Thursday, May 27, 2004

No Catholic has been a major party presidential nominee since John Kennedy. A large issue of that 1960 campaign was Catholic obedience to the Pope & the priestly hierarchy. Now, 44 years later, it's still an issue; as a segment of American Catholic Bishops uses Holy Communion - the central article of The Mass & in a sense of Catholic life - as a political weapon. Governor McGreevey no longer receives the Eucharist because of his pro-choice public political view (his private belief may be the opposite). & now, Senator Kerry may face the same dilemma. & not just him but all Catholic elected officials who express a pro-choice view, & all Catholics who vote for them. Of course, the Bishops deny that this is any kind of attack on church/state separation. I suppose that by the letter-of-the-law, Catholic law, it is not. But why has this nation had only one Catholic president in its history? & why would Catholic Bishops, who collectively lean "liberal" in their calls for the kinds of social services that Democrats traditionally support, play into the hands & hopes of the protestant Christian Right? If the Catholic Church's priestly authorities (who are NOT by definition the Church) turned away from the communion railing every parishioner who wasn't in 100% agreement on all important Catholic doctrines, they would save a lot of money on holy wafers.

The Catholic Church hierarchy is really screwed up right now. They have the tragic sex abuses & shameful coverups, of course. & they were running out of priests before that scandal exploded. They are closing parish churches everywhere - many of which would be viable if there were priests to assign to them. This authoritarian exclusively male leadership, which I dislike anyway, ought to be handing over much of its authority in practical church affairs to the Church body, which is all Catholics united in Christ; opening up the priesthood first to married men & then to women; & certainly not engaging in tactics that try to divert public attention from the real problem, which is the Bishopry itself. Talk about choice - hah, the Bishops can't stop making bad ones.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

SUV road bullies think they're being persecuted with high gasoline prices.

SUV drivers are in a total state of denial about the price of gasoline. First, they cannot bear to connect the dots between the gas pump & Iraq; for them, the very suggestion that the basic reason Americans are dying there is to get Iraqi oil back on the market is unacceptable. SUV drivers also cannot grasp that the consumption of foreign oil is not an American entitlement. China is now the world's second largest customer, & they got there without an automobile-based culture & economy. Europe & Japan haven't disappeared, & India is getting hungrier for energy. Sure, Bush can open up the oil reserves. If the Iraq War ever winds down, that will also free up more gasoline & maybe lower prices a bit. Temporary respites. We want the world to be democratic & capitalist, & the more we succeed - in the latter at least - the more oil the world will need. So if we want the oil in a seller's market, we have to compete for it. Which means our foreign policy continues to be determined by oil, & we have to go on sucking up to medieval regimes like Saudi Arabia; & use our military might to secure a Pax America not much different in purpose from the Pax Romana of Augustus Caesar.

SUV drivers who complain about what the price of oil does to their budgets should ask themselves why Ralph Kramden doesn't have a TV or telephone but Ed Norton does.Add YOUR comments here

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Elvin Jones, master drummer and one of the world's greatest improvising musicians, died yesterday at the age of 76.
Peter Keepnews wrote Elvin's NY Times obit. I don't think Peter will mind if I include a brief correspondance we exchanged today. Peter married into the WFMU community via lovely Irene Trudel.

Rix: [Re; Critic John Tynan calling the Coltrane Quartet anti-jazz.] The "anti-" label in the arts is a strong indication that it's worth paying attention to something. Chilean poet Nicanor Parra even went so far as to call his own work "anti-poetry," although it is totally affirmative of the poem. Then his critics might have had to say it was anti-anti-poetry.

Peter: All true, but note that it was not Elvin per se Tynan was dismissing as "anti-jazz"; it was the Coltrane quartet and, I suspect, mostly Coltrane himself, who did have a way of dividing opinion. Even Elvin's harshest critics, I suspect, couldn't deny that he was a phenomenon.

Then again, a musician friend of mine who called to commend me on the obit said that he thought John Tynan was the stupidest jazz critic of all time - quite an impressive distinction.

Rix: Remember the late-Sixties debates about who is better: Elvin or Ginger?

Peter: I remember more than that -- There wasn't just a debate; Ginger Baker actually challenged Elvin Jones to a drum battle, and it actually happened, and some people actually claimed it was a "draw." Yeah, right.

Also, Elvin's one and only movie appearance (not counting
documentaries) was as the bad guy in a very strange (and, as I
recall, very silly) hippie western called "Zachariah." Supposedly he was a last-minute replacement for the performer originally cast in the role: Ginger Baker.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2004

I can't write more specifically about the rehab program I belong to, Bridgeway House. There are always issues of confidentiality & privacy, & when other members there open up & tell me about their lives, it's usually because I've earned their trust. I also hear some very interesting stories in groups. It's not an intense atmosphere like some group therapy, where people can become emotionally naked, & do so only because there are no leaks. I've quit groups for that reason, because of leaks. Bridgeway can be gossipy within the program. But when I meet members on the outside, we rarely discuss other people we know there.

There are all levels of functioning, intelligence & education among the members. For some it's basically a day program, a place to be five days every week. But most members look toward improvement in their lives, & a life without Bridgeway (although alumni are always welcome, as guests or if there's a problem one wants to air). I'm one of a handful of members with a college education, & the staff there expects more from us in the way of participation & "leadership." I have a lot respect for members have gotten through substance abuse problems. One has to be "clean" to participate. Quite a few members go to trade school or college after they join Bridgeway.

The Bridgeway House program has several components; i I'm in the "Adult Day Program," which has its own building. The Director of the program is Dave D'Antonio. A familiar surname to longtime WFMU listeners; Dave is the younger brother of Lou "The Duck" D'Antonio. If you know Lou, & knew a D'Antonio was at Bridgeway, you'd easily pick Dave out. Dave has the same liberal, down-to-earth spirit as Lou, who taught for years at a pretty tough middle school in East Orange. & there's some pretty tough members at Bridgeway House.

I quit Bridgeway prematurely the first time I was in the program, four years ago. I felt good. But I'd set too many goals, expected too much, & didn't connect with the other members. In fact, one of the problems I have is my unwillingness to clearly define what i want to do there. But this time I committed myself to being in the program for a full year, & expect that goals will emerge over the coming months as I discover which activities I like doing. I am switching my days around to pick up a regular art class; maybe I can learn how to draw with a real teacher.
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Monday, May 17, 2004

The difference between Elizabeth & Rahway. If I called Rahway police at 1:30 am on a monday/tuesday night & said there were about 8 guys outside on the sidewalk playing craps & smoking dope, I'd get a two or three car response (four in Linden), & the cops would get out of the car. Probably no one would be arrested, but those people would never congregate again in that location. In Elizabeth, one car shows up, stops about fifty feet away with headlights on the group, & a cop says through the car loudspeaker, "Please get in your cars & go home." Nobody has a car. The group slowly strolls off down the street - none of them live in any of the five apartment buildings clustered around this corner - & the cop car drives away in another direction. I don't know if these guys with the long white teeshirts are in gangs. Probably not; There's little gang graffitti on this side of town.

If any one of the hundreds of people in any one of these buildings - most have jobs & many have small children - simply picked up the phone & called the police whenever there's loud loitering on this corner after 11 pm, within a matter of weeks it would all end, & this corner would become as quiet & safe as the corner only one block north. Word would get around that Cherry & Elm is not good place to hang out. & the cops might get the idea that more regular patrols through here - a mere two each night between 9 & 1 am would suffice - are what the residents of this neighborhood are expecting. Yeah, Elzabeth cops have to deal with more crime, & more serious crime, than Rahway cops. But there's a "Crimestoppers" sign hanging on a telephone pole out there, & one stops crime by calling police before something serious occurs.

Spent evening with Edie, five hours flew by, seemed as tho we weren't doing much of anything. But we chatted. Edie cooked an excellent simple supper (smsll roast chicken, brocolli, stuffing), which we ate leisurely. I did a load of wash. We read & talked about some Chinese poems translated by Kenneth Rexroth. Listened to a Phil Woods song titled "Waltz for Harry" (Leahey)" Watched a sitcom. & then it was time to catch the train from Metropark. Moist sea air, dripping like a saturated sponge. Add YOUR comments here

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Doing a periodic googling of familiar names, noted Christine Dolinich-Matuska teaching four courses at Felician College, apparently an adjunct. But it's difficult (probably not impossible) to get a fix on where her art is at these days. A few weeks ago I dropped off all my piano teaching materials on her front porch in Rahway, since I haven't done it for a decade & don't expect to be returning to the occupation anytime soon. Also left some art books I'd taken with me in 1990. But she didn't get the volume on Marcel Duchamp, the only one she actually asked me to give back 14 years ago. Its absence from her bookshelves is symbolic. Of what? A sense of humor. Whose? Mine.

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Saturday, May 15, 2004

Watching a burning ship
after sunset, flames
on the horizon

a buoy, a balloon,
an August moon.


Thursday, May 13, 2004

Stopped by Jack's Holiday Sales in Rahway to see if
he had any cheap bicycles. Had one, a Huffy, pretty
lightweight 15 speed, had new brake & gear lines that
should have been shortened by whoever installed them,
the brakes weren't tight. But I took it out for a spin
around the block. The bike didn't say "hello, I'm glad
you're riding me." The ram horn handle bars weren't right
for my kind of head's up street & sidewalk riding. Even so,
a bike can be friendly. I pulled an old Sears out of a curbside
trash pile at night, the tires were flat & the front fork was
bent, but the bike had a vibe that it wanted to be rescued, &
as I walked it home it had a reassuring click click. Sure enough,
the tires held air, the shift levers worked for awhile but when they gave out it was in a good gear. The bike was rusty & dirty,
I cleaned it up some &
rode it for over a
year until the worn out
front tire developed a tube bubble & went flat. It's still parked at Rahway Train Station. Anyway, the Huffy didn't feel good, still it was small & light, so I offered Jack $20, he said OK. But the bank balance on the ATM didn't make any sense - it should have been a few hundred more or less dollars - didn't know which recent check hadn't been cashed & I had to consider that I may have less available funds than expected. I took it as a sign not to get the Huffy.

I passed up a very cool 'round town bike few years ago at a garage sale, an old three speed Schwinn, maroon, front & rear fenders, obviously well-cared for, $25. But I was riding the heavy, likable one speed Eurotour I had at the time & I would've had to go to an ATM, then pedal home, leave bike & walk a mile back to garage sale late on a warm Sunday afternoon. THAT's the bike I see myself on.

A large red moped chained up with bikes at train station, registered
with plates. An ugly milk crake bolted to the back, ruined the stylish red look of the thing. It had a mo, I didn't see any ped. It was a really a small motorcycle, like the "little Honda" of the 1960s (I had one for a summer).
Let's make this blog as boring as possible.
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Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Certainly an odd day. Came home about three,
fire alarm blanging away, the tenant who accidentally
set it off poking the handle box with a fork
to make it stop. I told him it wasn't going to stop
until the fire dept arrived with the key. They came
(after a long ten minutes) & found the toggle switch inside
was loose from the guy messing with it,
so it kept going off. An electrician would have to come,
they could do nothing more. So it started ringing again.
I couldn't locate the landlord's cellphone number
& was preparing to call Edie to ask if I could sleep
on her couch in case the alarm kept ringing,
then it stopped. I figured it got fixed.

Then a line of big thunderstorms came through,
strobelight clouds, explosions, flickering lamp,
distant sirens, tropical downpours. The music died
then resurrected itself, a funky organ playing
"I say a little prayer for you." The room was stuffy
so when the lightning went away & the rain eased
I decided to go to out for an iced coffee.
The hallways were dark, & sitting on the lobby steps
were a guy who handymans around the building
& is moving in soon as the super, & little old man
who turned out to be the landlord's father.
They'd cut off the power to the fire alarm
& were waiting for the electrician. Meanwhile,
another big lightning storm came with street flooding,
lights flickered again. When the rain let up we looked
down the street & noticed the traffic was out - power outtage!
Fortunately, we're on a different grid. I opened my umbrella
& aimed for the coffee, but the power was out in Dunkin Donuts.
Beyond that. all the way to train station, everything.

Well, I'm always curious about unusual events
& situations (as long as they're not affecting me much),
so I walked to the big shopping district on Broad St.
& all of that was in blackout, including buildings
with elevators; the art deco Hersh Tower &
A senior citizen high rise. People standing in the doorways
of their businesses, too muggy to get excited.
I went into Dunkin' Donuts & said, "You don't need electric
to make me a medium iced coffee, cream no sugar,"
& got one, But they weren't yet giving stuff away,
like the Baskin Robbins mocha cappucino ice cream
slowly softening in the big round container.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Fifteen minutes of fame today as a photographer, three pieces featured in the Bridgeway House annual art show at Kean University gallery. One the pieces, a shot of Rahway train station at sunset, was featured on the show poster. Didn't expect to be one of the "headliners" & didn't even want to. I don't even take the regularly scheduled art classes at Bridgeway - which happen to be taught by a guy I worked with for a couple of years at Pearl Arts & Crafts - we didn't hide that former association & nobody cared so far as I could tell. About fifty or sixty people showed at the opening, I got a lot of praise, there were refreshments, I put on a tie & wore black shoes for the occasion. I had the only photos in the show - the first ones I think in the six years it's been held, so maybe that will encourage others to submit pix. Anyway, I'm pretty modest about my photos & do call them "snaps" & I take pictures in much the same spirit that some poets write haiku - as exercises in observing & isolating visual images that would appear to be simple - not straining for metaphor. I wonder if going digital - inevitable - is going to "advance" my art or just push me into making snap decisions not about what to shoot, which is fun, but what to delete immediately. An undeveloped roll of film is a lovely mystery. There must be some advantage film has over digital.

Hadn't been on Kean campus in many years, the grounds have really been improved with landscaping, topiary, small flower gardens, even a fountain. The campus was looking shabby back in the mid-90s when my girlfriend then, Megan Rathbun, was a BFA student. Haven't heard from or seen Megan since 1997. My ex's never stayed in touch with me. But they also got married before too long, which means I didn't ruin love for them. Maybe I was a sort of unofficial first husband.

Jersey is having lousy summer weather in May - warm, humid days, late afternoon clouds with "scattered thunderstorms" that might or might not occur.

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Saturday, May 08, 2004

WFMU 3 to 6 am monday morning (Sunday overnight). I never enjoyed this time until WFMU began archiving programs. It was like broadcasting into a void, although I knew there was always a small audience of artists, insomniacs & graveyard shift workers. Even when we started an internet stream & hypothetically the station could be heard anywhere in the world, it was still too late/early, a discombulating experience. I have a lot of respect & affection for overnight DJs. I stopped doing a weekly program in 1999 when I turned down the overnight slot the program director offered me. The overnight shows - most of them are 4 hours long - are good places to stretch out with classical music. That's not easy for an old free form setmeister like meeself, accustomed to moving a program along in 30-40 minute sets of music, most tracks not lasting longer than 6 minutes, rarely ever anything more than 10. But I know that on the other end, as a listener, those whole pieces or long excerpts are fine in the wee hours.

The 11 pm to 2 am weekday slot has always been a favorite, each of those hours has a particular quality as the audience thins (& I never have a large audience to begin with), & when the program "progresses" well, the final hour reaches a musical intimacy that ends a journey & sums up what preceded it, & maybe achieves an emotional resolution. Few listeners follow this process, one doesn't expect them to - I associate the style with FM radio of 30 years ago; but some of my fellow WFMU DJs know what it's about. Unfortunately, I don't accept fill-ins for this air time without having a car - the last NJ Transit train leaves Newark around 2 am; if one is going to stay up all night, one may as well take a nap, do the later time, & go home immediately.

The WFMU building is alway quiet after midnight. Sometimes one is alone for a few hours, sometimes there's another DJ lurking around, doing production work. There's nothing glamorous or exciting about it, unless the machine in the studio, sounding & acting like an old ticker tape, clicks out a weather alert that big thunderstorms are on the way.
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Friday, May 07, 2004

It is characteristic of the moral hypocrisy of the Bush Administration - & sadly, of the United States - that Janet Jackson's exposed nipple & Howard Stern's radio shenanigans generate more moral outrage than the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison. & it will surely come to light that those atrocities are not confined to Sadaam's former torture palace. Donald Rumsfeld says those calling for him to resign are just making a "political issue" out of the scandal. Like The New York Times, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, New York Newsday, Boston Globe, Minneapolis Star Tribune and Detroit Free Press, all called for him to step down. Donald, IT IS A POLITICAL ISSUE! & it angers & discourages me that Americans by the millions are not screaming for Rumsfeld to quit, & that this President stands a good chance of being re-elected no matter how many Iraqi prisoners are sodomized with broomsticks, beaten, tortured with chemicals, & humiliated by American soldiers who appear to be unsupervised, unofficered.

Senator McCain asked Rumsfeld a simple question: What was the chain of command? Rumsfeld didn't know. In the military, the chain of command is of paramount importance, & is not usually secret information. If I'm a G.I., I know who who my staff sergeant is, & our Lieutenant, & their Captain. & in that prison, I would know the name of the top on-post commander. Rumsfeld is looking at the chain of command from the top down, & he doesn't know where it goes? McCain looked astonished.

These are out-of-control, rogue military units in an out-of-control field of operations. Who can be sure now what the hell goes on in the rest of Iraq? It's understandable, if not excusable, when terrible mistakes, bad moral choices are made under fire, in the chaos of battle. But these awful events took place in a secured area, where we are responsible for the safety & well-being of prisoners-of-war according to the rules of the Geneva Convention. We threw that rulebook away & adopted Sadaam's practices in the very place he practiced them. For shame on George W. Bush, on Donald Rumsfeld, on the American commanders on the ground in Iraq, & on the solders under their command who participated in these violations of human rights. For shame that this administration & Pentagon did not act to correct these abuses & punish the guilty - indeed, engaged in a coverup - right up to the moment this terrible thing was exposed.

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Thursday, May 06, 2004

So now that I've been moved in for over a week its, well, what now? Sort the CDs? Hang art? Organize the clothes? (sure miss having a laundry room) How many books do I want to put out? One thing is becoming clear: the other room here will serve as a combination attic & walk-in closet & sometime workroom. I deserve an attic. I may leave two low book shelves in the big room (where I actually live) mostly empty & let books find their way to them - a few already have. Another tall narrow metal shelf now has on it a carousel, Fisher Tune-O-Matic FM radio, & a camel doll. We'll see what else lands on it. & the record turntable is tucked away on the lower shelf of the end table next to the futon. TV is on a small step-bench between two windows. I love the overhead fan; has a reassuring clocklike click, & cigarette smoke never builds up - just drifts out the window. But I'm still now sleeping well - maybe I feel too exposed - for all its mess & discomforts, I slept pretty snugly in the Rahway apt, & the only woman who slept there since the mid-90s - a few times last spring - was comfortable enough - perhaos she was relieved to get away from her dogs & cats for few hours. Maybe it's the time of year to open up the futon, warmer weather. I like living in a "studio" apt. Just don't want all my stuff in the same room.

Floppy disk drive isn't working. PC doesn't recognize anything is wrong until put in a disk & try to open it. It seems to "work" but isn't quite grabbing the disk. Probably all I can do is cannibalize the floppy drive out of my old PC, if it fits in this one. I've been putting off switching over the good sound card because - I don't like tampering with a temperamental but indispensable machine.

Got four or five rolls of film to develop & print going back over a year. I'm curious to see pix of some "dates" to Sandy Hook & 4th of July fireworks. My snaps often have an odd way of revealing how I feel about the people in them; closeness or distance, affectionate or dispassionate - rarely photograph people I don't know or don't like. That is, when I take pix of human beings. I don't like rushing a photo - they look rushed - also dislike waiting & thinking & posing & framing, unless I'm sure of what I'm waiting for. If I don't "see" it, the camera usually gets turned off. But..... I'll probably be digital by end of year.

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Monday, May 03, 2004

Every Tuesday early evening I attend a small writer's group following supper at the Rehab center. Just going makes me set aside an a hour each week to sit, listen, be non-judgmental about others & toward myself. It's probably good that I don't have a working printer, so I have to write out longhand anything I want to read. I'm usually fairly patient in the group, but when a member tried to play a Neil Diamond CD as "background" music - that was too much to take - I can't handle Neil Diamond as background or foreground noise. I didn't say it, but Neil Diamond is a lousy "poet," & that's before one even gets around to the singing. "Oh, next week I'll bring in Kenny G," the person said, when I objected to having vocal music.

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"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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