Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween II

Three movies that really freaked me out as a kid were Curse of the Demon, The Birds, & The Blob. Curse of the Demon suggested that someone could slip a piece of parchment into the book I was least likely to open between Friday afternoon & Monday morning - arithmetic, & I'd be ripped to pieces by a monster nobody but me could see. I've always been suspicious of birds, believing even the most beloved parakeet harbors a desire to peck its human keeper to death. The Blob is a mindless, insatiably hungry thing capable of insinuating itself into any space except a cold meat locker & absorbing the occupants. But the movie has an uplifting message that only teenagers, intuitively recognizing the deady silly putty was symbolic of mainstream culture in the Eisenhower era, could discern the threat & figure out how to defeat it (with fire extinguishers stolen from the high school), thus saving their beloved diner hangout. The disturbing depictions of a banshee & chariot of death in Darby O'Gill & the Little People struck an ancestral nerve my parents hadn't bothered to inform me I possessed. I liked Creature With the Atom Brain, but it was a comedy. Plenty in real life caused me anxiety; iron lungs, nuclear attack air raid drills, Catholic nuns & holy roller protestants, joining Little League baseball, robotic TV musical acts like Mitch Miller's Gang & The Lennon Sisters, my dad's bug eyes when he got angry (later discovered to be a symptom of a malfunctioning thryroid),

For you Jersey political junkies, The Tomb of Frank Hague.


Monday, October 30, 2006

The Exorcist

Saturday I went over to a friend's house to feed her felines - 4 inside & up to 4 outside strays, & bring in the mail & newspaper. She had gone to the shore for the weekend. Sometimes I just take a census, fill the dishes & leave. Other times, especially if the weather isn't good, I help myself to something from her kitchen & hang around awhile reading a book from her well-stocked shelves or channel surfing satellite TV. With the blustery wind outside, I opted for the final hour of The Exorcist when Linda Blair levitates & her head spins completely around. At one point, there was a huge gust of wind, probably near 60 mph, & I heard electrical popping & saw flashes of blue light reflected through the window. The TV didn't flicker, so I figured it was next door, looked out the window, saw nothing unusual, & went back to the puking & moaning of demon Pazuzu. A few minutes later I wandered into the kitchen & the lights were out. So was the bulb in the fridge & the clock on the microwave. The basement light switch didn't work. This was kind of alarming, given the sparking. I picked up the flashlight on the kitchen counter, went to the far end of basement, saw nothing obviously amiss on the circuit breaker board. I ventured outside, nothing happening out there, only the wind, & the stray cats expecting a bonus meal, but the motion detector yard light didn't click on. What to do? Try to find my friend's cellphone number? No point, she was at the Weird NJ Magazine Halloween Party in Asbury Park, had a room booked at the Berkeley Carteret, & I doubted very much she'd check her messages until late next morning when she'd be headed back anyway. Had to make a decision. So I stayed around through the 11 o'clock news, came home, left phone & e mail messages for her about what happened. About 3 a.m. EST (clocks back), two fire engines raced up my street in the direction of her's & all I could think was, "My god, I let her house burn to the ground. Or at least her garage." For a moment I seriously considered crawling out of bed, getting dressed, & walking the three long blocks over there. But I was warm & the night was so cold & windy. I waited. No more fire engine sirens. Elizabeth NJ would be sending additional equipment - definitely an EMT truck & a couple of cop cars with their distinct noises - if a house was ablaze in the middle of the night. There was an attic fire on this block at night last year & I counted 10 emergency vehicles just on my end of the street. Add to that my anxiety from the memory of an incident in Rahway when I was walking to Dunkin' Donuts at midnight & failed to follow my nose to the back of a large house that became a conflagration a few hours later, sending several families homeless into the street. Power was still out to the fridge & basement water heater when she arrived home Sunday, but then they mysteriously came back on, saving the contents of her freezer & permitting a hot shower. She said she would call an electrician. The Exorcist in 30 seconds re-enacted by bunnies.

Google continues to apologize for the mess it's been making of Blogspot - if you google in search of the corporate blogs that contain these apologies, which are accompanied by official excuses & rationalizations. The outages & periods where one can't publish, or upload photos, or the comment function won't function are annoyances to me, because I approach The Rix Mix as a weekly blogzine created with daily installments; I edit any time of day or night. But bloggers like Jill at Brilliant At Breakfast try to get out a reliable morning edition & focus on daily news, so it's a real screwup when she gets the endless 0% publishing icon or the notorious error java 01 or the dreaded page not found. The suits at Google (if they wear suits) know the Wall Street suits are taking notice of how the internet octopus is bungling this particular investment, so maybe they're becoming anxious.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Lakewood NJ

Leisure Village, Lakewood NJ. 

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

two weeks until college basketball

"I think we shocked the world," Cardinals center fielder Jim Edmonds said.
Why would you think that, Jim? It ended up no more than it what it was;
a weak divisional winner beating a fading wild card.

The sneaky dark horses toward the end of the season were the Phillies & the Astros. The Padres & Dodgers were finally looking halfway worthy, & in the American League the hot teams were wildcard longshots or out of it. The Yanks? I suspect their early exit really surprised no one, even George. The Mets glued together some pitching & the bats dozed off after they clinched. They woke up too late to the realization that the regular season record doesn't mean squat in the postseason, which is not only something every older Mets fan knows, but something we've counted on a number of times with mixed results. Willie Randolph managed by Willie's book, & it's probably not in him to inspire a team to play like underdogs. Jim Leyland demonstrated that the Wise Old Manager approach has its limitations, too: His walks to the mound were interesting interludes.

In the World Series, we accept dominance when it happens, watching a hungry team devour an overmatched opponent. We all like David vs. Goliath battles no matter who wins. But we really love the 6 & 7 game wars between great clubs playing at or near their highest levels, probably the rarest of series, actually. St. Louis didn't shock the world because nothing they did was shocking. Good pitching beats good hitting, & if your hitters are going cold along with the temperatures .......

Friday, October 27, 2006

Say what?

Two "Huh?" stories in the Star-Ledger today; From Newton up in Sussex County,
Man accused of huffing propane. A resident faces charges of tampering with propane gas tanks to inhale the fumes, police said last night.

Martin Gibbs, 42, was ar rested Oct. 20 after a report that he tampered with two 100-pound propane tanks alongside a High Street residence to huff the fumes, police said.

Witnesses who saw Gibbs near the tanks smelled gas and saw blood on the side of the tanks, police said.

Gibbs allegedly jammed a butter knife into the fill valves to allow gas to escape so he could inhale it, police said.
That could serve as the basis for one of the plots on CSI where they prove it wasn't a murder. How did this guy explode?

The other from Rahway, more alarming:
A West Orange teenager, apparently outraged after he failed his driver's test, is facing charges after allegedly e-mailing death threats to Rahway Mayor James Kennedy....

The suspect allegedly addressed several e-mails to the mayor's city account over the past few months, Kennedy said. The mayor's aide Jeffrey Jotz saw the first ones and handed them over to police before Kennedy could see them, the mayor said. He eventually showed them to the mayor....

The Motor Vehicle Commission is a state entity. It was unclear why the suspect thought the mayor has control over the agency.
The mayor's running for reelection this year, & believe me kid, if it was in his power to improve service at the Rahway MV, he would have done it a long time ago. But you still wouldn't get a "bye" on a lousy test. & Jotz already has enough to worry about, like his alma mater Notre Dame winning the final five games.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Here come the Looney Birds

The looney birds are already wingnutting to New Jersey to spread their birdshit. So much thanks to Carrie for pointing to this rational blog post by ace lawyer Glenn Greenwald, Rank Ignorance Posing as Expertise.
"Either the New Jersey State Constitution -- as defined by the governing precedents applying it -- compels the legal conclusion reached by the New Jersey Supreme Court or it does not. That is the only relevant issue. It's not a matter of picking and choosing which issues we think it would be nice for a court to resolve and which ones we'd sort of prefer -- given our subjective druthers -- the court leave to the will of the majority."
I'm just happy the court ruled as it did; now we have 180 days to give complete state citizenship to lesbians & gays, & that, no matter how it comes about, is long overdue.

today show
America's Next Top Model
Good Morning America
weather channel
fox news
Rush Limbaugh

this is a test

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Take the equal rights, don't worry about definitions

I'm proud to live in this state today. I haven't read over a detailed digest of today's NJ Supreme Court ruling; the document itself runs to 100 pages. On first look, it seems to be a very positive ruling, with Chief Justice Deborah Poritz dissenting that it doesn't go far enough. She's correct. The ruling is about equal rights but leaves the definition of the civil contract open. On the radio, one reaction from a lesbian was that her son still couldn't go to school & say her parents were married. This is sentiment. A lot of people in the LGBT community don't agree with me. But the general attitude in this country still prefers what is essentially a religious definition of marriage. Marriage is the button word that drives state after state to pass laws & constitutional amendments slamming the door on any kind of real equality. It could happen here.

The most important issue right now isn't the definition of marriage; It's about protecting the rights of a child's connection to parents, & especially to the surviving parent should one of them die. It's about survivor's benefits - which was spotlighted last summer in an Ocean County case where the Republican Board of Freeholders behaved shamefully. It's about a lot of injustices & inequalities. There are up to 1000 special rights & privileges given by marriage statutes. Now our legislators in Trenton, loathe to act on anything important until the courts order them to do so, will have to get off their asses & either amend the current statutes or write & pass a domestic partnership law at least on the order of the one Great Britain has. I would like to see this law passed with broad enough support to marginalize the reactionaries & homophobes we will be hearing from over the coming weeks.

No law can force churches & temples to change their doctrines; what isn't marriage to them now won't be marriage to them tomorrow. Hopefully, that will change the day after tomorrow. Meanwhile, there are Unitarian ministers willing to perform lovely wedding ceremonies. Florists, wedding planners, limousine services, DJs, caterers, & travel agencies compete fiercely for the business of every happy, hopeful couple. The Court says you can call it whatever you want. But I warn you, the religious right has been such a sleepy beast in New Jersey that one tends to forget it exists; I don't advise poking it too much. The most far-sighted strategy may be to give religionists the word "marriage" & let them gnaw on it futilely while civil rights identical to our state marriage laws are established beyond the possibility of repeal.

Rahway River ParkRahway River Park on one of the most lovely fall days I'd ever experienced (the entire city of Rahway looks nice this time of year). There were gusts swirling up the leaves & spinning them around & I kept trying to capture it on camera. No luck. What the eyes saw the lense wouldn't.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Thoughtful editorial today in NY Times, Trying to Contain the Iraq Disaster.
It's lunacy that President Bush is determined to push Social Security privatization again after the election, an idea that Americans soundly rejected in 2005, & which sunk his poll ratings so much that he never recovered, yet seems not at all concerned with seriously trying to extricate us from Iraq before he leaves office. In January he'll have much reduced support in congress, because of Democratic gains & because Republicans must distance themselves from a crippled duck. If Democrats take the House or Senate, he'll also have a bucket of subpenas on his desk. If he's so clueless about doing the right thing, then he ought to just concern himself with designs for his presidential library & try not to make matters worse.

I always feel far better when I don't read a lot of news. But in an election season it's difficult to resist. & some items just leap out & grab. The midafternoon weather was glorious; cool, breezy & colorful. Halloween decorations on homes.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Elizabeth public schools go Christian

Today there was a stack of slick full color postcards by front door promoting the weekly gatherings of a Christian evangelical group, The Bridge Youth Ministries, at Hamilton Middle School down the street. This ministry is running evening programs in four or five other city schools, & pushes chastity-only sex education. The contact for the religious group is someone named Pastor Carlos Cedeno, which also happens to be the name of a Board of Ed member currently running for City Council. Applications for this program may be picked up from the school's main office & must be handed in there by November 1. Coincidentally, the other day I read that a brand new K-8 school in Elizabeth has been named the Monsignor Joao S. Antao School #31. I suppose the Portuguese Catholics are happy. The Irish & Italian Catholic & the Jewish communities here had to build their own schools if they wanted to name them after clergy & saints. But now a lot of public school kids in this city will be wearing basketball jerseys that look like they're attending a parochial school, & receiving diplomas that give the same impression. They're really pushing church/state separation to the edge in Elizabeth NJ. Should we ask the ACLU now or later?

A "depraved dark disease"

Here's an excerpt of a commentary by Joseph P. Doherty printed in The Elizabeth Reporter, a free weekly published by the local political opposition, faux Democrats but not actually Republicans- the repugs run their own local candidates in the general election. Titled "Princeton University & Hip Hop," the writer apparently was pissed off by Dr. Cornel West's recent rap symposium. The quotation marks & upper case words are the author's.
Although the world of Hip-Hop is criminal and dangerous, those who perform, promote and embrace this trash are also a laughable lot, with their skewed caps, tattooed bodies, earrings, garish gold/garments and jittery-jerky-jungle-gyrations. It's just more negative and nasty nonsense from the minority community that the good people of this country and world are subjected to. I for one am sick, sore and tired of being exposed to this "MAD MUSIC" blasting, blaring and assaulting my senses at every turn. I am also sick and tired of hearing about who is responsible for the social ills that plague the minority community. The old worn out record of "woe is me...it's society's fault" needs to be changed, revised and replaced with the truth...IT'S THE "EVIL EBONY ELEMENT" AND THE "HISPANIC HOODS" AMONGST US ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE MURDER AND MAYHEM THAT SURROUNDS US! And the minority community has the responsibility to get its own house in order. Rein in the madness that runs amok in your streets and spills over into innocent neighborhoods! Corral the crazed criminals who rule your communities through fear, violence and intimidation! It's your own people who are speading this "depraved dark disease" across the land with their penchant for living and dying by the sword!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Woodbridge NJ

Dutch Maid Motel, Woodbridge NJ.
Views approximately the same as those sought by private investigators working divorce cases.

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Friday, October 20, 2006

Advantages of Magic

My literary guru (who is absolutely not responsible for anything crappy I write) loved baseball more than I ever have or will. He was a Mets fan from opening day in 1962, having been a New Yorker without a team from the time the Dodgers & Giants left town. He despised the Yankees as much as he did corporate management & the Ku Klux Klan, & never ceased wishing them ill. He did, however, forgive any Yankee who came over to manage or play for the Mets. He was reportedly cremated wearing a Brooklyn cap. His name was joel oppenheimer & he was a great American poet & a global citizen & he wrote a short prose book about 1972 titled The Wrong Season. The book was written entirely in lower case. It is a tome filled with wisdom. If we were still adding sections to the Hebrew Bible, I'd nominate The Wrong Season for inclusion following Ecclesiastes. Joel was a superstitious man who refused to annoint his superstitions with sectarian significance. He just dealt with them. He was agoraphobic; a short walk anywhere with him in the Village was an adventure. If you're a Mets fan of the type who changes seats at home during games, intuitively times trips to the bathroom & fridge, switches off between radio & TV, & maybe keeps a little jar of Shea Stadium dirt handy, joel would have understood you.

There may be only two teams remaining in baseball continually affected or afflicted by other-worldly forces & by the application of magic on the part of fans: the Red Sox & the Mets. I am not referring to some recent faith system like the Southern Baptist Convention or Roman Catholicism, the former too benighted & the latter too sophisticated - The Son of Man could care less about Division I football - but rather to cosmic energies that preceded the rise of homo sapiens on this planet & which we comprehend even less now than we did 3000 years ago. The peculiar magic we use to interact with these energies accounts for why the Red Sox finally destroyed the Yankees on their way to the 2004 championship (Boston was merely the unshaven face of judgment), & of course why that same city couldn't beat the Mets in '86.

Both the Mets & Yankees received the same simple message this year: the size of your payroll only gets you so far. The Yanks heard it early in the season, & in the usual manner it was quickly papered over with more payroll; the Mets got it as they slipped toward the end. The Yankees were summarily dispatched because, really, their 2006 season, like their 2005 season, was utterly insignificant in the general scheme of the universe. But the Mets are just as important to the balance of universal cosmic forces for good or evil as Doctor Strange Master of the Mystic Arts. But since we find evidence of universal within our locality, the Mets may have lost because they did not remember Pedro Martinez holding back tears, his shoulders shaking, one month ago when he came out of a game against Pittsburgh trailing 4-0 after three innings. Willie Randolph's calm demeanor - he's rarely exhibited stronger emotions than mild exasperation - is fine for the long season, & OK for brushing aside the mediocre Dodgers, but not emotionally or spiritually suited for what was required to win Game 7 of the NLCS. Yesterday's game, though beautiful in form, lacked passion.

Oh, I saw the supplications, prayers & various hoodooisms of the fans at Shea, & they worked to the advantage of O Perez & Endy Chavez. I did my part here as best I could. But in the end, the Mets needed Pedro in uniform somewhere on the premises - in the dugout or in the bullpen if not on the mound; they needed that reminder of every heart baseball's broken through the generations. The situation called for a shaman. Because you have to know that your Aaron Heilman will wrap one in ribbon with a greeting card attached & serve it in the 9th to a .216 hitter with only 6 home runs all year. It just happens. But if you've used the advantages the magic has provided you, it won't make a bit of difference.

Wait until next year? Sure we can!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Cards 3, Mets 1 The baseball spirits did their job, blessed Oliver Perez's unreliable arm for 6 innings, lifted Chavez into the air to foil that home run ball. But boys, after those magics you were on your own. You loaded the bases in the bottom of the 9th with two outs. Then Mighty Casey struck out. Struck out looking.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

"Heather Leather"

Mets 4, Cards 2 The game offered no respite until the Mets tacked on two runs in the 7th for a 4-zip lead. Good thing. John Wagner's turning out to be the closer equivalent of a gun shy hound dog. He almost threw away this one, too. Tonight I shut off the sound on the TV & listened to Dan Shulman & Dave Campbell on ESPN radio because I couldn't take another inning of Tim McCarver's "I guarantee you" know-it-all commentary. The TV image was about 3 seconds behind radio.

A slightly belated nod to the demise of Tower Records. Big chain record stores killed off the independents in the 70s & 80s. Tower came late to New York City, around the time Sam Goody's was turning stupidly corporate & cutting back on classical & jazz. Despite the monstrousness of the place, I have fond memories of driving with friends to the downtown Tower store at Broadway & 4th in the 80s - it was open til midnight - especially to browse the great bargain annex.
McCartney to contest abuse claim
Sir Paul McCartney has said he will "vigorously" defend allegations that he violently abused Heather Mills during their four-year marriage.

The Daily Mail says court papers filed on Lady McCartney's behalf allege Sir Paul abused her and used illegal drugs.
OK, I'm not a fan of Sir Paul. But I'm a guy, maybe I can think it through from Paulie's perspective. I'm world famous & fabulously wealthy, & mind you I didn't inherit this fortune, I earned it meeself. Generally, people either love me or don't give a shit. Me beloved wife dies & I make the mistake of marrying a young woman who reminds me of her. My daughter warns me about this & I don't listen because I'm Paulie. Next thing I know, my new wife has me sliding around icebergs off the coast of Canada. At home, she won't let me smoke a bit of weed while I'm noodling at the piano or sitting outside watching my sheep & the sunset. Strangely, she claims not to have understood that the big reason I love my farm is because whenever I leave it there are paparazzi up my arse wherever I go; fact is, there's only two Beatles left on Earth & I'm one of them. I've been a Beatle all my adult life, it's my job. My second wife was born in 1968. The original title of "Helter Skelter" was "Heather Leather." So the marriage doesn't work out & she leaves. She's gonna take me to the cleaners no matter what. But am I a wife-beater?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Channel-surfing after the ballgame, I saw Barry Manilow wearing a red velvet jacket, his hair styled like Harpo Marx, singing a Frankie Valli song. As for the game, like they say, good pitching beats good hitting. (Aside to Barry: At age 72 Frankie still kicks your sorry ass.)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Country Bluegrass Blues and Other Music

CBGB & OMFUG closed, which you already know if it matters to you. I didn't set foot in the place until 1996. I have no regrets.

From 1966 through 1972 I was a rock musician. My "career" began right after high school when the third chord in "Gloria" was a mystery to be solved, & wrapped up with a short stint accompanying two talentless freaks from the awful David Peel's Lower Eastside group in the very strange era preceding punk, best represented by the New York Dolls. I'm no stranger to small stinky clubs. Or the drugs, druggies, drug dealers, & the sociopaths accruing to those scenes like poisonous fungi. In 1973, I moved to north Jersey to attend the brand new, then-hip, Ramapo College & also to escape the suffocating atmosphere of pre-renovated New Brunswick, where I could not seem to pry myself loose from nefarious past associations. CBGB opened in the Bowery a few months later. I missed little. I knew plenty of students who devotedly followed the emerging downtown music scene, & I let them figure out how to stagger home by public transportation at 4 am.

A few years later I moved back to central Jersey, to a quiet street near downtown Linden & a relatively stable domesticity. My involvement in poetry brought me back to the bars & small clubs to do readings; The Court Tavern, The Roxy, The Melody Lounge in NB, stages I generally enjoyed because the audiences were responsive & only infrequently abusively drunk. & then to one in Hoboken I really liked, Maxwell's, a comfortable pub up front with Harp on tap. Subsequently, I found myself in many other venues listening to friends' bands, in Belleville, Irvington, Roselle, Rahway, Woodbridge, South Amboy, Old Bridge, Red Bank, Fords, Sea Bright, Jersey City, Newark, Asbury Park, Belmar, & NYC. Some were especially stinky, some not. Few had clean restrooms.

I didn't need to pay much attention to punk, new wave or its offshoots when I joined WFMU in 1981. Those were covered expertly by other DJs & I had my own free form agenda, based mainly on my own record collection & heavily weighted toward jazzy TV & movie soundtracks, spoken word, 70s funk, & avant guard music from the 50s & 60s.

I know the initial musical importance of CBGB; three of my favorite 70s bands came out of there; The Ramones, Television, & Talking Heads, pretty conventional tastes in retrospect, but not back then. CBGB never abandoned its original Lower Eastside identity - indeed, doggedly held on to it, & in that rapidly gentrifying neighborhood the loss of an egalitarian establishment is a sad event. Maybe it will go Vegas & become the aging punker's version of Hard Rock Cafe. There, wearing brand new black "Gabba gabba" teeshirts, with slot machines jangling all around, as many people will say they did drugs with Dee Dee Ramone as claimed to have slid naked through the mud at Woodstock.


Sunday, October 15, 2006

Sea Girt NJ

Sea Girt Light

Can anyone identify that blue car?

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Saturday, October 14, 2006

Heat is on first time this season.

This weekend is the 7th Annual NJ Lighthouse Challenge, visiting 11 lighthouses in 2 days. I've been inside only 3 of the 11, never even seen 4 of them. Only Barnegat, Absecon & Cape May are the classic tall stone tower types one associates with the word "lighthouse." But I'm most fond of Hereford Inlet, with a tower built into a Victorian house; it was certainly a less difficult job for a keeper than climbing a 150 foot circular stairway several times each day.

From Overheard In New York:
Buzz Aldrin's wife: "Every woman should control 75 to 90% of her husband's life."
--Javits Center

Friday, October 13, 2006

Pathmark supermarket offered discount flu shots today. There were three folding tables covered with white butcher paper set up in the aisle between the deli counter & a refrigerated case with knishes, hummus, & kosher cheeses. The first table was for filling out forms, the next had a plate of sliced fruit. The table where the shots were given was well within nostril range of the fresh fish section.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

"Nothing helps scenery like ham & eggs."

Snow tonight at Niagara Falls.
Yeah, I think it's very romantic.

As a crew of workers sawed and hoisted fallen tree limbs full of autumn color, Bitsy Kosovac, 68, of Point Richmond, Calif., tried to trudge out from her Buffalo hotel for her morning walk in ankle-length boots and a light jacket. A foot of slushy snow and the howling wind stopped her before she could get out of the parking lot.

"If I had better shoes, I would," the Texas native said, trying to turn the storm into an another adventure in her group's fall foliage tour of Mark Twain historic sites.

Iraq Body Count

Tomorrow I'm removing the Iraq Body Count graphic that's been displayed at bottom right for a long time. I doubt anyone noticed it much anyway. It was always obvious the organization used cautious methods of counting, & for several years it may have been understandable. They had good intentions. I'd read earlier criticisms of the IBC, which were answered by them, if not in an entirely convincing way. But the recent Johns Hopkins study has fully convinced me casualties are so much higher, so much worse as to make the IBC graphic dangerously misleading. Civilian deaths are in the hundreds of thousands, not tens of thousands. Certainly far above the current IBC count of around 50,000. Taking the lowest possible number given by the new study & halving it still adds up to nearly 200,000 deaths, which may be an optimistic number to me. There's no way I'm going to believe White House & Iraqi health ministry estimates.

Nobody knows how many people died in our Civil War. Walt Whitman said, "The real war will never get in the books." Whitman was terribly affected by the thought of dying alone & anonymously, just disappearing, which he knew was happening not only at the edges of the large & small battlefields of that war where mortally wounded men crawled away to die in thickets, but also all across the South, wherever there was hunger, sickness, refugees, the collapse of local government, marauding soldiers cut loose from their armies. Wherever there is civil war, which is deadly enough, there are people who will use the anarchy as a cover for murder, for gangsterism, for vigilantism, for settling vendettas, for personal gain at any cost to others. Such is happening daily in Iraq. The battlefield is everywhere.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Nice to hear a thunderstorm rumblimg off the east. Probably one of the last of the season. This hasn't been a big t-storm year in this neighborhood; someone a few miles north or south may have had a different experience. I know from watching a lot of weather radar that the top & bottom of Jersey had plenty.

For those of us who are paranoid about elections being "fixed" - not with votes from the permanent residents of New Jersey's cemetaries but inside the new high tech machines themselves - comes a bill pushed by Rep. Rush Holt, D-NJ, with strong support from Reps. Tom Davis, R-Va., and Tom Cole, R-Okla, & 219 co-sponsors. E.J. Dionne gives cause for hope in The Paranoids Are Right. Pass this bill & we'll see who carries Ohio in '08.

My planned late afternoon trip to library washed out. Halfway up the block it became obvious my umbrella wasn't helping much. I was delayed by coverage of the plane crash in NYC. Sad news that it killed Yankee pitcher Cory Lidle was also confirmation that it was not a terrorist attack. I realized all the hysteria about dozens of Al Qaeda "sleeper cells" in the USA was a lot of hogwash when they didn't begin flying small planes into national landmarks & apartment buildings, which, as was demonstrated today, would be much simpler than hijacking commercial jets.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

"The dwarf fainted." *

WaPo article, GOP Officials Brace for Loss Of Seven to 30 House Seats. A switch of 30, or even enough to retake the House, seems improbable to me. But my perception of national politics is skewed by living in New Jersey, where our statewide contests have their own transparent strategies & congressional districts are gerrymandered to be "safe" for incumbents just like everywhere else in the USA. A Repug cannot win statewide without placating suburban women - the so-called "soccer mom" vote. You carry the entire state only by being prochoice, hitting a clear note on education, & expressing reasonable views on gun control, environment, healthcare, & workplace laws acknowledging the needs of working woman. Do those, then stretch an anti-tax banner across the podium, & you've got the essence of Christine Whitman's first two statewide campaigns, both against incumbents. This is essentially a "populist" strategy to keep the urban Democratic machines at bay. The fantasy of Jersey right wingers that a "real" conservative could win is just that, a fantasy. Dems pray for one of these screwballs to win the Repug primaries for senate & governor.

It doesn't work the other way in Jersey's weirdly-drawn congressional districts. A contest I consider a no-brainer, replacing the callow, far-right Bush zombie Mike Ferguson in the 7th district with the experienced Linda Stender, who started out in politics as a local activist & mayor of a suburban town, is very difficult for Democrats to pull off. Stender might be the most qualified & attractive candidate Dems have up against an incumbent here. To me, it's obvious she's superbly qualified, a great match for that district. On the face of it, she ought to be walking to D.C. just on the sorry performances of the Mad Fergy & George W. Bush, on the Iraq debacle, & on the collapses of FEMA & the EPA. Her battle is one of the most duplicated across the United States - a deserved Democrat struggling to gain traction on an uphill climb across a "safe" district where there's a lot of swing votes to be had if you can figure out how to swing them. But all politics are local, goes the truism. What's local in the 7th depends on where you live in it.

The two states I consider most like Jersey are California & Virginia. CA has wider extremes in everything, but we're in many ways a scaled down mirror image of the west coast giant in our wealth, demographics & to some extent in our geography. They have L.A. & San Fran. We have New York, which is by far our most important city, even though it's in another state. Virginia is generally moderate/right in sum where Jersey is moderate/left, because there the Republican downstate, rural areas & centers of military-oriented economy "frame" the issues, so the pressure's on the Democrats. Virginia's most influential city is Washington D.C. across the river. Well into the 1970s, when you passed Somerville on Route 22 or drove south of the Raritan on Route 9, you were in a land of very old farms, woodland that had been lumbered countless times, conservative churches, & military bases. As much of Virginia still is. Like us, Virginia's politics are being changed by suburban sprawl & the ubiquitous electronic media. Which is why George Allen can't go down to those southwest counties, talk like a redneck & expect nobody else is gonna hear about it. Jersey reached that point a long time ago.
* Denny Crane, Boston Legal

Monday, October 09, 2006


I decided Gaylord's show would be a good opportunity to dip into the Henry Mancini catalogue, staying away from obvious hit songs & novelties. There are certain albums I wish I had, like Shelly Manne's small group arrangements of Peter Gunn tunes, performed as the 1950s TV private eye would have heard them on the bandstand at "Mother's," the jazz club he frequented. There are countless versions of Mancini songs, but hardly anyone pulls them apart & reconstructs them, as the Oranj Symphonette did on their two albums. Mancini's music for Arabesque is exotique even by his standards, & he rarely featured "action" sequences on his soundtrack records. This set could easily have been twice as long & gone deeper into covers.

What else. David S. Ware's interpretation of "Autumn Leaves" is like standing under a maple tree on a breezy day in late October. There's "Bad Passion," Italian electro-disco with a ridiculous vocal. The sophistication of Freddie Hubbard with Wayne Shorter. The Jive Bombers are known for their "human echo chamber" lead singer, but he sure listened to Louis Armstrong. The Supremes turn a Four Tops hit emotionally inside out just by being The Supremes. A forgotten great vocal perfomance from David Ruffin late in his career ("I wasn't born with a broken heart; it took somebody else to tear it apart."). & Sonny Rollins, & so the program ends on a melancholy note, which is always quite lovely when I do it right.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Bivalve NJ

Oysters, Maurice River

Filling in today for Gaylord at WFMU from 5 to 7 pm. Definitely a Henry Mancini set in the mix. Maybe some Baja Marimba Band, Ventures, Jive Bombers, Chet Baker. We'll see.

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Saturday, October 07, 2006

Mets 9, Dodgers 5
Satisfying win with a fun 6th inning comeback, a sweep. Big payroll team with good attitude. They won with the Willie Randolph method: If the opposing pitchers ain't serving up fat ones, well, everybody knows how to hit singles. Can't say how their starting pitching will hold up over a 7 game series. But I'm not worried about the bullpin.

While I would've enjoyed a Subway Series,I'll have no objections to the Tigers getting there against the Mets. In fact, Detroit played like the Yanks were supposed to play at 1/3rd the cost. The Yankees record of futility for the past six years is one of teams with superstar salaries & reps, automatic expectations, good-to-great regular seasons, & not much hunger for winning the big prize. The 04 & 05 series, both boring 4-0 sweeps, at least featured winning teams that played like they wanted it & were enjoying the journey.

The 10th & last of the fantastic Nimitz-class aircraft carriers, the USS George W.H. Bush, will be launched from drydock into the James River tomorrow. It won't be fully outfitted & officially commissioned until 2009. It is one my dreams to tour a Nimitz. It's a very big boat.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Goodbye Archie, Veronica, Jughead

There are no teenagers in the Bible*; there are only infants, young children & adults, & the difference between them is rather vague. People are pre or post puberty; either too young to be married, bear children, fight in wars, & participate fully in the life of the community, or old enough to do all of those. In work, Biblical-era people do as much as they can handle at any age. We consider the possibility that Mary was all of 14 or 15 years old when she gave birth to Jesus.

Childhood as we understand it is a western cultural concept that didn't fully emerge until the late 18th & the 19th Centuries. The reform of child labor practices in Europe & America was a contentious, difficult battle between "liberals" & "conservatives" lasting well into the 20th century, still requiring vigilance & fine-tuning. Read Dickens. Children had no "rights."

The idea that teenagers comprise a special category is even more recent, & has more to do with that age group as an economic force. The Cult of the Teenager grew with the percentage of adolescents who completed a high school education. When you dropped out of school & went to work, you were in effect an adult, if not in every legal sense. You no longer had the freedom or leisure to fully participate in the growing teen culture. From watching how Hollywood reflected this culture, we see the concept of the teenager become stronger & more defined as a distinct identity throughout the 30s, 40s & finally the 50s, where it fully established itself via television. Bing Crosby, Benny Goodman, Sinatra, Johnny Ray, Elvis, & the baby boomer's Beatles were major landmarks in this development of economic & media power. Our laws are not consistant, there are many legal borders one crosses: various ages of consent, working papers, drivers license, required school attendance, military eligibility, voting rights, legal drinking age, cessation of child support in divorce settlements. Yet we give the criminal justice system considerable leeway in how it charges & prosecutes for serious felonies committed by these adolescent "children."

Seems to me that any strictly "Christian" society leaning toward the fundamentalist end of the spectrum would pretty much dispense with teenagers as an "unbiblical" conceit. This is already the situation in many of America's secretive polygamist & other religious cult communities. Girls would be given against their will to marriage as early as the 7th or 8th grade. Children would again be exploited as an unskilled labor pool (greatly eliminating the need for illegal immigrants). & in cases of sexual predation by an older upon a much younger person, both parties might be found responsible for their actions as adulterers &/or unnatural fornicators & stoned to death. An American Taliban, indeed, yes. They're already here, advocating a literal adherence to Biblical law, principles, & history.

* David & Jonathan? Lot's daughters? Several of the 12 Disciples?

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Such a pleasant evening that I decided to enjoy the sunset & hoof it to the supermarket for a supply of 400 calorie nutritional shakes. I have to look at the drug plan guide & see if my doc can prescribe these, because they're pricy when not on sale.

I recently passed on two angrily contested Democratic primary elections for city council here in Elizabeth, the second one court-ordered. Concluded I didn't care which guy represented my ward. I could reasonably assume the regular party candidate, the mayor's pick, didn't have an independent or contrary idea in his head he'd be willing to express. But the incumbent (who lost) was hardly a "reform" candidate. Rather, he's an Ed Koch type who loudly reminds you he's a Democrat before kissing Republicans. He learned this from his mentor, the late former mayor of Elizabeth, who sponsored a big New York media campaign appearance in front of city hall for Ronald Reagan back in 1984 that I attended out of curiosity, & there witnessed unemployed union maritime workers being insulted & shouted down by local senior citizens wearing polyester leisure suits who had been bused to the event, probably at city expense.

News from one of my other hometowns, Sex club to close its doors in Rahway. I used to find myself on occasion sitting at same table with the owner of the swinger's club on the outside deck of the bar next to his place. He was an amiable man, although I wasn't comfortable around him. Other local business & political people sitting at the same or nearby tables took a live & let live attitude toward the naughty enterprise. The club was patronized by well-dressed couples (who later undressed) driving very expensive cars, many with New York license plates, parking in back & entering discreetly. I expressed my opinion a number of times to anyone who would listen that the club hardly fit it in with the plans & strategies for downtown "improvement." Didn't feel I could write a good newspaper column against it unless I was willing to actually join the club & find a "date" who would go there with me, which was beyond my investigative interests, or maybe just beyond my capacity to indulge those interests, It wasn't the same sort of thing as when I began noticing prostitutes in the vicinity of a downtown Chinese restaurant with a reputable dance school in back & massage parlor upstairs. The city shut the parlor down pretty fast.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


I've played this ancient video game for years without mastering the "hyperspace" button. If you put me on an unfamiliar pinball machine, I won't be a wizard, but after four or five games I'll be able keep a ball in play long enough to make it interesting. Fortunately, the Asteroids, a fixture proudly maintained at WFMU, is free, so if a game's going badly you just let yourself get blown up & start over.

Jerry Lee Lewis & Neil Young on Letterman, a laid back "You Don't Have to Go" with a modest blues solo by Neil. Ol' Jerry Lee looks like he could use a deep tissue full body massage, but I could watch his beautiful hands playing the piano all night. Feel the same way about Fats Domino & Martha Argerich.

Looking over the 9/28 Eagleton Poll (pdf file) on the NJ Senate race, I don't why it surprises me that only 36% of potential voters know one of the candidates is already the U.S. Senator, & that the issue of local property taxes is twice as important in this election to voters as the Iraq War. If your property taxes are too high, complain to your mayor. Not much your senator can do about it except complain to the mayor, too. But the billions of dollars wasted on the Iraq War aren't going to Jersey's educational institutions, federal highway upkeep, public transportation, social services, toxic waste cleanups, or open land preservation. & the big tax breaks for the ultra-rich ain't putting any change into your middle-class pockets.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A voice we aren't allowed to hear

The American Academy of Religion reports that the United States government has again denied a visa to renowned Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan, currently Professor of Islamic Studies and Senior Research Fellow at St. Antony's College (Oxford, England). He was scheduled to speak at the AAR Annual meeting in Washington D.C. next month. Ramadan, a Swiss citizen of Egyptian descent, is a moderate, westernized Muslim. Much of what he says about religion is not what we secularlists (or Christian rightists) want to hear, & no surprise - he's critical of American foreign policy, which our President never wants to hear even from his own advisors. But Ramadan's views are shared by many thousands of loyal American citizens who are Muslims, & he's neither a fundamentalist nor a radical nor a supporter of terrorism, which can't be said about some of our native protestants. The United States first pulled his visa in 2004 because he gave money to a non-profit organization that one year later was determined to have terrorist links. Some of these organizations were operating here withI.R.S. non-profit status, & only became suspect when thoroughly scrutinized. Ramadan had already visited the United States dozens of times, & had even lectured at the State Department. The University of Notre Dame had offered him a tenured position & St. Mary's College had hired his wife, a Swiss woman who converted to Islam when she married Ramadan. The real problem seems to be that Tariq's brother Hari is not so moderate, & his grandfather helped found the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt back in 1928. It does us no good to close our borders & ears to an exceptional scholar & teacher like Tariq Ramadan.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Surprise, it's October!

For some background, read this 2004 New York Press article by Michelangelo Signorile: Liberace Candidate Mark Foley’s glass closet.
The timing is bad, but the political party of George W. Bush is glad to get rid of Mark Foley; the guy was always threatening to become an embarassment. He wasn't right wing enough for them anyway. They'll take their chances with Foley's vacant Florida congressional seat. If Democrats luck out & win there next month, the Repugs will take it back in '08 when the Diebold voting machines are wired up according to the Electoral College Majority Plan. The only way this can totally backfire is if Foley turns out to be an active chicken hawk, which would make the House Majority leadership something like the hierarchy of the Archdiocese of Boston, & it'll be news right through Election Day. But so far there's been no accusations. It's just that a sizable percentage of this nation becomes completely unhinged over a microsecond glimpse of Janet Jackson's nipple, & now here's this really creepy politician who besides reputedly being gay & a frontman for The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children - which itself isn't a problem - also sends sexually suggestive e mails & instant messages to teenage boys & who happens to be a Republican, the self-proclaimed official party of heterosexuality with a core base that is for the preemptive spanking of children & against women exposing their bosoms in public & probably in private, too. Of course, the wingnuts say it's an election year setup by Democrats & the liberal MSM. If the Dems had that kind of media clout, we'd have a President Kerry now. It's an "October Surprise" the Repugs brought upon themselves, & they deserve to get badly beat up over it.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Moorestown NJ

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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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