Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
It looks like a flowerpot drum. Actually, it's a simple homemade microphone designed to "record vocalizations of night migrating birds." The device is constructed of inexpensive Radio Shack parts, a disposable plate, two plastic flowerpots, plus a few other items. Could be a cool low fi method of capturing ambient sound.
In his new expose book (yawn), former Gov. Jim McGreevey writes that the annual League of NJ Municipalities convention is sexed up, lots of hot pickup action. Heavens, it's Atlantic City! You can buy anything. I don't know what the bigshots end up doing in the privacy of their suites, but I doubt many of the thousands of lowly city employees & functionaries who manage a day off to go there expect more than some free food & drink - & not as much of those as in past years - plus all the notepads, pens, calendars, tee shirts & other swag they could bag from the exhibiters at the Convention Center. I will read "The Confession" very quickly when the library gets it. My hunch is that it won't be nearly lurid enough to please me.
Monday, May 29, 2006
Tata reminds me she's a poet
In the street, I see many things and take pleasure in seeing them. A pair of shoes with the price tag still attached resting on a parking space divider. A long-abandoned house with its own garage and thicket. Police tape wound around a sagging phone pole. Manicured lawns and lots gone to seed. Broken sidewalk, fresh concrete. Fat gray squirrels accustomed to human company scamper up trees for the sheer excitement of leaping. This morning, I came to a corner where an elderly woman and her young nurse stared across the street at two bunnies chasing one another in circles.I might have taken the train to the shore today if I didn't have to take the train home. Jersey Coastline trains are miserable places to be at the end of weekends. Crowded cars, families of squawling babies & hyper children, loaded down with all the baggage & strollers needed for a day at the beach & boardwalk. Teenagers shouting into cell phones when they aren't playing games with the sound turned up. Foul smelling restrooms; stand in the vestibule of another car rather than take a seat near the train toilet. If Amtrak is having problems (it usually does), Jersey Transit rail service is delayed, since Amtrak has priority. The only amusement comes from seeing how affluent New Yorkers deal with their journeys home from Bay Head & Spring Lake, burying themselves in the New York Times, heads pulling into torsos like turtles attacked by ravenous raccoons. The entire circus gets out at the bleak Long Branch station & moves across the platform to another train that may or may not be waiting.
Filling in for Glen Jones at WFMU on Sunday brought out my hidden Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Last time, I played Allman Brothers. Before that it was Fleetwood Mac & "Let's Pretend" by the Raspberries. I freely admit to what I like. Sometimes you have to ask, but I never deny. & the BTO wasn't unprecedented. "Roll On Down the Highway" was the penultimate song on my final show in East Orange before the station moved to Jersey City.
Sunday, May 28, 2006
Saturday, May 27, 2006
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 ........
Gold Star Mother, to you
the honor of a white Cadillac
at the front of the parade.
Then your slow steps
escorting the wreath
up the gray slate path
to the war monument
by the public library.
Each clang of the fire engine bell
is the face of someone's son.
Four old soldiers aim
rifles at the blue sky,
a nervous boy plays "Taps."
They rest there for weeks,
your ribbons & fading flowers.
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.
Friday, May 26, 2006
Ten Conservative "Rock" Songs
- "Tutti Frutti" - Pat Boone
- "Venus" - Frankie Avalon
- "Ballad Of the Green Berets" - Barry Sadler
- "You're Having My Baby" - Paul Anka
- "He Hit Me & It Felt Like A Kiss" - The Crystals
- "Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavour On the Bedpost Overnight" - Lonnie Donegan
- "Tell Laura I Love Her" - Ray Peterson
- "Old Rivers" - Walter Brennan
- "Stranger On the Shore" - Mr. Acker Bilk
- "I Write the Songs" - Barry Manilow
- Bonus: "They're Coming To Take Me Away, Aha!" - Napoleon XIV
Thursday, May 25, 2006
There's a custom-tailored world that I wanna own someday
With a special place up high where we can stay alone you and me
Girl, I'm gonna have it all someday if you'll
Just hang on to my hand
If I break some rules along the way, girl, you
It's my way of gettin' what I want now, 'cause I'm hungry
Sounds like a future Republican congressman's marriage proposal.
Belated Happy 65th to Bob Dylan. Dylan taught me the truth of the statement "Poets understand the Revolution better than the Revolution understands poets." Well into the 1970s the old 60s folkie- lefties kept fantasizing that "Bobby" (that's what they called him, you were supposed to know who they meant) would return to early form & lead a generation, or something. These "revolutionaries" missed what the revolution actually was, & when it occurred.
* The CSI: Miami theme. At the end of this season's final episode, Horatio Caine & Eric Delko were off to Brazil for the declared purpose of revenge-killing the man who ordered the murder of Delko's sister, a woman Caine was married to for about 5 minutes.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
On the phone last night with a wingnut friend (she's 75). She listens to WABC radio in New York (Limbaugh Hannity Levin Ingraham) & complained that those shows are interrupted by "liberal" news reports. I know better than try to argue that radio news in New York is reasonably unbiased; even on the all-news stations most of it is a headline & a few sentences of bland copy, & only seems "liberal" when you believe those talk show jackasses are reporters & merely balancing out the leftist tilt of the four minutes of national & world news you get on the hour. So terrible news like "Ten soldiers killed in Baghdad bomb attacks" sounds like an anti-war slogan because it isn't "Ten soldiers hand out Hershey Bars to Iraqi school children." Her irrational reactionary views - which aren't even genuinely conservative to me - drove a wedge into our friendship before Clinton left office, back when impeaching an intelligent, competent, articulate, & centrist sitting president for a marital infidelity was more important to her than than the peace & prosperity that coincided with his two terms. Now you got it all, & look you got! Wars, corruption, incompetence, a stumbling economy, & an adminstration that pre-emptively invades our privacy & undermines our freedom on the grounds that if a cabal of Arabic-speaking Islamic fundamentists somehow take over America we'll be even worse off.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Go ahead, meet Hizzoner
Sunday, May 21, 2006
This week's Carnival of NJ Bloggers is hosted by Sharon at The Center of NJ Life.
Friday, May 19, 2006
Woke up today with a painfully swollen gland in neck, what you get when you sleep in a draft. I was chilly & wasn't wearing a teeshirt. I always wear a teeshirt to bed, if not an old baggy flannel. It was on the chair. I didn't have the kind of dream that might have inspired me to remove it. Because I took 1/2 an Ambien last night, I checked the fridge to make sure I didn't eat 4 yogurts or a pound of American cheese in my sleep, too. The food was intact & a box of Cheezits on the table hadn't been touched.
My occasional anonymous troll commentator: I think of the few people who know me personally & are capable of expressing mean-spirited attitudes in grammatically-correct sentences without using spell check. Then, the short list narrows to someone in northern Jersey on a dialup ISP, who has visited this blog over 200 times since I installed Statcounter. There's two reasons people in Jersey use dial up; it's what they can afford, or they're penny-pinching because the internet isn't a big deal to them & they don't care about downloading music & other large media files. Oh yeah, my troll is also an early riser. Slowly, I recognize a tone of voice, a very familiar voice, & a face emerges from a mist. Could it be?
Thursday, May 18, 2006
The sausage is in aisle 18
me approachable. On the way to the supermarket, a small car pulled over & a
man waved at me. I thought he needed directions. I'm very good at advising
drivers how to get OUT of Elizabeth. In town, I can get them to the county
courthouse, hospital, Route One, & the large Jewish Educational Center, that's
about it. But he thought my small folding bike was a big electric scooter &
wanted to look at it. He saw right away it was a bike. Since I hate motorized
scooters, this gave me an unusual opportunity to inform someone that they are
illegal on public thoroughfares in Jersey. What about sidewalks? That's even
more against the law, I said. If you can't legally register it, insure it, & put plates
on it, you can't drive it in a public space, roads, sidewalks, or parks. You can
look it up. But, he said, he sees lots of them. Oh yeah, I replied, but not for long.
The man & the woman next to him seemed 75% convinced. But I 'm right. The
idiot who buys one rides it until he gets in an accident, it breaks, or a cop takes it
away. The cops in Elizabeth tend to wait for one of the first two events. In
Rahway they were less tolerant. Stores that sell these dangerous machines never
tell buyers that they aren't legit motor vehicles; one might think that would be
obvious, but one would be wrong. Some people are so stupid that they think the
rest of us are stupid for not realizing it's perfectly within the law to drive one the
wrong way down a one way street at rush hour. Hypothetically, they could be
nailed with about ten violations, most of which carry points. I don't know how
points apply to 15 year olds without licenses. You can't even drive a properly
registered moped in Jersey over 25 mph & you still need to have a motorcycle
license & get it through inspection, which is why they're so rare.
Then, at the supermarket, an elderly lady asked me where the frozen Armour
breakfast sausages on sale were. I said I think I know but I don't work here. She
said, yes, but you look like you know where you're going. Which is true in the
Pathmark. Well, I'm quite sure they're at the end of the next aisle but I'll check
with this guy stocking the soda. Yep, aisle 18. I encountered her later, she had
about 10 small boxes of breakfast sausages & thanked me very nicely. Another
woman passing by asked me if she could get a rain check if they were out of her
favorite sausage flavor. You can if you insist, I said, but you'll have to go to the
service counter & wait in line. There's certain types of personalities that are
magnets to old people who need help with small matters. My dad had it, in a
friendly take-charge way. So did a molecularly pacifistic woman I lived with for
I was feeling less grim because I made an appointment with a local dentist. This is
a major hurdle for those of us with phobias & serious dental problems. It tests the
outer limits of both fears & insurance. You can buy your way past the phobia,
just look at the dentist ads in the phone book, but it will cost you plenty. I just
hope this dentist, a Russian emigre who comes recommended for kindness,
doesn't gasp in shock. But it's better to start with her than going to the University
clinic in Newark, where the teachers have seen everything but the students who
do the actual work certainly haven't.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
5 little girls at the park passing on the fancy playground equipment & playing some freeze game related to "Giant Steps" & "1-2-3 Red Light". I thought those games were gone & forgotten. Three of the girls were Russian, the language they spoke to a couple of attractive moms on a nearby bench.
I suspected this was coming when it got around that Heather had made Paulie give up the ganja:
Former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney and his wife Heather Mills are to separate after four years of marriage.
A joint statement said they had "found it increasingly difficult to maintain a normal relationship with constant intrusion into our private lives".
It's one thing to have Sir Rocky Raccoon defending baby seals on ice flows in Canada, quite another to want to knock that goofy pothead smile off his face when he's just hanging out on the farm. This basically harmless rich guy never annoys me like Dame Elton does whenever there's a commercial for Lestat on the radio.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Then I thought, this is almost all stuff I've already posted on this blog;
depression, my eye surgeries. But I haven't written much about the
weirdness of the big Woodbridge NJ Pearl Arts & Crafts store in the 90s,
running a large book dept. single- handedly for $7.50 an hour (which was
after several small raises), why it was such an interesting, artist-friendly
environment that many people were willing to work for terrible
management, pretend we were solidly middle class, & exist one missed
paycheck away from destitution. Not that other stores paid more;
they also had stricter dress codes, drug testing, & closer supervision.
The benefits were uniformly mediocre everywhere. These weren't union shops.
So I need to collect together some old photos & have a go at it.
But sheese, is there anybody who hasn't figured out I'm on Social Security Disability,
or why? It's not like I had to hire a lawyer & take it to an appeals board.
At the time, I was the one who needed to be convinced.
If there's anyone who knows even some of what's happened to me over the
past six years & isn't glad I'm still alive & have eyesight, they're truly perverse.
I've always been very open about it. If I don't get around to the details so much
anymore, well, most of it is online. Read my poems instead, they're supposed
to be more edifiying than the blog. Or just skip it & download some music.
Monday, May 15, 2006
Am I dreamin
No surprise that Jeb Bush's name has been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate. But that balloon ain't gonna float. We're not dealing with a Bush Dynasty. The Bush Family isn't running this show, & nobody knows it better than Jeb Bush & his father the former president. When George W. is out of office, he'll finally know it, too. Better an incompetent front man who enriches all his friends than one with the saavy to become emperor & keep all the loot for himself. Watch out for the Republican who's confident he can control the machinery that's already in place & starting to figure out how to make it happen.
Sunday, May 14, 2006
A streetcar named "Agita"
the Carnival of NJ Bloggers
Saturday, May 13, 2006
Twice in one week I was groped,
first by a fat ugly man
in waist deep water off the beach
in front of the Ritz-Carlton,
then by Susan from South Philly
up near the Million Dollar Pier.
She was my Candy Girl & I wished
her name was Marlena, two teens
the Four Seasons loved on one record.
But that year was mostly November,
first Kennedy killed, then Frankie at school
swearing the The Beatles were phonies
who would never have hits in America.
The boardwalk was different in '64.
Friday, May 12, 2006
Cheap energy for every home & auto
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
I'm not in a sitcom. My life just sucks. If my routine consisted of always saying my life sucks I'd turn it into a stand up act. Instead, the more my life sucks, the more reclusive I become. No comedy in that. It's possible to figure out from this blog that my life sucks. Or I might be perceived as grumpy. Most bloggers are grumpy. Of all the personal blogs on the right, there's only one I would say is always upbeat; a stay-at-home mom in a lovely house with wonderful kids whose hubby apparently earns a tidy pile of money (Ozzie & Harriet?). Maybe she's jiving, but I doubt it. I leave it on the list for that reason. Most of the others, like me, are complainers at least 50% of the time. They complain about Republicans & other assorted right wingers. A few complain about their jobs, families, sports, or TV programs. I'm about the only one who regularly notes when the weather is nice. I do that because my life sucks more than their's.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
respects, but I least I don't demonstrate that on a weekly basis.
Sometimes I talk too much. I don't play enough rock, or experimental,
or new music, depending on what others want to hear. I'm not an
effervescent radio personality, or an expert in any genre. I have no
connections to business of music anymore, & when I did it was only as
a local piano teacher. Nearly everything I program is presented in a
spirit of equanimity. It's rare when I aim a bright spotlight on a piece of
music, & sometimes it’s for extra-musical reasons. Even the goofy turns
usually make a musical point; I do them because I can but not only
because I can. I'm one of a handful of remaining staffers who actually
did shows out of the Froberg basement studio at Upsala College, & I
was lurking around Upsala for a few years before I joined WFMU. I'm
a bit of WFMU history benignly wandering through the Jersey City
building. That's basically my function.. I’m a comparatively
unexceptional radio vet who stuck around for decades mostly by taking
the space I was given & doing with it what I wanted, & being so
reliable that whoever filled out the schedule penciled me in just to have
three hours that needn’t ever concern them. In my generally
good-natured part-time status on “the bench” I don't have to do much
of anything except remind everyone that WFMU isn't at the top of the
alternative radio world because there's a view of Manhattan outside the
front door, but because it's WFMU, & it's been a pretty elite club for
nearly 40 years. We were winning critic's polls 15 years ago. Everyone
who was associated with the station back in East Orange, in the
basement & later in the house on Springdale Ave, knows WFMU was
a great radio station long before it moved to Jersey City. To do shows
in E.O. DJs were making tediously long treks in from Brooklyn, &
suffering through horrendous traffic jams on the Garden State Parkway.
The challenge is that the station's history, & whatever passes for
tradition there (which is actually a matter of attitude & sensibility
amyway) must not become a weight upon the present or a drag on
candidate for weekly slot; it's because when the show's over I'm not
immediately looking forward to the next. I have no great desire to stay
& mine the library for ideas, or come home, dump out my bag & start
filling it up for the following week. If I did a weekly 3 hour mainstream
jazz program late night on a little station somewhere, I could put
together a fine show comprised mostly of artists I already know,
concentrating on a finding a few rarities & offbeat things, & jotting
down session dates & a few anecdotes, it would take a couple of prep
hours. But a weekly free form show turns into a consuming effort. I
had a very large record collection when I was on weekly, it fed maybe
a 1/3 of the total show, & except for very favorite songs no individual
piece of music from it was played more once a year. Every week I was
hitting at least one flea market, warm weather was a much busier time
for stocking up. I was on a very tight budget, too. That was part of the
challenge. By contrast, Friday night was a cinch. My last overnite was
7 weeks ago. There were six pieces of music of ten minutes or more in
length I was determined to cross off on my to-be-played list;
Schoenberg's "Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte" based on the Lord Byron
poem had been on it for three years - since W's "Mission
Accomplished" speech moved me to pick it up at Princeton Record
Exchange. So some of the night was passed chatting with a few other
DJs who were sitting around through the wee hours drinking beer in the
Monday, May 08, 2006
Sunday, May 07, 2006
Friday, May 05, 2006
to "vanish from the page of time"
We depend upon the government to translate most political language for us, & the Bush administration never tells us anything straight. The federal censors even filter the layman's meteorological explanations put out by the National Weather Service lest they somehow endorse global warming. Bill Scher at Huffingtonpost writes about the serious implications of controlling & manipulating language translation in international discourse, but it's just the tip of the iceberg. & as Mr. Holtaway, my high school senior English teacher used to remind us uncomprehending morons over & over: "The word is not the thing." Try Babelfish
Thursday, May 04, 2006
This was how my parents used to take walks; rarely around our neighborhood, but nearly always when we were visiting somewhere pleasant. They would just set out in some direction, on a road or sidewalk, our little nervous dog Susie running out ahead; it was usually an after-supper kids-optional journey but I always went along. Dad was an observant man, he often stopped to examine whatever caught his interest, particularly if we were in a wooded area. He was especially fascinated by springs, water seeping from rocks or the ground. He certainly didn't know the word "ecosystem" in the 1950s, but that's what was catching his eye - small, contained ecosystems with their own vegetation, flowers & animal life distinct from what was growing only a few feet away. Dad also had great toad-O-vision; he'd spot tiny hopping amphibians where I only saw dead leaves. He loved the beach in the early evening (there's a memory for a summer blog post). Houses with open shades were like partial views of aquariums or cages to dad, a glimpse of someone else's life in the time it took to stroll by: "Did you see the weird lamp in that house?" We'd come full circle back to the starting point or mom would suggest we'd walked about as far as we ought to go, & we'd turn around, pick up the pace, & get a second look at everything.
Speaking truth to power
* a peculiarity of many conservative protestants is how they take the divine "personal assurance" of their salvation & somehow extend this assurance to their decisions & actions, & their view of the world. This is the potential folly of being "born again" in the evangelical manner, that while one may from that moment of transformation occasionally be not right, one is never again wrong so long as the transformation holds. Yet, its effect is the opposite of the self-examination & renewal it actually intends. It becomes another set of shackles rather than a trusting liberation of the heart & intellect. To quote theologian Jacques Maritain out of context: "The attempts at political and social reconstruction to which the pressure of life prompts peoples will not avoid turning into brutal and ephemeral despotisms; they will produce nothing sound and stable -- unless the intelligence is restored. The movement of religious renewal appearing in the world will be lasting and truly efficacious, only if the intelligence is restored."
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
My best overlooked older poems are unpublished, because they didn't fit the kind of poet I was trying to be at the time, whatever that was. Instead, I published all those poems that I now find almost unreadable. When I did finally settle down toward the mid 80s I discovered that audiences at readings were more responsive & local peers showed slightly more respect. Even then, I became easily bored & couldn't help throwing sand around the sandbox. My poetry guru had warned me about this in the 70s & I didn't listen. I was too busy worshipping him while at same time trying not to imitate him, which was the opposite of what he wanted. Eventually I did imitate him & they were good poems. He had predicted I would be a late bloomer, which hasn't happened yet, but since I wasn't setting up shop in downtown New York City (which would've pleased him) he also recommended I get down to business & enter an M.A. (not M.F.A.) program, preferably at one of the SUNYs where he had allies on the faculty who would at least smooth out my many literary lumps & indoctrinate me in the ways of the academic world. But that meant Albany, Oneonta, Buffalo, & huge loans, gawd help us. & who knows, if I had done that maybe I'd now be working evenings as an adjunct teacher of remedial English at a county college. This was solid advice, but he'd attended three great schools & dropped out of them all, & had worked in printing shops for many years before he got into teaching. If you spend enough time sitting in diners with tenured professors, you come to greatly admire their learning while having only fractional comprehension of what the hell they're talking about. They aren't poets.
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
The modest house Elvis Presley bought in Memphis in 1956 is up for auction on eBay. Apparently, it looks pretty much as it did then. Over the next year Elvis became a worldwide phenom & was on his way to fabulous wealth, so he ditched the middle class digs (which still must have felt opulent to the po' family from Tupelo) & moved to Graceland.