HEALTH CARE WATCH by the Numbers with Nate Silver of
As I lamented yesterday, health care is one of those areas where both popular opinion and sound public policy seem to take a backseat to protecting those stakeholders who benefit from the status quo.

Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight, the numbers cruncher whose stats predicted the crispy outcome of the election, is looking at the impact of special interest money from health care lobbyists on the outcome for health care reform on the Hill. In other words, it doesn’t look good for the majority of Americans who want a public option. Fortunately, Nate gives some pointers for a game upset (in the peoples favor).

From 4 – 8 pm there will be an Interfaith Service of Witness and Prayer for health care reform at Freedom Plaza (Washington, DC Pennsylvania Avenue between 13th & 14th Streets). Faithful Reform is the name of the organization recently formed to help faith-based advocates become aware of the issues and to make health care reform a reality.

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival opens Wednesday, June 24 on the national mall. Tents have been up for days. This year’s exhibits:
Giving Voice: The Power of Words in African American Culture
Las Americas: Music In Latino Culture

Poet Kenny Carroll sent an email around inviting people to join him Toni Blackman, Thomas Sayers Ellis and Sonia Sanchez for the opening ceremonies at the Giving Voice pavilion. Performance artist Holly Bass will be there too. Today’s her birthday! I might check out the food pavilion in the Wales exhibit. I have roots there too. Folklife Festival calendar is available on-line.

Not wishing to overstate the case, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is the pretentious, nonsensical, sexist, jingoistic, militaristic, CGI-dependent, product-placement-packed, hectically edited, punishingly loud, wearyingly long, eye-wateringly expensive, and, I predict, phenomenally profitable exemplar of everything that is most repulsive about Hollywood today.
Nicholas Barber, The Independent
TRANSFORMERS: Revenge of the Fallen opens. I always say, these movies are a preview of the next generation of military hardware. The film was made with support by the U.S. Department of Defense. “Stars and Stripes” describes how Transformers beat out G.I. Joe for the privilege. But what about General Motors? Will the Transformers be able to win the battle under a bankrupt GM hood? Apparently, director Michael Bay had some concern. Bumblebee was originally a VW Beetle in the cartoon series on which the movies are based. I guess there’s no place for Love Bugs on the field of battle.

Eastern Market re-opens Friday! The historic market was nearly destroyed by fire in 2007. The restored market’s interior includes the original drab pink color from back-in-the-day and upgraded restrooms.

THE 5TH INNING – Book discussion with author E. Ethelbert Miller
Sunday, July 12, 4 PM @ Busboys and Poets (downtown – 1025 K Street, NW)
Join me for a book discussion of THE 5TH INNING, a memoir by E. Ethelbert Miller. At the request of the author, I will be leading a discussion of his 2nd memoir (not quite the sequel to Fathering Words). THE 5TH INNING is published by PMPress/Busboys and Poets. You can pick up a copy at their 14th & V Street bookstore or order it on-line.

Last week I caught up with Clayton LeBeouf who sent me home with a DVD copy of The Doll,” a short film based on the short story published in 1912 by Charles W. Chesnutt . The film was a project of Duke University’s course “Adapting Literature to Film” taught by Emmy Award winning filmmaker Dante James (director and executive producer of the film). Clayton is the co-producer and lead actor in “The Doll.” The film is hitting the festival circuit and won the “Best Film” award at the National Black Film Festival in Los Angeles. It’s a powerful story about racism, revenge, and choices. The main character, played by Clayton, is the owner of a barber shop and the single parent of a young daughter. What does this barber do when the man who killed his father asks for a close shave? While hanging out in Silver Spring, a few people recognized Clayton from the HBO series “The Wire.” Another guy thought he was an African liberation figure. Never a dull day with Clayton LeBeouf.

THE ECLECTIQUE PRESIDENT – After All these Months, Still in Love with the Word
According to this Politico column by Abby Phillip, President Barack Obama is a fan of Urdu poetry. The real source of the story is Pakistan’s English language news outlet “Dawn.” “Dawn” had an exclusive interview with the President last Friday in the White House – the first one-on-one Pakistani media interview with a U.S. President ever.

Here’s an excerpt from the interview

Any plan to visit Pakistan in the near future?’

‘I would love to visit. As you know, I had Pakistani roommates in college who were very close friends of mine. I went to visit them when I was still in college; was in Karachi and went to Hyderabad. Their mothers taught me to cook,’ said Mr Obama.

AI: ‘What can you cook?’

‘Oh, keema … daal … You name it, I can cook it. And so I have a great affinity for Pakistani culture and the great Urdu poets.’

‘You read Urdu poetry?’

‘Absolutely. So my hope is that I’m going to have an opportunity at some point to visit Pakistan,’ said Mr Obama.

Okay, what is Urdu poetry? Urdu is a language spoken in India, Pakistan and some neighboring South Asian countries. It is the national language of Pakistan. In the “Novice Nook” of the description includes “Urdu poetry expresses human feelings, passion of love and the beauty of nature in a very melodious and elegant manner. Urdu has its own script which is similar to Persian.” Urdu poetry is performed in public in Mushairas or recitals.

There’s no definitive starting point for Urdu poetry, but its literary figures have been around since 1200 AD. Here’s a 20th century Urdu by Faiz Ahmad Faiz (1911 – 1984) translated by Naomi Lazard

Before You Came

Before you came things were just what they were:
the road precisely a road, the horizon fixed,
the limit of what could be seen,
a glass of wine was no more than a glass of wine.

With you the world took on the spectrum
radiating from my heart: your eyes gold
as they open to me, slate the color
that falls each time I lost all hope.

With your advent roses burst into flame:
you were the artist of dried-up leaves, sorceress
who flicked her wrist to change dust into soot.
You lacquered the night black.

As for the sky, the road, the cup of wine:
one was my tear-drenched shirt,
the other an aching nerve,
the third a mirror that never reflected the same thing.

Now you are here again—stay with me.
This time things will fall into place;
the road can be the road,
the sky nothing but sky;
the glass of wine, as it should be, the glass of wine.

Now THAT’s some smooth talkin’. As for keema – Try this at – “Cooking with B.J.” You know, I think I’ve made keema from a friend’s recipe.