we already know this kind of language from not so distant history?"

During a gay campaign march through Warsaw last year, members of the League of Polish Families youth wing threw stones and bottles at the participants and shouted: "Euthanasia for gays, concentration camps for lesbians."

Radio Maryja, an ultra-nationalist Catholic radio station supported by the government, views the EU as a gay conspiracy and frequently refers in its broadcasts to "homosexual terror" and "sodomitical unions".
The European Commission has condemned the Polish government, whose motto is "moral renewal", for its homophobic views.

Go here for the entire read in The Guardian

Monday, March 19, 2007

John Edwards

One candidate for the nomination seems to be sayng and doing all the right things and as the Iraq conflict enters its fifth year it might be opportune to repost his editorial from the Washington Post which appeared in November of 2005. When something is wrong, it must be acknowledged as such, especially when well over 60,000 human beings have died because of it. Violence is a disease that afflicts humanity.

The Right Way in Iraq

By John Edwards
Sunday, November 13, 2005; B07

I was wrong.

Almost three years ago we went into Iraq to remove what we were told -- and what many of us believed and argued -- was a threat to America. But in fact we now know that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction when our forces invaded Iraq in 2003. The intelligence was deeply flawed and, in some cases, manipulated to fit a political agenda.

It was a mistake to vote for this war in 2002. I take responsibility for that mistake. It has been hard to say these words because those who didn't make a mistake -- the men and women of our armed forces and their families -- have performed heroically and paid a dear price.

The world desperately needs moral leadership from America, and the foundation for moral leadership is telling the truth.

While we can't change the past, we need to accept responsibility, because a key part of restoring America's moral leadership is acknowledging when we've made mistakes or been proven wrong -- and showing that we have the creativity and guts to make it right.

The argument for going to war with Iraq was based on intelligence that we now know was inaccurate. The information the American people were hearing from the president -- and that I was being given by our intelligence community -- wasn't the whole story. Had I known this at the time, I never would have voted for this war.

George Bush won't accept responsibility for his mistakes. Along with Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, he has made horrible mistakes at almost every step: failed diplomacy; not going in with enough troops; not giving our forces the equipment they need; not having a plan for peace.

Because of these failures, Iraq is a mess and has become a far greater threat than it ever was. It is now a haven for terrorists, and our presence there is draining the goodwill our country once enjoyed, diminishing our global standing. It has made fighting the global war against terrorist organizations more difficult, not less.

The urgent question isn't how we got here but what we do now. We have to give our troops a way to end their mission honorably. That means leaving behind a success, not a failure.

What is success? I don't think it is Iraq as a Jeffersonian democracy. I think it is an Iraq that is relatively stable, largely self-sufficient, comparatively open and free, and in control of its own destiny.

A plan for success needs to focus on three interlocking objectives: reducing the American presence, building Iraq's capacity and getting other countries to meet their responsibilities to help.

First, we need to remove the image of an imperialist America from the landscape of Iraq. American contractors who have taken unfair advantage of the turmoil in Iraq need to leave Iraq. If that means Halliburton subsidiary KBR, then KBR should go. Such departures, and the return of the work to Iraqi businesses, would be a real statement about our hopes for the new nation.

We also need to show Iraq and the world that we will not stay there forever. We've reached the point where the large number of our troops in Iraq hurts, not helps, our goals. Therefore, early next year, after the Iraqi elections, when a new government has been created, we should begin redeployment of a significant number of troops out of Iraq. This should be the beginning of a gradual process to reduce our presence and change the shape of our military's deployment in Iraq. Most of these troops should come from National Guard or Reserve forces.

That will still leave us with enough military capability, combined with better-trained Iraqis, to fight terrorists and continue to help the Iraqis develop a stable country.

Second, this redeployment should work in concert with a more effective training program for Iraqi forces. We should implement a clear plan for training and hard deadlines for certain benchmarks to be met. To increase incentives, we should implement a schedule showing that, as we certify Iraqi troops as trained and equipped, a proportional number of U.S. troops will be withdrawn.

Third, we must launch a serious diplomatic process that brings the world into this effort. We should bring Iraq's neighbors and our key European allies into a diplomatic process to get Iraq on its feet. The president needs to create a unified international front.

Too many mistakes have already been made for this to be easy. Yet we must take these steps to succeed. The American people, the Iraqi people and -- most important -- our troops who have died or been injured there, and those who are fighting there today, deserve nothing less.

America's leaders -- all of us -- need to accept the responsibility we each carry for how we got to this place. More than 2,000 Americans have lost their lives in this war, and more than 150,000 are fighting there today. They and their families deserve honesty from our country's leaders. And they also deserve a clear plan for a way out.

The writer, a former senator from North Carolina, was the Democratic nominee for vice president in 2004.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Song of the Week, Le Cinque Terre and Acrophobia

Bruno Gattolin a native of La Spezia was enamoured of all things American -- to be more specific, all things Gay American. Being able to speak Gay American was one of his goals and when he met anyone who was fluent in that dialect, he fell head over heels. La Spezia is situated just below the resort villages of the Cinque Terre.

Walking along the mountain path around Manarola one of the villages of the Cinque Terre (the 'Five Lands')with two other Italian men made reaching the point where one could see only sea and sky from a ledge literally breath taking. While many would have been taken by experiencing beauty first hand such as unalderated nature and three Italian men the acrophobic among us might be frozen in fear.

The admonition was not to look down while making way back to the sea to enjoy a picnic and it was very important not to think about heads going over heels. It is a blessing to be able to recall the picnic looking out toward the Gulf of Genoa and the eventual devouring. There's nothing like an Italian menage a quatre. No, that is not a meal, but if it gets too high just don't look down -- also, heels over head is a much more practical position.

In remembrance of the late Bruno Gattolin and the Cinque Terre, here is once again Mina's erotic classic, L'Importante E Finire with some pictures from the Cinque Terre -- here also more of actor, Marco Dapper interpreting the role of a man he resembles within the aforementioned menage with Palm Springs doubling for Manarola (thank you, Lewis Payton).

As time rolls on, it is tempting to recall many times and places as idyllic. Obviously not as one often gets frozen in fear while experiencing exceptional beauty. Bruno himself succumbed to the disease that came his way -- more than likely via a gay American. Still, he did get to enjoy life in the three decades or so he got to be on this beautiful earth. He came from a beautiful place with breathtaking beauty.

Adesso arriva lui,
apre piano la porta
poi si butta sul letto
e poi e poi
ad un tratto io sento
afferrarmi le mani
le mie gambe tremare
e poi e poi e poi e poi
spegne adagio la luce,
la sua bocca sul collo
ha il respiro un po' caldo
ho deciso lo mollo,
ma non so se poi farlo
o lasciarlo soffrire
l'importante è... finire.

Adesso volta la faccia,
questa è l'ultima volta che lo lascio morire
e poi e poi
ha talento da grande lui
nel fare l'amore
sa pigliare il mio cuore
e poi e poi e poi e poi
ha il volto sconvolto
io gli dico ti amo,
ricomincia da capo
è violento il respiro,
io non so se restare
o rifarlo morire
l'importante è... finire