Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Congrats to the Detroit Tigers for not breaking or tying the MLB record for most losses in a season. This is a special record & it belongs to the Mets. It's not enough to be merely bad, like the Tigers. To have this record, a team should be magically, lovably, memorably awful. The Mets accomplished it in the first year of their existence, with much hype. The record was, in a sense, validated in 1969, when they won the World Series with an equally oddball collection of players.

But what makes the '62 Mets so special is that they played in the same city as the Yankees, attracted Dodgers & Giants fans who loathed the Yankees, & functioned as a kind of alternate universe Yankees. Compare the records:

The Yankees went 96 - 66, beating out a very good Twins formerly known as the Senators.
Mantle won the MVP.
Tom Tresh was Rookie of the Year.
Ralph Terry went 23-12, pitching nearly 300 innings
The Yanks beat the Giants 4-3 in one of the most evenly matched series ever played. It was just another typically great ho hum year for the Yanks.

The Mets were 40-120, finishing 60 games out in a 10 team league
Pitcher Roger Craig went 10-24.
Richie Ashburn & Frank Thomas were on the team (both had good years). Also Marv Throneberry, Gil Hodges, Choo Choo Coleman, Vinegar Bend Mizell & Don Zimmer. & of course, the Mets had Casey Stengel, just one year removed from managing a Yankee team that had out-hit & out-scored the Pirates & still lost the '60 series (Bobby Richardson was the MVP, Whitey Ford pitched two complete game shutouts). Casey made the Mets. He gave the Mets their primary inverse connection to some of the greatest teams & players in baseball history, past & future. Casey rooted the team in baseball tradition, in the Polo Grounds, in a city still mourning the loss of the Giants & Dodgers, thus making the Mets more than just an expansion franchise. For the Mets in '62, losing was winning. For the Tigers in '03 it was just losing.

LETTERMAN had one of his best music shows tonight. Randy Newman sat in with the band. Then the Philharmonic performed the "Marriage of Figaro" overture on the roof of the Ed Sullivan Theater, 60 players in evening dress conducted by Loren Maazel, a late afternoon sun illuminating the windows of surrounding buildings. Good camerawork, too. A very "New York" occasion. From previous stunts, I've been under the impression that the roof can only be reached by ladder; which would've made the set up tricky indeed, including passing up several dozen very valuable stringed instruments.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Congrats to Roger Clemens, who won the final regular season start of his incomparable career today, even the Baltimore dugout applauding. His first strikeout victim? Current Orioles manager Mike Hargrove, in 1984. Baseball stats track so many particulars that there are always odd & amusing "coincidences" occurring.

Why online local weather radar is handy: Wanted to bike over to Dunkin Donuts tonight, pouring rain, rain in forecast. Local radar showed a narrow string of heavy showers moving north from Middlesex County. Wasn't even raining in Scotch Plains, & no more rain after that until 5 or 6 am. So I sat tight inside for 45 minutes, the rain stopped, crickets chirping, wiped off bike seat & off I went.

Why I always lock up my bike even tho it's an old clunker: A bike had been abandoned on the sidewalk outside Capt. John's Tackle & Bait shop, the thief apparently caught in downpour & realizing he was better off on foot, ducking under trees. An ordinary 26" bike, nothing new or sporty about it. Later, returning from my errand, that bike had been replaced by smaller kid's bike, another opportunist thief trading up. The casual stealing & abandoning of bikes is epidemic in this little city. My solid unglamorous single speed Eurotour (currently not on road due to slashed rear tire) was stolen from behind my apt - on a rainy night - & I recovered it two days later, taking it back from a kid who was probably telling the truth when he said he found it dumped on a lawn near here. The kid didn't know I had reported it stolen. As I was riding it home, a cop stopped ME & asked where I'd gotten it! That kid would've ended up downtown in the police station waiting for a parent to come get him & probably slap him silly. Older bikers on expensive machines often compliment that bike as perfect for for its purpose.

Soybeans as a snack: Take a handful of fresh green soybeans in shell, rinse them, spread on a plate & microwave for three to three & a half minutes. Let cool a bit, sprinkle with a little salt, then squeeze the little beans out with your fingers & eat them. Tastes like baby limas with firmer texture. Bought a big bag of 'em for buck at the farmer's market downtown, from a nice gal named Theresa with a pair of swell muscular gams, who works for Farmer John DeWolf of New Egypt NJ. This week Farmer John was there in person, big old guy relaxing in a lawn chair while Theresa ran the stand. Soybeans could eliminate starvation in much of the world, really are a miracle protein food, but grown so easily & cheaply that most of America's crop is used as animal feed - that is, to grow blood meat; McMammals & McPoultry.

For those who appreciate beautiful women of various sizes in various non-pornographic poses clothed & unclothed. I recommend Glamour Models. All professional photographers & models, from all over America, & nicest pix are probably the least slick. A recent fave is Jasmine, photographed by Kentuckyan Lynn Farmer. Addictive. There are a few links on the site that try to steer you toward porn, but they're pretty easy to identify & avoid.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

WFMU DJ Fabio Roberti called today to ask me to do a fill-in (Thurs. Oct. 16, noon-three). Seeing I wasn't on the new schedule, he also asked if I'd signed up for a shift. I said I have a lot of classical music to listen to & I intend to spend my music hours for the next few months listening to it. Seems that everytime the Program Slot Preferences Forms are due, I'm having a crisis of one sort or another Perhaps I unconsciously time these problems to coincide with shift changes. Only the overnight 2-6am slots interest me now. But whenever I do a fill-in, I'm reminded of how much a regular show interferes with how I enjoy listening to music now, & how it changed those listening routines for 18 years. So much music gathered dust on my record shelves as vinyl was replaced by compact discs. Up until 1981, I'd been methodically exploring classical & jazz. But when one is responsible for a weekly free form program, one is always looking to the next show, trying to find offbeat recordings to feed into the DJ machine, wading through hundreds of new CDs of every imaginable kind of music every week, dozens of them worthy of airplay, many with cuts just too long to consider playing. I always resisted the impulse to narrow my tastes, which usually results in a more reliable radio audience & a lot less auditioning.

It took nearly two years, from 1999 into 2001, for me to relax back into sane listening patterns. After all, I could listen to entire Mahler symphonies & complete jazz albums. I could move into genres that are more or less discouraged at WFMU; opera, religious choral works, complete concerti, chamber music, lieder. I no longer had to concern myself with searching out amusing or strange novelties at flea markets - records that make up a significant portion of my home library. I didn't have to scramble for anecdotes. I do not often create free form sets at home. Just as it was liberating to do free form radio, to create sets that flowed one way or another partly by design & partly by improvisation, so it's been equally liberating after all those years not to do free form radio.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Hurricane Isabel?

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

About half of my fabled record collection is being donated outright to WFMU over the next month. A few of those rekkids will end up in the music library, the remainder priced (mostly cheap) & put out for sale by the station at the WFMU record fair. Frankly, a large number are unsellable. 35% of my collection contains rekkids that may or may not be worth making an effort to sell. I figure to keep the remaining 15% as collectibles, sentimental favs, for cover art, or to put on CD-R. whole or in compilations. I had greater ambitions for transferring to CD, but realize now it's just too big a job even if I had the hardware. I'm a bookseller by inclination, not a peddler of old vinyl.

I've bought maybe five records over the past two years, & pulled a few more out of the trash in front of a local music store. Two of those I haven't even listened to yet. One contains a cut I've occasionally used as radio theme music. Only three, Messiaen's mystical organ suite "La Nativite du Seigneur," an English language version of Schoenberg's "Ode to Lord Byron," & a great o/p 3-disc Vox Box of 19th Century American piano music have spent much time on the olde turntable. These are, to be sure, indications of a middle-aged music lover's ever-refining, conservative taste. Jazz, "classic" avant garde & experimental music are abundantly represented in the WFMU library.

My own collection is weighted with rekkids picked up mainly for radio play when the requirements of a weekly show constantly pressed me for fresh oddities & novelties. After shaking off the habit of doing weekly radio - which took two years & much emotional discord - I rediscovered what truly delighted me: exploring world classical music; that is, what I had loved prior to doing radio. The creative process of free form radio itself was what hooked me to WFMU; I was long aware of what I had given up for it in terms of personal listening pleasure. Once in awhile I could slip the movement of a Danzi wind quintet or some French piano pieces or an overture into a show, or set aside time for a complete raga or Cecil Taylor workout. At home, the Beethoven string quartets & Mahler symphonies gathered dust, for I always listen to these from beginning to end, usually while doing something else. On the radio, I like being in the program, steering the sets, not just sitting back while various wheels spin. Always, I had to think ahead - What do I play this week? It was hard to relax into a long composition at home. Now, when do fill-ins, I force myself to play at least one long piece of music.

Monday, September 15, 2003

The Subculture of the Depressed

I was outside Dunkin' Donuts about 10 pm nursing a small coffee, basically girl-watching (better than sitting in a bright diner waitress watching). A man rode up on a small, older bike & immediately started talking to me. He was on his way home from work at the Iselin McDonald's on St. George Ave. Maybe about my age, deeply tanned, healthy but for teeth. Reminded me of my brother Joe in better days. The man rented a room - a draped off living room - nearby for $350 a month, small house shared with two others, another man from McDonald's & a woman who worked retail at Macy's. Every day year 'round for 5 years he's commuted to McDonald's by bike. Started there at minimum wage, now earns $7 an hour. Worked at Rutgers for many years but was "terminated" for being late too often, while he was vacation at Seaside Heights, so he wasn't able to appeal through the Union. He blamed his tardiness on the long commute & the installation of an employee time clock. & had also worked for the post office. The man stammered more from a struggle to organize sentences than as a speech impediment. He seemed of average intelligence, though only a high school education. & he was blabbing on breathlessly to a total stranger, me. As I may now be blabbing to you. He mentioned other people he knew who had worked at McDonald's & now were waiting tables at Applebees, making "$200 a night in tips," & people he knew who had died of cirrosis whose stomachs had bloated out like "three bowling balls were inside." He talked about riding his bike all over the area, to Sears in Roselle then to Target in Linden just yesterday. Now picking up a coffee, perhaps to drink then or reheat in the morning. In all his talk, which demonstrated an ability to observe, was no indication of having observed the true trajectory of his own life & emotions, of what brought him down to a $7 an hour "career" job in a fast food place (plus occasional landscape work off-the-books); what brought him down & kept him there, despite a work ethic, apparent sobriety (in the present if not the past), toughing it out on that bike. or why working at McDonalds under those conditions should be any easier a job to hold than Rutgers or the postal service, assuming he had supervision. Because even this evasiveness in oneself can be observable by oneself, as insight, though one might evade the cause or evade dealing witb it.

He was a lonely man, with only acquaintances - not friends - who craved human companionship at least on that level he was willing to accept it. Almost certainly, his supervisor's main complaint about him is that he talks too much, but in the retail service world of unreliable teenage employees & constant turnover, an older guy who shows up when he's scheduled is worth keeping, if not worth paying more. Although the guy could probably get more if he shopped his body & time around other desperate stores & fast burger places. Just on my observation, I wouldn't put him in charge of the small Dunkin Donuts outpost at the Shell Station. & could he even handle deli sandwiches at Quick Chek by himself? I wonder what he's like when he's in a down cycle? Or maybe he was headed into one on this lonely Sunday night, & I delayed the crash for him.

America is filled with people like him. Some have it together enough to run a cash register & lottery machine, provided the line doesn't get too long. Some are thoughtful readers faking supervisory ambitions at Barnes & Noble. Some can take nominal charge of the ladies shoe aisles at Walmart. Some just unload trucks & sweep up around the place. I oversaw an entire book department in an arts supply store for the pittance I was willing to accept, selling useful products, rather than having to work inside the Mall or wear a Wendy's uniform with a semi-hysterical assistant manager haranguing me. The subculture of the depressed ride bikes & buses & drive old cars with noisy fanbelts. The worried looking young woman who drove up in the rattling old little Ford, just before I rode home, left it running, ran inside wearing beat up sweatpants & a teeshirt to buy a $5 pack of Newport Lights, I bet she's one of us, too.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

I don't know which is worse: arrogant intellectualism or arrogant materialism. But I do know both must be humbled by deep suffering. Every ill, physical & emotional, that can befall a human is harder to bear in poverty & isolation. It is no sin to point to suffering & demand that it be alleviated with the compassionate application of charity & reason. This "pointing" has prophetic weight, no matter how imperfect the person who does it. The truth pointed to carries the authority.

Friday, September 12, 2003

The dreary season premiere of "Enterprise" didn't bode well for the coming year or the series itself. One more mysterious unexplored zone of space with temporal displacements; one more subterranean slave mining colony; one more inexplicable escape/rescue; one more xenophobic alliance of alien worlds (with, at least, a clicking, insect biped). The show ended with a totally gratuitous scene in which T'pol disrobed, her hands clasped over her naked breasts like a Maxim model, in order to trick Tripp into accepting a "Vulcan pressure massage." I can get semi-nude pix of Blalock on the internet. Vulcan reserve & prudery, particularly toward lascivious Earthlings, being ignored altogether. There are only two interesting characters on Enterprise, T'Pol & Dr. Phlox - the latter the best conceived, most eccentric, & well-acted of all Star Trek docs. In two years, I've never gotten a real sense of the ship's size (100 crew). The limitations of first generation technology - a character unto itself - highlighted to good effect in the first season, no longer have much importance in the plots. Outwitting aliens with superior technology seems to me an important key to this series, as it often was in the original Star Trek. Hoshi is still a minor player. No big-breasted blonde Borg babe coming to the rescue here.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Two years. How the directions of several civilizations have shifted. & we have one of the worst presidents in American history. & all the world empathy we so tragically earned two years ago, wasted. Was 9/11 a declaration of war against the United States, as Bush claims & so many people believe? Or was it something else, an opening to peace; the terror & death that people around the world live with everyday, visited upon us to wake us up?

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

BERLIN, Germany --Photographer and filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, best known for the Nazi propaganda films "Triumph of the Will" and "Olympia," has died at the age of 101.

Leni Riefenstahl's contribution to culture is that she'll alway be a focus point for debate over the responsibilities of the artist, to oneself & to one's culture. She was one of the few first rate talents to put herself directly at the service of National Socialism. Even Furtwangler & Richard Strauss didn't go that far; the latter two were not young. But she stuck to her lame alibi right to the end. My own fondness for the best Soviet era music raises this problem constantly. How much of a collaborator with Stalin was Prokofiev when he composed his almost surreal October Cantata? (Which was rejected by the Kulture Kops all the same). Shostakovich composed scores for propaganda films, on assignment, while he shelved his "formalist decadent" chamber music for years.

On the other hand, is it so good an idea for the bored intelligensia to rehabilitate Norman Rockwell's particular sanitized vision of America? It's still a funhouse mirror.

So much of culture is already a lie, when art compromises, by choice or coercion, in order to stay safely within the boundaries of political & moral acceptability, even when the "norms" of a society are outrageously, immorally warped. & after watching TV series that fictionalize the exploits of the CIA, FBI & other "intelligence" agencies, one wonders if the message involves some sort of 9/11 denial - they couldn't prevent the attacks & they still can't find the WMD.

Late model white mid-sized car slowly pulls over to side of St. Georges Ave in front of the Shell station/convenience store, about 10 PM. No parking, dangerous road. Passing cars honk. Driver thinks better of it, pulls slowly into parking lot & is unable to pull straight into spot. An old lady. She fiddles around in the car, slowly gets out, sees lights are still on, gets back in, gets back out, lights are still on. I walk over & ask, "Are you o.k., Mam?" She smiles & says yes & thank you for asking. She has white hair & is wearing the standard old lady uniform of loose beige slacks, white blouse & pale blue knit sweater. She looks eighty years old & fairly healthy. She leaves car lights on & walks very very slowly to the store, goes inside & slowly buys two packs of Marlboro Lights.

You wonder who those elderly people are - the ones who drive up on the sidewalk, run over ten pedestrians, kill several, & crash though the window of a bakery (As happened a few weeks ago in Wildwood, NJ), then emerge from the car unharmed claiming the gas pedal got stuck? The problem with old folks who drive badly is that the reason they're bad drivers is the same reason they don't know they're bad drivers. Most of them were good drivers before they got old. This old lady, sweet as she is, should not be driving a car, much less driving it at 10 pm on the four lane drag strip called St Georges Ave. She comes out & walks slowly toward car, which is parked at an angle. A man inside, seeing her, quickly pays for his purchase & rushes out past her to his late model van, parked next to the old lady's car, & which the old lady will surely crunch if he doesn't exit ahead of her. He makes it. The old Lady slowly backs her car up - I think she'll hit a gas pump but she doesn't - moves forward, slowly makes a right (safe) turn on to St. Georges & slowly drives away, past the historical cemetary.

Saturday, September 06, 2003

Alice has said I need a mother - she's more or less qualified for that job if she wanted it. A mother doesn't do it, though, for a guy who likes supermarkets & feeding himself, & doesn't mind doing laundry. There are women, including Alice, for whom I'd a make a pretty good mom. Actually, I need a compensating partner, someone who picks up the the parts of my life where I really do go slack. & this "partner," it seems to me, doesn't necessarily to have sleep with me. Which means "she" could be a "he."

I've had only one girlfriend who was as fully supportive of my art as she was engaged in her own, & she was over twenty years younger. Once in awhile Megan came to WFMU with me & sat in the studio during my show, reading or sketching, or chatting on the phone with a friend. We enjoyed hanging out together. She also was a genuine "boardwalk girl" who understood that a long stroll on the "boards" didn't mean playing the wheels, buying overpriced junk food, & going for the $5 "special" palm reading. If you've lived at the shore for weeks at a time, year after year, you learn to pace yourself & separate having fun from being a sucker. You enjoy the boardwalk with some distance, not quite an "insider," but not fully a "benny" either.

Friday, September 05, 2003

Never again will I trust Blogger enough to write 600 words directly into it.

Monday, September 01, 2003

Neither I nor Funky the Bike minded riding back in the rain from Dunkin' Donuts. A summer that began in rain, now ends. The Sun says it's a few more weeks to the equinox, but one may as well call it quits now. I no longer need to delude myself into believing I'm actually going to have "fun" before it's over. Well, I did have a good time twice, not counting WFMU fill-ins. The 4th of July was pleasant enough; I was with a friend for the fireworks & ate zeppoli. & late in August a brief trip to Seaside Neights, the only time I stepped on a boardwalk this year. Last year, I took a train to Point Pleasant on Labor Day Sunday, & the weather was miserable - windy, raw, stormy clouds - no rain.

The one good stretch of weather this summer occurred the week I would have picked to go to Wildwood. Well, not staying in Wildwood was easy enough to accept - only get there every two + years on average anyway. But not even going to Keansburg was a disappointment, considering that there was someone to go with, had she really wanted to. I enjoy stopping in that town any time of year; it's close by & the arcades are open (& often busy) on winter weekends. There are nice bayshore days year 'round, when the temp pushes into the sunny mid-forties. But overall, because of the lousy weather, this was a good summer to have a bad summer.

Tomorrow, I'll pay up my Homestead website bill. They "disabled" my sites today but didn't delete them. Then I'll drop off two rolls of film for processing, all my summer photos. Then I'll make payments on phone & electric. Then I'm doing three loads of laundry. There will nowhere near enough money left to pay the rent, but I wouldn't have enough anyway. & that's the predicament I can't squirm out of, nor should I if I really want a life worth living next summer.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." Thomas Jefferson

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