Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Coupon clipping with Jesus
FORT WORTH, Texas - Everything from detergent to computer discs is packaged with the Sunday newspaper. So why not Bibles?I have no great objection. Home Depot, Target, Pizza Hut, Jesus. People like a laundry soap sample, throw it on a shelf next to the washing machine, use it if they must & hope it doesn't cause hives. The Bible plan is a huge waste of paper. Even nominal Believers don't like throwing away Bibles. But this book's going to end up in landfills, recycling bins, & in the debris blocking storm drains. The Fort Worth area is already saturated with bombastic protestant religiosity. Only a few deaf, blind recluses are able to tune it out, & there's probably an evangelical mission committed to gathering them in, too. Just giving away Bibles is subtle by comparison, even old-fashioned. I do appreciate that the IBS considers Texas seriously in need of redemption.
A Christian ministry wants to deliver custom-designed New Testaments to newspaper subscribers around the country as part of an effort to find innovative ways to spread a Christian message. But even in the Bible Belt, not everyone thinks that's a good idea.
International Bible Society-Send the Light is planning on spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to distribute Bibles with 11 newspapers during 2007 and 2008. New Testaments would be packaged in pouches on the outside of newspapers, much like soap or other sample products.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram announced in May it would deliver more than 200,000 New Testaments the last Sunday of the year. David House, the newspaper's reader advocate, said he received about 70 e-mails split between backers and those opposed to packaging the scriptures with newspapers.
Monday, July 30, 2007
So damned ugly
Chatting online last night with another resident of Elizabeth, first time it's happened. She resides with a guyfriend only blocks from here. Has a piano in her apartment. She's a lifelong resident. My last question of the night to her, rhetorical, as 1/2 an Ambien kicked in, was, "When did this city become so damned ugly?" But I suspect the change is mostly in my perception. My hometown is ugly now, first hit me that way when I drove around my childhood neighborhood about ten years ago. Some downtowns that had a quaint ugliness lost all charm & became just plain ugly when they were "improved." Major Jersey highway corridors that once had colorful & varied scenery, like Routes 1, 9 & 22, are now relentlessly awful along their entire lengths. Perhaps I have simply lost my patience for ugliness. More likely, ugliness has lost its character. One of my favorite "ugly" places, the Great Falls in Paterson, is now just dingy, a giant rocky ditch except after heavy rainfalls. The strange & eccentric human-made landmarks celebrated by Weird New Jersey are disappearing.
Labels: Elizabeth NJ
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Ocean City NJ
Friday, July 27, 2007
Meanwhile on Himago Island
Mothra O Mothra
If we were to call for help
Like a wave you'd come
Our guardian angel!
Thursday, July 26, 2007
she sits at home making puppets
each one the better life of a friend
when she asked her man if he loved her
he paused before he said yes
which was the same as no
she exhibited her photographs
cats & butterflies
posed like dolls
in a dollhouse
she has no home
I don't want to hurt you
she told me
as she turned into a mannikin
she said I was intriguing
when she fed me stuffed mushrooms
at an art show reception in the bar
I'm just a babe in the woods
maybe you ought to leave the woods
can I drop a trail of breadcrumbs?
she said she had a mirror over her bed
but the last I saw of her that night
she was climbing the stairs
to the room where poets hibernate
when they put white powder up their noses
instead of singing for their lovers
All on the same night, in the same place, a bar in South Amboy NJ.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
My hot night with Lindsay
An Invasion of the Jumbo Squid is all over the news today. Jumbo squid. Jumbo shrimp. Jumbo lump crabcakes. This isn't marine science, it's a menu.
When my bathroom ceiling began leaking in an alarming way, I thought the guy upstairs was overfilling his bathtub or showering without a curtain. The second time it happened, I went up & asked him what was going on. He gave me a song & dance about a stopped up drain. I said do something, & now. The building handyman snaked his drain. The leak got worse. Ceiling tiles collapsed. A pipe joint is busted, I figured, must need a serious repair. I got the handyman up there again, but asked him to have the tenant demonstrate what he was doing every night at 4 am. Turned out he was filling his tub with over a foot of water, & when he sat in it, it overflowed into the thingie that flips between the bathtub spout & the shower head. So my first guess was correct; he's an idiot. He had a thin woman with a terrible complexion staying with him for awhile. They weren't nice to each other. A couple of months ago they had a terrible fight, throwing stuff, around the time of night he now takes a bath, & she walked out, screaming all the way down the stairs. I looked out the window & saw her roller-blading down the middle of the street. Haven't seen her since.
Passed up a trip today with my art class to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. My reason was sound: Lack of patience. Two vans, 15 people, Manhattan traffic, lunch, huge museum, strict deadline for arriving back home late afternoon. Last year, on a one van excursion to Newark Museum, the driver managed to get lost when he insisted on taking the back roads into Newark instead of the easy route. I got about 90 minutes in the museum, a place I know very well, but they hustled me out in the middle of watching a video art installation because I'd spent too much time in the great Tibetan galleries. My problem is that I need time & I have patience for looking at art. I don't like being rushed. At the Met, it's always best to decide ahead of time what you want to see, & give yourself a nice, long coffeebreak just as art fatigue sets in. I've always enjoyed going to exhibits with a good artist who points out all sorts of things I wouldn't have noticed. Also going with someone who doesn't know much about art, so I can act smart without being corrected.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Show Me 270
The three front-running Democratic candidates do not reveal the general election campaign strategies they already have in place. Edwards' is the only one I currently fathom, since it would be drawing on Bill Clinton's 1992 package. Neither Barack nor Hillary have any advantages in the lower Mississippi Valley or along most of the Ohio River. Hillary's "negatives" are especially difficult to overcome. The great relief America feels at the end of the Cheney/Bush junta does not translate easily into an electoral majority for Democrats.
I understand the situations of so many northeast establishment Dems toward Hillary Clinton, that they owe both her & Bill big time. But I don't get how the hell they convince themselves she can become president. Lord knows, "ideals" have nothing to do with their endorsements. Practical politicians ought to have practical expectations. I'd like to have Jon Corzine examine a blank electoral map, with Missouri, the "Show Me State" directly under his beard, & say, "Show me." But he's only expected to bring her New Jersey in the primary. Any Dem nominee is gonna want Sen. Menendez out on the trail.
Labels: THE election
Monday, July 23, 2007
The minor poets
1. I didn't try hard enough, or stick to it when I did.
2. Inferior social skills. My personality has been described as "brusque." But I've noticed poets have somewhat different standards than visual artists & musicians, who are allowed to be taciturn, rude, perplexing, & preposterous. I'm also neurotically shy, using a variety of excuses legit & lame to escape or avoid socializing in larger groups.
3. Radio. Having a weekly show at WFMU for so long undercut my need for the bully pulpit of public readings during years I ought to have been getting out & around more often. I enjoyed being a "featured" poet, but I stopped attending open mic readings. I was alway fearful of having a stuttering jag; open readings didn't give enough time to work through one.*
4. I didn't have a power base. The typical way to get one was to edit a small poetry magazine or run a reading series at a bar or coffeehouse. Even better was having real money to spread around. This builds contacts & gives you something to "trade." Some poets calculate this more ruthlessly than relatives do wedding gifts. Although my WFMU show had the potential for exhanging "favors," I routinely declined - with a few exceptions - requests from poets to read on-the-air (Sometimes these solicitations arrived as neatly typed cover letters with resumes attached). Few Jersey poets I met listened to WFMU, most had never even heard of it. If they had listened, they would have quickly realized WFMU wasn't an NPR station. I featured a lot of spoken word stuff mixed in with the music. All a poet had to do was send me a homemade cassette tape. Some did, from places far from Jersey.
5. Long periods when I felt like totally worthless crap. This could happen at any time, & would last for weeks.
6. I have a perverse love for writing deliberately peculiar &/or bad poetry. In downtown New York, this has long been considered a skill. I've always written & published good more-or-less conventional poetry. Then I ask myself questions like: How would a schizophrenic write about an ordinary night at a local bar? Can I pretend I'm translating a poem from Mongolian to English but I speak only Swahili? What if Elizabeth Barrett wrote a lyric for Ruby & the Romantics? Is there any way to take this poem & turn it into something that would make Marcel Duchamp smile? How do I revise a poem by flipping a coin? At what point does a poem cease to be a poem & become something else? What about a poet? These were matters of artistic & spiritual inquiry.
* I wrote a short poem without "Jonah" words - words a stutterer knows can cause trouble, in a sing-song pattern evident only to me, that I brought to the podium many times but had to use only once as an opener. If I'm having a rough radio show, there's more ums & ahs in my speech.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Light My Fire
The Doors at Asbury Park Convention Hall.
I saw The Doors at Convention Hall, but it wasn't this date (8/68). The summer 1967 performance I went to, The Doors had been hastily booked in place of a Lou Rawls show, on the basis of the monster hit "Light My Fire." The Hall wasn't sold out. I brought my beautiful 16 year old girlfriend, who took ballet classes 4 days a week, was always up for a night on a boardwalk, & lit my fire frequently. She loved it. The experience totally changed my idea of what a rock band could be, & I immediately bullied my garage band into adding almost the entire first Doors LP to our repertoire (not "The End"). I recall members of Rawls' ace group, who'd had their second show canceled so The Doors could perform, standing at the rear of Convention Hall looking utterly baffled as Jim Morrison - still a gift from the Almighty & not yet a dick-waving drool drunk - squirmed around the stage & rubbed himself against organist Ray Manzarek. Magical.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Harry Lives Voldemort Dies
I watched Little Miss Sunshine, a lovely movie with a bleak heart, optimism on the surface, no hope underneath. The actual pageant is insane. But those little girls, including Olive Hoover, feigning a sexuality they can't comprehend, are later convinced they can win American Idol, or at least become Miss New Jersey. The latter is a possibility. It's considered a "small" movie, yet the production credits at the end list hundreds of names, they all got paid, most of them belong to unions. Small is eight-million dollars & no big stars.
Labels: Elizabeth NJ
Friday, July 20, 2007
The only comparable experience I've had was when a flute playing music major from Montclair State stopped a party with her virtuoso demonstration of the full sonic range of an empty beer bottle.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
"Peter's Two Dads" from Family Guy.If there were Emmys for original TV series music themes, maybe we'd hear some good ones again. Like Hawaii 5-0.
"Dick In A Box" performed by Justin Timberlake on SNL.
"Everything Comes Down to Poo" from Scrubs.
"Guy Love" from Scrubs.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
A destructive riot occurred in Plainfield NJ 30 years ago this week.. It was rooted in a mediocre, unresponsive government & the empty shell of a class structure left over from when the city had a resident, wealthy bourgeoisie at the top of the social order. There was a long-standing blindness in the city government to entrenched black poverty, & to the glaring under-representation of blacks in city services & agencies. The school system was stumbling badly. I recall Plainfield back then as looking & feeling segregated, or maybe I was sensing that obvious realities weren't being acknowledged. This was the sorry situation in many Jersey communities, but it was out in the open in Plainfield where anyone could see it. All one had to do was drive from one end of the city to the other to know it. The fuse was lit on Friday night by a crowd of 30 or 40 unruly black teenagers at very tense time - the weekend of the Newark riots. When trouble started again Saturday night, a rainstorm quenched it - talk about luck or divine intervention. There was still hope. Then, Union County Police failed to understand that a city-organized public meeting in a county park on Sunday was crucial for defusing a dangerous situation. The meeting was broken up, a racist decision, & one the County Police - in that era more experienced at confiscating beer & chasing necking teenagers out of parking lots - should not have been allowed to make. When a Plainfield policeman was killed by a mob that night, it was too late. It was so unnecessary, so wasteful, so stupid. All it accomplished was to speed up the exodus of the middle class & retail businesses, & bring on decades of decline & more mismanagment: There have been periods when the Plainfield government has seemed literally clueless, like it believed it had to reinvent the wheel. As an example of botched renewal planning, a gaping hole downtown, an enormous vacant lot, compared for sheer ugliness with Wildwood's deserted pedestrian mall & the massive steel skeleton looming over Ocean Ave. in Asbury Park
I'm not trying to downplay conditions or simplify events in Plainfield in 1967. They were far outside my naive experiences. But the city had less in common with Newark than it did with Somerville, New Brunswick, Asbury Park, Rahway, even Red Bank. It was a manageable-sized city with strengths. In 1967, Plainfield had a solid middle class, white & black, not yet inclined to abandon the city en masse; good single family housing stock (still does); a struggling but attractive retail district with a concentration of historical buildings, churches, & large Victorian houses; a hospital; a newspaper; several beautiful parks; & a tradition of civic pride. The city had a substantial working class. There was also a lot of money in nearby towns of Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Mountainside, Sterling, Westfield, & Berkeley Heights. Without a major riot, which many, many people living there at the time agree was avoidable (unlike Newark, which I now believe was inevitable), more destructive to the spirit than to property, it's not difficult to imagine Plainfield's central business district making a turnaround in the 80s, community-initiated programs & solutions taking hold sooner than they have, & the history of Plainfield finding a different direction.
I owe much to some very nice folks in Plainfield's city government. To this day, you meet people from Plainfield who tell you they "love" the city; people who moved there recently & people who have lived there all their lives. It's always been that kind of town The summer of 1967 broke a lot of hearts in Plainfield NJ.
Labels: bully pulpit
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Here's the main BBC proms page.
It can be a bit confusing, as the proms programs are listed by number, program notes are a separate page. You get the entire concert, including announcer & intermission, but the approximate lengths of the individual pieces are provided, so it's not too difficult to jump ahead. The best place to start is probably the "proms by composer" listing.
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Rig-Veda in the Senate
July 12, 2007; Washington, DC - History was created today when the United States Senate opened its session with Gayatri Mantra from Rig-Veda, the oldest Hindu text composed around 1,500 BCE.Good news is that America hardly took notice. Also that some prominent Christian wingers now feel alienated from all 100 senators, not just the Democrats. A small but significant symbolic event. If our legislative bodies insist on opening their sessions with prayer, a dubious practice anyway, they certainly can't limit it to prayers from Christians & Jews.
This was the first Hindu prayer ever delivered on the Senate floor since its formation in 1789.
Senator Robert P. Casey of Pennsylvania introduced Rajan Zed, a Hindu chaplain from Reno, Nevada.
Before starting the Senate prayer, Zed sprinkled around the podium, few drops of water from Ganges River of India, considered holy in Hinduism.
Zed’s prayer included recitations from Brahadaranyakopanisad and Tattiriya Upanisad. Reading from third chapter of Bhagavad-Gita (Song of the Lord), the famous philosophical and spiritual poem often considered the epitome of Hinduism, he urged Senators to strive constantly to serve the welfare of the world, performing their duties with the welfare of others always in mind, because by devotion to selfless work one attains the supreme goal of life. May they work carefully and wisely, guided by compassion, and without thought for themselves, he added. [my italics]
Friday, July 13, 2007
Delivery to Newark
On the afternoon of July 13, a warm Thursday, I had a single delivery, a few heavy boxes of sheet metal screws to a machine shop in Newark somewhere around the edge of the Central Ward, arriving there a little after two pm. It was tough neighborhood of rundown houses & hard-pressed small businesses in old brick buildings, but not scary. The street had potholes & trees. I'd been there before, so rather than go through the hassle of backing up to a crumbling loading dock, I decided to park on the street & hand truck the boxes through the front door, past the office, & directly on to the shop floor. Then I'd head to the Dairy Queen in Cranford, a summer hangout for cute high school girls, & have a root beer float before going back to the store & setting up the next morning's run. Why do I remember this so clearly?
After I'd dropped off the boxes, stashed the hand truck, & was about to climb into the driver's seat, I heard a woman say, "Hey, white boy." I turned & saw an old black woman sitting in a rocking chair on a porch across the street. She was very old, wizened even, with uncombed gray hair, a crone.
"Yeah?" I said.
"You all done here?" she asked.
"Yes I am," I said. "Going home."
"Good. Now you listen to me, you get out of town right away, don't be hanging around."
I had no idea what she was talking about. I nodded, got in the truck, & went to the Dairy Queen.
How did she know? Wednesday night there had been a limited disturbance in Newark over a false story that a black cabdriver had been beaten to death by white cops, some windows broken, some looting. Heard about it on the radio, it was over. The "riot" didn't begin until Thursday night.
By lunchtime Friday, crazy rumors were going around Roselle Park, a small, all-white town about five air miles southwest of the Newark border, but much more distant in every other way. News reports were wildly inaccurate, contradictory. But it was all bad news. Newark was turning into something like Watts in 1965. At the little Spa Diner, a customer seriously said there were caravans of armed black men headed for suburban Union County. Outside agitators in Elizabeth. Trenton, Atlantic City, Paterson all gonna go. Yeah, right. Paranoid bullshit. Fear. Whoever was already in that part of Newark wasn't gonna get out of it. More bothersome to me was that my rock band had a gig that Saturday night at a Rutgers-Newark frat house. It was canceled. We never again accepted a job in Newark. Fear. There were no deliveries to the machine shop in August, probably because it was a minor account & the road salesman wouldn't go there anymore. Fear. I left the employ of Brown Hardware in late August & without enthusiasm enrolled in Bloomfield College full-time. I wanted to keep the driving job & go to night school at a junior college, but I needed the student draft deferment. That was fear, too.*
In 1995, I went to see Allen Ginsberg & Amiri Baraka reading together at Essex County Community College in Newark. It was a great night, two old poet friends on stage, both with deep roots in Newark. They sat at a table afterward & signed books. They were both tired, Amiri hardly looking up to see who was standing in front of him. I slid a copy of his book, Raise, Race, Rays, Raze across the table. It's an out-of-print paperback collection of prose pieces that includes essays about those insane nights & days in 1967 when the State of New Jersey declared open warfare on the black people of Newark, people even an 18 year old, naive white kid knew had never not been under siege. Amiri looked at the book, looked at me, looked at the book again, & said, "Man, you're old." He autographed it. Allen glanced over, saw the book, & chuckled.
* Although this was nothing compared to being drafted, it was the point at which the Vietnam War forced me in a direction I didn't want to go, & not the best direction. Working & part-time school was a sensible arrangement for me. I knew it. But that's another narrative.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Rick Perlstein remembers Lady Bird with an account of a risky campaign trip she took through the South on behalf of LBJ in 1964.
I recalled my parents buying an air conditioner back when it was a major appliance purchase, like a washing machine, & installing it in their bedroom window. None of us kids thought that was unfair, but it didn't prevent envy. We had ancient swivel fans in our bedrooms, indestructible metal things about as effective at stirring up the air as waving a comic book around. They made repetitive clacking sounds as they swiveled, which either put us to sleep or in my case kept me awake. About every 30 seconds one of those fans would send a brief, faint breeze as it pointed toward the bed. We were reminded that the bosses were snoozing contentedly under a light blanket whenever we went to the bathroom, directly across from their tightly shut door, to splash some cool water on face & neck.
Even now, most older houses don't have central air. Maybe a hole is cut in a first floor outside wall & a large unit shoved in it, as a few of my acquaintances have done. It's not very efficient but it usually works. The bedrooms need their own a/c, & if you have small children you have to keep adjusting the temp & making sure the kids aren't sleeping in the path of an arctic wind. A divorcee I used to visit checked her restless 4 year old's room habitually on the half-hour during TV commercial breaks, even though the thermostat seemed to work pretty good. & always remember to turn them off in the morning, or the electric bill will remind you too late.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
for awhile, prematurely tall,
flat as the world was, a hamster
your living doll turning a wheel
a farm where the future lives,
cows, butthead goat, chickens
are insane, a horse of course
to ride over dandelions
your daddy's a decent guy,
he can fix anything,
my heart is stale white bread,
the earth is real estate
Monday, July 09, 2007
Her Grandpa's Request
This 19th Century concert & parlor music is light classical music, usually imitative of European late romantic music, intended as professional piano recital showpieces or for performance at home by fairly accomplished amateur pianists; the latter were abundant in the growing American middle class before the era of recorded music (& parties often did feature tedious musical performances). The music has disappeared, the good tossed out with the (mostly) bad. But I inherited my dad's proclivity for rooting around in the nooks & crannies of history, & his indifference to contemporary standards of taste (an indifference I proudly put on display every time I do a radio show). Why an ailing old man asked for this particular obscure piece of piano music to be played at his funeral remains unexplained. "The Storm" must have fallen out of the piano repertoire nearly 100 years ago.
My pc isn't equipped for vinyl-digital transfers & I don't miss it, except for right now. I could turn "The Storm" into an mp3 at WFMU or get someone there to do it for me, but I don't go up to Jersey City much. So what else can i do? In the meantime, I tracked down a couple of copies of the albums at eBay available as buy-it-now items & sent that link (there's only one available today....). But I'm not satisfied, not satisfied at all.
The first few years I went to Wildwood, I stayed near the boardwalk trying to relive my childhood & made the gawdawful trek across about a mile of stagnant swampland, quicksand, & desert to get the ocean. You couldn't think of just taking a stroll down there to kick your feet around in the water, doing something else for awhile like going to the zoo or the big funky shell shop, & coming back later. You had to do the whole production like the people who set up a campsite for the day, bringing along everything except a personal port-o-potty. You still had to hike to the boardwalk for that when you may have considered it a perfect excuse to go all the way back to your digs & spending some quality alone time in quiet cool bathroom with a Philadephia newspaper (I see The Contrarian nodding his head in assent). So I finally said, enough, & moved uptown to a narrower beach where the old-timers & locals tossed their towels without fear of them being stolen, & the lifeguards didn't have to act like cops, & interesting water birds weren't instantly hunted down by nasty little kids armed with plastic buckets & shovels who had never been shown by their parents how to build sand castles with tunnels & moats.
Sunday, July 08, 2007
Rose Haven Motel
Saturday, July 07, 2007
Live Earth is the sort of event fabulously rich celebrities & capitalist technocrats like to organize for themselves every few years. I wonder if Al Gore could have inspired it had he not won an Academy Award, which is what made him one of them. The old Al Gore was a brainy, rumpled, but likable former Vice President still existing in the shadow of a superstar named Bill Clinton. For the organizers, the fundamental challenge isn't to reverse global warming but to successfully use & demonstrate technology. & what better way to do that than with a series of coordinated live concerts from around the world, slickly-produced, broadcast on TV & on the web, edited on the fly as a primetime variety show? Stir in slightly offbeat short "message" films as commercials. & give everyone an opportunity to be part of the event by pledging to use $8 lightbulbs & "support leaders who share my commitment to solving the climate crisis..." There's no doubting producer Kevin Wall's committment to his causes, but Live Earth is his expensive playground, a chance to top Live 8. I don't trust billionaires, even liberal ones.
Friday, July 06, 2007
I tend to broadly organize sets by genre now. I'm not proud of it. I consider it only borderline free form. But it's easier, & my excuse is that I have to build each show from scratch. I'm not carrying large amounts of new music from week to week, music I've already heard in whole or part that I can reach for spontaneously. Doing a weekly program pushed me toward improvisation, & that often brought a strong emotional component into the mix (even subconsciously). With archived radio programs, there's no need for any WFMU DJ to keep a large personal music library in annual rotation. Everything gets added to the station's internet jukebox. I often relied on familiar music to build sets. I'd have a few favorite songs picked out, & my goal was to fit those songs into a sets during a show. I'd arrive at the station before the show with no idea of how that was going to happen. When the show began, I might have some vague ideas, "concepts" maybe based on what I found in the new bin or came across on the shelves. Like many WFMU DJs, I loosely divided the show into 30 minutes segments, & more earnestly tried to finish whatever I was into at the top of the hour - still do, although sometimes it just doesn't happen. Everybody has their routines. Some music strongly resists being put next to anything else unless I'm in a mood for a non sequitur segue; the challenge there is to find something that sounds completely different but really isn't. I did one of those Wednesday & won't say what it was. I never do. I opened with a 45 minute set of mostly rock music, uncommon for me. But I had a stack of the stuff & I wanted to use it & get it out of my system up front.
Wednesday's disappointment: I had hoped to leave the studio back door open & talk about fireworks with the booming finale of the Statue of Liberty display in the background. Alas,the noise had ended by the time I got on mic.
Thursday, July 05, 2007
The Shattered Idol
None of this fits into the actual time frame of events. Langdon Clemens died about 4 years before Twain began writing "Huckleberry," & at least ten before the era depicted in five seasons of The Rifleman. But I was impressed with the neatly-written little fantasy, played out realistically within its own improbable universe, respectful of the Twain myth, yet keeping him human-sized. The caricatures weren't stretched, the sentiment was restrained, nobody winked at the camera. "The Shattered Idol" was first aired in December 1961. The irony is that The United States of America had a president in 1961 who had read & could quote Mark Twain.
(I'm not that familiar with The Rifleman, I wasn't much into TV westerns as a kid. This episode had some thoughtful b&w camerawork & a quality music score.)
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
The 4th was ritual when I was growing up. Backyard barbecue. Hoping there'd be no thunderstorms. Around 8 o'clock my parents tossed some blankets & a couple of beach chairs into the car & we drove to Nomahegan Park for the fireworks. Sometimes other kids who happened to hanging out at the house came along. Dad drove to his "secret" parking place in Cranford, a gravel road next to the river that hadn't been a secret to anyone for 20 years, considering how far we had to walk & how many other cars were parked closer. It never ceased to annoy him. We threaded through the gathering crowd as dusk seeped in, found a plot of ground & set up camp. The routine up to this point, from dad's grumpy inability to procure us a VIP parking spot to mom settling into her low folding chair & lighting her first Raleigh, was remarkably similar to going to the beach. In a good year, there weren't many mosquitoes. The fireworks were provincially unspectacular, same as most community displays are today. Although I swear they used to put more bang in the ordinary bombs. I loved the groundworks, Lots of audience-pleasing ooohs & ahhhs for those. Always the eerily burning dollar bill face of George Washington framed with spinning wheels of fire, & a fluttering Stars & Stripes with sparklers shooting off around the edges. Children waved their own sparklers indiscriminately - none of the cold light glow-in-the-dark things. Around the fringes of the crowd near the woods wandered gangs of lucky brats setting off cherry bombs & whole strings of firecrackers; their dads probably made special trips to Pennsylvania just to load up the car trunk with the good stuff, including roman candles. Less fortunate kids had to pay rip off prices at the playground for illicit explosives of any kind.
After the deafening but all-too-brief finale, we did everything in reverse, except now there were traffic jams on every street & no secret shortcuts. When we arrived home, I used kitchen tongs to grab the remaining softly glowing charcoal briquettes from the grill, flinging them into the street where they popped into a shower of sparking pieces & seemed to go out until passing cars stirred them up into small, fiery whirlwinds.