Monday, May 30, 2005

Memorial Day


This is where we praise things-that-are for their light,
& praise non-things for an absence of light.

We praise things for being where they are,
& praise them for being where they ought not,

& praise them for being no more.

Memorial Day had a special poignancy when I was a kid in the late Fifties. Our parents, who had gotten on with their lives after World War II, were reaching reflective maturity. In our small town, the casualities of that war, dead & wounded, were neighbors, friends, family. Gold Star Mothers, like my Aunt Emma, who had lost sons in the war, were honored participants in the ceremony at the war monument up the corner from my house. The monument, a large granite base topped by E.M. Viquesney's famous "Spirit of the American Doughboy," had been erected to honor the veterans of World War I. There remained many survivors of that war, with their wide brim campaign hats & high button uniforms. To the original plaque on this monument had been added more recent names from World War II & the Korean War, with an asterisk (*) denoting "Supreme Sacrifice." Thousands lined the street for the parade & stayed for the solemn presentation of wreaths & the playing of "Taps."

Memorial Day grew out of Decoration Day, when northern families traditionally went to local cemetaries to tend & decorate the graves of Civil War soldiers. The south had a similar observance. My parents' generation was the last to know Civil War vets. My grandparents called it Decoration Day. They were children at the turn-of-the-century when the Civil War was still The War & every town & village had old one-legged or one-armed or blind veterans. That Memory, which existed in my childhood & added a depth & continuity to Memorial Day, is naturally, irretrievably lost to the present. But some of the feeling is recaptured by visiting a cemetary on Memorial Day with sections set aside for military, to see the rows of small flags marking the the graves of men who who fought in 1864, 1918, 1944, 1968 .........

The last undisputed Civil War veteran, Albert Woolson, died 8/2/1956, age 109, in Minnesota. Alberta Martin, the last undisputed widow of a Civil War vet (Confederate), died in Alabama on 5/31/04. age 87. The last-known Union widow, Gertrude Janeway, died in Jan. 2003. As of 2005, there were 7 "dependents" of Civil War vets collecting benefits.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Free Pot Luck Supper

Friday, May 27, 2005

I won't be entirely without companionship this long Memorial Day weekend. I'll be looking in each day on a friend's four cats & kitten. I went over to be introduced to them today & they were all predictible types:
....The ten year old temperamental queen cat that expects all the affection.
....The fraidy cat I didn't see because it ran upstairs when the doorbell rang.
....The laid back blind-in-one-eye formerly homeless cat with the "Glad to be anywhere indoors" attitude (his female friend, I was told, spurned the offer of a home but still comes around occasionally for a handout).
....& the friendly but insecure cat that's uncertain of its relationships with the other cats, sort of like a middle sibling.
All these cats are low-maintenance & could get by for a weekend with a few big bowls of water & dry food. But the kitten, about one-third the size of the others, is still in the super-curious stage where it doesn't understand that an interesting thing might be attached to another thing, whether a finger or a tail. It needs an understanding playmate.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Today's Musical Composition

Stand quietly next to a pond.
Listen to the birds.
Listen to the breeze blowing through the trees.
Drop a small rock into the water & hear it "kerplunk."

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

"We go towards something that is not yet, and we come from something that is no more. We are what we are by what we came from. We have a beginning as we have an end. There was a time that was not our time. We hear of it from those who are older than we; we read about it in history books; we try to envision the unimaginable billions of years in which neither we nor anyone was who could tell us of them. It is hard for us to imagine our being-no more. It is equally difficult to imagine our being-not-yet."
Paul Tillich

Monday, May 23, 2005

I got an angel named Boney Moroni

How would the Latter Day Saints win converts if they advocated death to everyone whose initial reaction to the Book of Mormon was laughter? Really, the Mullahs ought to wise up or they'll never get shameless uber-caucasian Nichole Nordeman into a full burka, not voluntarily. Talk about the inadequacy of intelligent design: Use Spf 50 sunblock at least, Nichole.

What orthodox Islam fears most (is Islam ever not orthodox?) is the same as what America's heretical Christian far right fears: the feminization of their institutions & the resulting loss of entrenched patriarchal power. If mobs of illiterate wife-beaters are capable of murderous mass-psychosis over the rumored desecration of a book that is printed on cheap paper in editions of millions & handed out for free, so our own sectarian extremists would if they could lynch anyone who uses the United States flag as a bed sheet. Both are examples of the kind of idolatrous tribal mentality monotheism has tried - with only sporadic success - to overcome for 6000 years. & if the stories of Koran toilet flushing are true (we all know how much the CIA honors the religious beliefs of the people it kidnaps) well, what the hell can you expect when we're degenerating into a neopaganized-Christian version of the same theocratic police state advocated throughout the Islamic world.

We ought to be less concerned with what the various Islams think of our decadent Hellenic Judaic Christian post-enlightenment culture - we can't make Muslims forgive us short of adopting Sharia ourselves & bagging, burying up to their necks & stoning to death all Unitarians - & concern ourselves more with reducing our dependence on oil - an addiction that steers our foreign policy. & we need to aggressively oppose the homegrown mullahs & their babbling minions - less than 20% of Americans - who are bullying us step by step back into superstition & ignorance.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Unmoved by May's Molecular Poetry

As an exclamation point, a full rainbow following a brief early evening thunderstorm. When I put together where I was (an open field by Kean University), & the condition of the sky in the west, I thought there could be a rainbow, found shelter & waited for it to appear in the east.

Hanging an art show Monday, opening on Tuesday, gallery sitting Wednesday & Thursday, enjoyable & familiar activities this past week. So why does May suck year after year? It used to be my favorite month, a time to feel romantic madness, nature going crazy. I had to shut the window early this morning, the birds were making so much noise on the fire escape. Tried attracting an old flame's interest in maybe getting together for a meal or a walk in the park. But I should know better by now than to expect a workaholic to be moved by the molecular poetry of Spring's peak, when daylight savings only means one can now labor past supper into the evening. Most irritating about workaholics are their pathetic attempts at being nostalgic for the pleasant leisurely moments of the past; a hazy memory of a few non-productive hours somehow stolen from their schedules - perhaps forced upon them by pleasure-loving heathens, even secretly regretted. They cannot permit themselves to enjoy the beauties of tangled weeds, zig-zagging birds, & the shapes of tidal shorelines. If we do it for them, they condemn us for our frivolity.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

For Dead Sea, a Slow and Inexorable Death

"The irony is that today the Jordan is being kept alive by sewage,"

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The new idiot at Liberty University

Here's the sort of Big Lie now taught at Liberty University Seminary, as stated by the new Dean, Ergun Mehmet Caner: "The average mainline church doesn't say Jesus is the God; they say we all have our own truth. You're pushed to the outside if you say there is one God. It's like being on The Ricki Lake Show all day long." To which "mainline" churches is Deano Caner referring? Methodist? Presbyterian? Reformed? Lutheran? Baptist? Roman Catholic? What an idiot. He fits right in with other neopagan heretics at the Falwell Fascist Indoctrination Camp. (note to Dean Ergun de Idiot: Ricki Lake was canceled last year.)

Monday, May 16, 2005

Project Diana

In 1946, using this strange tower, a team of scientists & engineers at Fort Monmouth bounced a radar signal off the Moon. The lunar echo effort was called Project Diana. The tower was located at Camp Evans, near Shark River in Belmar, New Jersey. It must have a been an odd sight to local residents. A prominent member of the Project Diana team was a young African-American physicist, Walter Samuel McAfee, who now has a building bearing his name at Fort Monmouth.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Fort Monmouth: Circle the wagons

Big local news is the Dept. of Defense proposing to close the venerable Fort Monmouth in Eatontown NJ. They wanted to do this for two decades. My initial reaction leaned toward approval - let's do it & get it over with. But that opinion quickly shifted after a bit of research; & not because of the knee-jerk responses of politicians (repeated everywhere military istallations would be shut down), which ranged from self-serving to illogical. One of the reasons given by the Defense Department - consolidation of related programs & services - makes sense. Fort Monmouth is a small post with no room for expansion, & it cannot be made secure from terrorist attack. I think Monmouth County is economically healthy enough to absorb the loss of several thousand jobs. Looking over maps & aerial views of the Fort, large sections of the valuable property could be used for education & recreation - it sits on the upper reaches of the tidal Shrewsbury River system, & it has great existing office space. The State would have to get control of the Fort & resist selling it all off for residential use. It's a hot property to be sure.

But there are other considerations, some that have more to do with how we interact with our government than with saving money (which is questionable anyway).....

"We're losing influence abroad when we bring those troops home, and we lose the interaction with America when we create these super bases." Gen. Wesley Clark. Fort Monmouth is a perfect example of a small post that has always been integrated with the surrounding community. Maybe less so now, due to tougher security. But you meet soldiers in Eatontown. & these days, you can't see a soldier without thinking of Iraq.

Missions change. In the previous base-closing round the Pentagon wanted to get rid of McGuire AF Base & Picatinny Arsenal. 9-11 changed that. McGuire is ideally situated on the Northeast Corridor, minutes from New York & Washington DC. Apparently, whatever secret stuff they're doing at Picatinny they're gonna keep doing. Looking over the concise history of Fort Monmouth from its beginnings as Camp Vail (available on large adobe file at the website), the Army has constantly tinkered with & adjusted the base duties, as reflected in a baffling number of acronyms & revolving door commandants. The Defense Dept. can do anything it wants with base, at any time, short of closing it altogether.

My main reason for not closing Fort Monmouth is that it's a very bad time to expect the state & local governments to do the right thing. The State is too broke to deal with it, & the on-going investigations & indictments of Monmouth County politicians of both parties shows that they can't be trusted. So better that the Army hangs on to it.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Feeling under the weather this past week, listless, some weird viral thing going around; an acquaintance described exactly the same symptoms about herself. I've been sleeping a lot.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Miller Time over at CNBC

Maybe this celebrity asshole can get a gig on the Christian Broadcasting Network to supplement his guest shots on the Tonight Show. Dennis Miller Canceled

This is not a joke. It is a car magnet & a frightening image of an American theocracy. I ask Catholics, Jews, Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, & all of you who don't go to church but who tell the pollsters how religious you are: How do you like your Dominionist America?

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Yogi Berra at WFMU

Yogi Berra turned 80 years old today. Doug "Give the Drummer Some" Schulkind recalled when the Yog came down to the old WFMU studios on Springdale Ave. in East Orange NJ to record a public service announcement & was talked into doing a couple of station I.D.s, too. I was also there:
That day rates as one of the single greatest shock /
double takes I ever experienced. I arrived at the
house totally unaware, came through the kitchen, down
the hallway, was about to turn left into the office &
somebody who looked exactly like Yogi Berra was
standing at the bottom of the steps. I must have had
the most incredulous expression on my face. So I took
a big chance that the iconic mug actually belonged to
Yogi Berra, although I had absolutely no clue as to
why it would be him, & said, "Hi Yogi." The Face
said, "Hi." I staggered into the office & I think it
was Manager Ken who then asked, "Did you meet Yogi?"

Monday, May 09, 2005


I live under ten miles from one of the most dangerous potential terrorist targets in the United States - a chlorine processing plant in Kearny NJ. So says an article in today's New York Times. This plant, with its unprotected storage tanks, is located almost directly beneath an elevated highway, in an area known as "chemical alley," which includes a busy airport, a major shipping port, & a refinery. Of course, all of us who live around here already know this. We also know that the State of New Jersey has done a pretty good job setting up anti-terrorist & emergency response programs, mostly with State money. Because here, within view of an empty piece of sky that used to hold the Twin Towers, we've been woefully short-changed by the Federal government. It doesn't help that the City of Newark - adjacent to Kearny - is mis-spending its own National Security funding, but that's to be expected from such a corrupt city administration. The biggest security risks have to be protected by regional & state agencies, not municipalities. I wouldn't mind putting a few more miles between me & those chlorine tanks.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Pete Rodino Dies, Led Nixon Impeachment

Man Who Led Nixon Impeachment Dies
"When the rest of us are all forgotten, Peter is the guy who is going to be in history." Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Chatted on phone with my older brother yesterday, first time in several years. He's been through hell since the late 90's, finally climbed out & into secure (24 hour door guard) seniors apartment building near Newark City Hall. When he mentioned the nearby Dunkin' Donuts & the "pretty airline employees" living in the building across the street, I knew it was o.k. for him. He'd resided for years in a section of Paterson, over by Great Falls, that was more dangerous & crime-ridden than it looked. The main drawback of where he is now is lack of a supermarket, or apparently any kind of smaller market with a decent selection & a good deli (ex. Demblings, for my Rahway area readers). He wants to visit me, but I'm more curious to visit him, bringing along some classical & jazz CDs of music he turned me on to in the early Sixties: Basie, Monk, Vaughan Williams. Well, back then he forbade me to play his records, but that never stopped me.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The Ten Dollar Cup of Lemonade

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Wilbanks nuptials held, one day late.

Jennifer Wilbanks, hair & face covered by the traditional multi-colored veil of the Southern Baptist Convention, is escorted to her wedding at Peachtree Corner Baptist Church by an apostle of the Jesus is Love Honor Guard. Until 1976, every woman in that Christian sect was strictly obliged to wear this veil in public from first menarche until thirty days after the birth of her first male child. It is still a doctrinal requirement for sacramental liturgies, & the husband, as God's representive in the family, may insist upon it at home. Although the practice of wearing the Southern Baptist Veil has largely disappeared in urban & suburban areas of the south, it remains a common sight in rural sections of Georgia & Texas, & is gaining adherents in Oklahoma, the Florida Panhandle, & the Republican National Committee.

"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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