Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Hurray. Lizzie's been writin' & revealin'. She retains command of her physical body at college & gets hate mail in response. We learn how she came to prefer the company of demonic children to boring adults. She slices deli meat during summer break while mulling over feminist novels & doesn't add her thumb to a hoagie, yet you never get the impression multi-tasking comes easily. It's all singularly personal & peculiarly familiar. & underneath it all there's her private resistance to the heretical, sour Jansenist Catholicism that took all the fun out of paganism (Face it, Italians are happier Catholics), was transplanted to America, drove my own dad out of the Church, & moved my rebellious Irish high school girlfriend (oldest of 6) to the backseat of the car.

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

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

I'm on WFMU today from Noon to 3 filling in for Glen Jones. The show streams live on the internet, then archived for your anytime pleasure. I'm inclined to spin a lot of old rock, pop, & funky stuff.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Decoration Day

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 ........

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

Thursday, May 25, 2006

National Review has list of 50 greatest conservative"rock" songs, so lame & desperate one wonders why they bothered. "Won't Get Fooled Again," released while Nixon was President, is #1.* Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man" is #50 - now we know it's a rock song. Disaffection with contemporary culture & politics, longing for simpler times, for clearer values, for "authority" to fuck off, is not a definition of political conservatism. Definitely not in 2006. As for "Kicks" being on the list, the followup Paul Revere & the Raiders hit "Hungry," composed by Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil, would be a much better choice:

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
Gotta understand
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

General Motors is running a slick TV spot telling us how much they care about veterans. So if you decide to drop $35,000 on, say, a GMC Envoy Denali SUV between now & Memorial Day, they'll donate $100, that's right, ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS to a home for the orphans of soldiers. Wow, such patriotic concern will surely move many to tears & to their local GM gas guzzler dealer.

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

An art exhibit reception at Kean University today, works from a local rehab/housing support organization, I helped hang the show. The Mayor of Elizabeth NJ, Chris Bollwage, showed up, I don't know why, he wasn't part of the formalities or mentioned during them. I pointed him out to the art teacher & suggested he go over, introduce himself & say "Hello." The teacher said to me,"I'm not supposed to discuss funding or anything," like that's the only reason to greet the mayor of a large city at a non-political event, who knows hardly anyone there, doesn't have anything directly to do with funding, & is wandering around trying to get his bearings? "Just go meet him, he's a friendly man." Mayors, & local elected politicians in general, are pestered wherever they go by transparent sycophants & constituents who see an opportunity for complaining about something; property taxes or a barking dog in a neighbor's yard. I was tempted to bring up the matter of an illegal rooster across the street. So if one takes a moment to be merely congenial, they are most appreciative. Kean University isn't even in Elizabeth, although it's just over the border & very much a part of the city's life. Also. most of the mayors I've observed have remarkable associative memories for putting faces & places together long after an initial encounter. (Some are better than that. When Jim McGreevey was Woodbridge mayor, I watched him go through a crowd before an outdoor concert, several hundred people, mostly seniors but lots of others, & was impressed at how many he greeted by name, how well-liked he was, & how much he seemed to be enjoying it. If only he had decided back then that it wasn't necessary to get married again & be governor. )

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

New Jerseyans are hoping the body of Jimmy Hoffa is not found in Detroit. We don't think it will be, since we're convinced Hoffa's buried beneath an end zone at Giants Stadium.

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

Apparently, my vibe was less grim today because several people actually thought
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
many years.

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

I'd like to believe that the opposition "Democrats for Change" in Elizabeth NJ mean good change. But their 4th Ward council candidate's primary election sign is prominently displayed in front of a semi-decrepit house up the block where a guy with dreads & a long white tee stands out front & whispers "crack, boo" to people walking by in the evening. The small-time dealer lives in the house, along with some children. It's not even the 4th Ward. This side of the street is in the 3rd, & our "Democrat for Change" is an incumbent.

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

I wrote about 600 words today because a troll comment upset me.
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

Yipes. Am I dreaming? Could it really be that I approximately agree with George W. Bush on the on the matter of undocumented immigrants? Which is to make a demonstration of increased border security, however impossible the job is, provided those damned vigilante "Minutemen" go home. & give these people some legitimate, safe paths for proceeding toward citizenship. Have to wait & see, because neither competence nor conducting debates in a "reasoned and respectful tone" are trademarks of this presidency or his party. The border governors are still bitchin' of course. Gov. Married-a-Kennedy complains that he wasn't "consulted." Nervous Republicans everywhere are consulting their personal mullahs to find out which way the faith-based base is bouncing. But this photo by Carrie over at Carrie's Bar & Grill says a lot. The huge L.A. march on May 1 went right by her home.

Reading Brilliant at Breakfast over the past week, Jill seems just as bummed out as I am, at least over political events. We seem to share a sense that this adminstration - the forces propping it up - will do anything, however outrageous, to hang on to the power they have now. & the odds favor their success. Of course, the folks currently running the nation have been the dominant players since World War II created the "military-industrial complex" that Eisenhower warned against. But they had only the largest slice of the pie. Now, with the addition of the theocratic religious right to the coalition, they see an opportunity to grab the whole pie, the plate, & the table it sits on, not just for a presidential term but permanently. The religious right is the "morality police" the coalition lost when oppressive small town provincialism - the culture of Lewis Sinclair's "Babbitt" - broke beyond repair in the '50s & '60s. Our society developed too much mobility to maintain it.

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"

Enlighten-New Jersey hosts the 1st anniversary edition of
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.

"Bob is amused by the pinhole camera"

Friday, May 12, 2006

Cheap energy for every home & auto

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Occasionally, I meet people who have a TV Sitcom existence, which is when characters are correctly convinced in the privacy of their thoughts that their lives suck, but everyone is conspiring to pretend it isn't so, or is completely deluded. Some classic sitcoms are so tragic it's difficult for me to watch them. Cheers & Everybody Loves Raymond come to mind. They're as hellish as No Exit. With Seinfeld, the central ironic question was that if Jerry was doing so well, how come he had only three friends & they were venal, amoral losers, of whom only Kramer was the slightest bit endearing - because his character was a yiddish comedy type. In the underrrated Becker every character was miserable & admitted it. The show was set in a dreary Bronx neighborhood where most of the energy was drained away in keeping desolation & claustrophobia from closing in. Ted Danson's character (unlike his Cheers third rate alcoholic baseball player), a better than competent doctor with a Harvard education, was a complete curmugeon. It was a funny show.

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

Some DJs no doubt think I'm an irrelevant geezer - & I am in some
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
the future.

Whenever I do a WFMU fill-in show I'm reminded why I'm not a good
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
record library.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Once in while I post an entry that's too grumpy & brings me down, even if it makes a legitimate point. Usually touched off by something in the news or a comment thread on diary elsewhere, & it weighs on my mind, & writing it down doesn't lighten the weight. So I demote it to draft status & maybe get back to it another time. So instead, here's a link my friend Jim sent for some pleasant photos of the "Monmouth Bayshore and Creeks" by Val Ann.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Vacation Church

Friday, May 05, 2006

I'll be on-the-air at WFMU tonight from 2 to 6 am, streamed live at after which the program is archived for your anytime entertainment. Right now, my backpack is filling up with mostly dissonant music, but often I don't even use much of what I bring.

to "vanish from the page of time"

Here's an interesting predicament because it's about translating language. As a writer/reader, I always want to be aware of when I'm reading a translation because I read them all time, & I know I'm not reading what the original author wrote. So am I really understanding it? What happens to puns & colloquialisms? How does one communicate a philosophical term with no equal in English? Even simple metaphors are difficult - natural images such as specific flowers that function as common metaphors in one culture do not carry the same meaning in another. There is always, always the translator's challenge of a "literal" translation versus attempting to discern the truest sense of the author's tone & intent, which requires creative interpretation. So when newspapers reported that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Israel should be "wiped off the map," my translation antennae began waving around helplessly. I didn't dwell on it. Now, this man is a dangerous screwball, & I hope the Iranian people get rid of him at first opportunity. They elected him as an anti-corruption candidate, not as a demagogue. But "wiped off the map" is a common English language turn of phrase, a cliche always used in connection with a catastrophic event. Did he really say that? What did he mean? Is there an exact equivilant in modern Persian that Iranians actually speak? Or did Mahmoud say "vanish from the page of time," with its metaphysical overtones? I've been reading histories of the Middle Ages that emphasize upfront the total anonymity of life in those centuries, when Europeans had no surnames & they didn't even name their villages. Many were "wiped off the map" by armies, if the places were even on maps - most weren't; but they all vanished because they were invisible, unrecorded people & places to begin with. Two or three or at best four generations hence, 99% of us will have vanished even from the histories of our families, our names forgotten along with the details of our lives. All our documentation won't preserve us in their memories. We will be lost in a glut of recorded information & it is unlikely anyone will come looking for us. How would a competent translator conclude that "vanish from the page of time" in one language could be written as "wiped off the map" in another?

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 is a beautiful time of year, these first weeks of May. It does tend to change, usually from a tad too warm to cool & blustery, shifting back & forth until it's become undeniably summer. I went out for a atroll around 8 pm, an idea of wandering down toward CVS, which is good for a browse & a cold bottle of water. Instead, I went in a circle, enjoying the nice front yards, blooming bushes & trees. A number of couples out for walks with & without their small dogs. No one was in a hurry.

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

I suppose everyone who cares has at least read the transcript of Stephen Colbert's "routine" at the press dinner last Saturday, with da Prez in attendance & obviously angered. Colbert was, to use a cliche, "speaking truth to power." The only possible light humor about Bush is what you see & hear from Letterman & Leno (& even Letterman clearly dislikes the man). The jokes are all based on Bush's inarticulate speech & robotic movement; laugh at the clown. But Bush is not a clown. Clowns are sometimes frightening, but there's confetti in their buckets, not poison. One cannot touch on what Bush actually does without sarcasm & bitter irony. There's nothing funny about Iraq or New Orleans viewed through the lense of the White House. Bush is enveloped by a cloud of death that is only darkened by his religious associations*, & mocked by his corruption & cronyism. So OK, mainstream journalists, let's be like a bunch of frat boy pals at a keg party. We'll laugh when he pukes, & keep on laughing when he drop kicks a stray cat, & laugh even more when he pushes a coed into the corner for a quick feel. You have to lie to make President George Bush funny.

* 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

old poems

Looking over poems from the 1970s I published in various little magazines, maybe I'll find some brilliant little thing I forgot about that I can add to a "selected poems" list. It's a painful process that I can manage only for a few minutes at a time. "I wrote this crap!?" "What was I trying to do/say?" With the chutzpah of youth I was publishing anything anyone would take, & the editors were no better than your poet. I wrote a few accidental gems, but those I remember. I have favorite poets from my own generation & from the two preceding me, & I'm still in awe of these writers. I know I'm not at their level of natural talent or craft. But in 70s & 80s I already saw all around me the results & dangers of mere competence, & the various tricks & techniques for having it. The better literary magazines had better merely competent poems & a higher percentage of them; the college & alternative publications has more failed experiments & more outright imitation. I struggled to be different. The Jersey Arts council used to require something like 20 pages of unpublished poems for a fellowship application, the jurors favored consistency & some politically correct topicality, & I could never pull together a selection that demonstrated I had chosen a particular creative path & stuck to it. Later, when the rules dropped the number to ten, I did submit some pretty good portfolios, but .. I was up always against a few really good poets & a crowd of more socially adept competent poets & I never made the cut.

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

Had my Dahon folding bike back on the street today; it was stored all winter with a flat tire. I call it a "sidewalk" bike because it's great on smooth sidewalks next to busy roads, zips around people & obstacles & brakes on a dime. I attached a small basket to the rear carrier rack & use it for errands, mostly food shopping, & occasionally take it somewhere on the train, never fold it in half. It's a peculiar-looking bike, kids get curious, people from more bike-friendly places recognize what it is. & I'd rather look mildly eccentric than be mistaken for some middle-aged guy who's riding a bike because he's lost his license on DWI; every town has those, & they're still dangerous drivers. But the small wheels make a hard bumpy ride, so I'm looking for an inexpensive full-size bike for those places where I enjoy longer, leisurely pedaling, like Rahway River Park & bikepath or around the suburban Elmora section of Elizabeth on summer evenings. I'm no athlete.

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.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day

Sunday was Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day. I didn't know this until I dropped by Gina's home yesterday & my artist friend had a beautiful mysterious small wooden box on a tripod in her backyard; it resembled a camera except it didn't have an obvious aperture. Gina explained that it had a pinhole with a little sliding cover. All participants shoot a pinhole photograph at the same time (7 pm EDT). But generally it just looks like a big celebration of a marvelous photographic medium. Gina took a photo of her yard while i was there,& one of me (I had to sit very still). She hasn't processed & uploaded them to a WPPD gallery yet, but Gina has other pinhole photos (some in color!) at Bellando Gallery website.

May Day

I support the "Day Without Immigrants." May Day is an appropriate date to hold it. For me border & port security is a big issue, & congress has been dancing around these matters for a long time, before & after 9/11. I've long privately advocated tightening legal immigration to give the United States some time to adjust to & absorb the enormous influx of people who have come here from other parts of the world over the past several decades. But it's clear that the millions of illegal immigrants from south of the border are here to stay, they cannot be deported en masse, it would be insanely cruel to even try, they have families here, children who were born here, they love freedom, & we owe them some justice. An opportunity to earn fair wages, & to live without fear. Their fate is is not separate from or opposed to that of all working people. The Republican Party is not, never was, & cannot be the best advocate for working people.

"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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