Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Of course, this is really Samhain, the Celtic Pagan celebration Christianity couldn't fully suppress. All the major Pagan days are on the Christian calendar by other names, thinly disguised at that.
Trick or Treat
Monday, October 29, 2007
Would Jesus have an iPod?
Rev. Gene Carlson
Yet another essay attempting to explain the protestant right to the unsaved secular masses: The Evangelical Crackup by David D. Kirkpatrick in the New York Times Sunday magazine. The writers always go to the big churches, interview the big shots old-&-fading, & up-&-coming, & top-o-the-heap, with a few side comments from church-going folks.
The unity of the contemporary protestant right was always illusory as religion. The diversity of belief & practice among all American protestants is mind-boggling from one end of the spectrum to the other. In politics, the protestant right remains unified in the sense that it is overwhelmingly conservative Republican. That is, I think, how Democrats ought to view "Evangelicals." It should be no surprise that conservative protestants are disappointed with George W. Bush for a variety of reasons, or even that some don't like war. There's always been a protestant tradition of resistance to government interference, whether the Baptists of colonial Virginia fighting the Anglican ruling class, refusal to cooperate with military conscription, & opposition to forced integration. Although there's a preference for strong religious leaders & clear moral teachings, this doesn't mean all Southern Baptists are happy that their National Convention strong-arms them into a doctrinal & political conformity most of them already embrace voluntarily. For all the megachurches, there are thousands of independent or loosely-affiliated pentecostal & Bible Baptist churches & "Family Worship Centers" basically loyal only to themselves, their local preachers, & the Scriptures as they read them. Plus large Baptist associations not affiliated with the Southern Baptists, & the conservative wings of the mainstream denominations. The Methodists are very strong in the South & Midwest; they are not "fundies," & their evangelicalism tends to be expressed through local outreach ministries & church social activities rather than loud appeals to become "born again."
I'm a "culture" person. I believe that culture has a lot more impact on politics than politics have on culture, & that education & economics drive various levels of culture. So when conservative Christian culture gained enormous political influence, it was unrealistic to expect that this would result in politicians who could change the broader & stronger secular culture. Politicians (including judges, prosecutors, & bureaucrats) influence culture by imposing or removing restraints on expression: to censor or not to censor. They don't create the movies, the TV shows, the popular music. They don't write the best-sellers or design the video games. They don't control the advertising agencies. Neither do those conservative protestants (except products for their own edification) now realizing government is not a reliable proxy in the "culture wars." No president is seriously going to antagonize media giants like The Sony Group, Disney, Time Warner, etc.
The internet has radically changed the cultural landscape over the past decade. Reagan was pre-dotcom. The internet has done a lot for the protestant right, but it's also brought porno, YouTube, MySpace, text-messaging, downloads, & information overload. How you gonna keep 'em down on the farm after they've got a laptop & wi-fi? Can't keep 'em from learning about global warming. Or stop 'em from exploring the nefarious "gay agenda" & discovering the drive to middle class banality at its heart: Ellen DeGeneres. She's more like you than unlike you.
When I see Democratic presidential hopefuls falling over each other to show who is more devout, I think, That is so 2000. They're acting like Tom DeLay era Republicans even as Giuliani, Romney & Thompson change the game, & an affable "fundy" like Mike Huckabee - more the real deal than George W. ever was - can't hardly catch a break from the old guard mullahs or the youngsters. Even Repugs can't woo the conservative protestants like they could in 2004. Run a Jim Webb or Bob Casey against a big jerk & you grab a senate seat. But conservative "values" Republicans will not vote for Hillary Clinton no matter how studious she was in Methodist Sunday School. The "ex-gay" Gospel singer headlining Obama's Southern campaign events won't win them over, either.
Evangelicals are learning that they can't trust politicians to do the work they have to do for themselves. But the middle class is the great consumer of popular culture in America. It remains to be seen if the younger, white, suburban, conservative protestant middle class demographic, with iPods, iPhones, Blackberries & high def TV, can influence that culture more than it is influenced by it. I have my doubts. Some things about the power of pop culture never change. The Jordanaires were a fine gospel group on their own, but they became world famous as Elvis' backup singers.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Toms River NJ
Saturday, October 27, 2007
(What pissed me off: After the game, a Rutgers player - not Ray Rice or Mike Teel, who know how to carry the weight of expectations - said, "That wasn't us out there." The kind of delusional statement makes a coach wanna slap him upside his head.)
(I had a terrible pick 'em week. Not that I spend more than 10 minutes making my selections. But I correctly chose Hawaii to score the most points in a game, & got the winner's score right in the Oregon/USC & Arizona St./Cal games, but had the wrong teams winning. )
Friday, October 26, 2007
Friday Not Random
Tim Dorsey: I loved Hurricane Punch, his latest & the first of his books I read, featuring a lovable serial killer, Serge A. Storms, & sidekick "Coleman." Serge is the murderer inside us, a manic savant who whacks obnoxious, bigoted people, sometimes with Rube Goldberg contraptions & always suiting the victim's offensive behavior. So I read Dorsey's first novel, Florida Roadkill, it was less exciting because he was trying out the tricks he'd use in his subsequent novels up to Hurricane Punch, & they'd already lost their novelty for me. But I have soft spot for middlebrow writers who adapt experimental, formerly avant garde type techniques. I've done it myself many times. The Florida "detective" novel is a wacky subgenre going all the way back to John D. MacDonald's great Travis McGhee series. I also like that Dorsey concluded he made a mistake killing off Coleman in Roadkill & simply resurrected him with the rationale that it's only fiction & he had the power to do it. This is a lot more honest than J.K. Rowlings announcing Dumbledore is gay when she may have known it all along but never had the courage to make it a "fact" of the Harry Potter universe. With the Potter series ended, so has Rowlings' omnipotent power over the world she created.
Brahms: Complete Works for Violin and Piano; Ulf Wallin (Violin), Roland Pontinen (Piano). Arte Nova. Feel like I pulled a fast one getting this budget double CD for the cutout price of $3.50, & it being better than I expected, a pair of superb younger musicians. Timeless, classic music that, while posing no great challenge to one's ears, reveals itself slowly, no reason to hurry it along. Beautiful now, it'll be just as beautiful tomorrow, the kind of warm music that becomes a good friend. Listen to it a few times, file it it the Brahms section by the symphonies. Welcome to my CD collection.
J.A. Jance: Justice Denied, a J.P. Beaumont Novel. I like Jance's books about Arizona sheriff Johanna Brady, not so much the ones starring this detective who works for the Washington State Attorney’s Special Homicide Investigation Team or, as it’s often called, the SHIT squad. The crime plots in this book, involving the inexplicable murder of an exonerated former street gang member, a cold case about the disappearance of corporate whistle blower during the Mount St. Helens eruption, a pattern of deaths among ex-con sex offenders, & the connection between two of those cases, are essentially 1 1/2 episodes of a TV cop show. It turns silly, but Jance doesn't play it silly. She fills out 384 pages with details of Beau's personal life, & he's not a guy I find particularly interesting. He's kind of slow for a cop who's been through 18 novels & two marriages - the second to a psychopathic murderer. Sheriff Brady, on the other hand, compares favorably with Marge Gunderson in Fargo, but less droll.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
The stretch of Elizabeth Ave. I walk has about 5 day labor agencies, all utilitarian places with metal folding chairs, bright fluorescent lighting, & a single desk at one end. Same day pay. The paperwork probably requires minimal personal information. If that's discouraging, there's both Army & Army Reserve recruiting stations on the same street closer to the County Courthouse. The Navy, Marine, & National Guard offices are couple of blocks over, The Marine recruiters wear the spiffiest uniforms, but the Army guys have a pimped up Humvee they roll out for street festivals & parades: Go ahead, sit in it, we'll give you one of your own, & a legal gun, too. Iraq? Hehe, that'll be over by the time you finish your advanced training in, let's see, how does Television & Video Production sound for an Army career? Yeah, last I heard the school for that was in Honolulu.
Labels: Elizabeth NJ
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Great Falls National Park?
Led by chief sponsor Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-Paterson [NJ-8th], and a united front from the New Jersey delegation, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Monday evening designating the 109 acres surrounding the Great Falls of the Passaic River in Paterson as a national park. The vote was an overwhelming 256-122 in favor.Sounds worthy, although I don't know what happens if it's approved. Two or three Park Service Rangers with training in urban police work for a start, not a plum assignment. Bringing the Great Falls into the National Park system won't revitalize the entire city of Paterson, or even do much for the neighborhoods beyond the historical warehouse district. You don't want to wander far in that area if you're not familiar with it. The Great Falls themselves are a lot more impressive after a soaking rain, so much water is diverted upstream. My impression of the Great Falls from the first time I saw them was, "Except for those waterfalls, this place is damned ugly." It will always be ugly. Alexander Hamilton's America isn't pretty. I watched Philippe Petit cross the chasm on a high wire in 1974. Also enjoyed seeing pigeons in a natural cliff-dwelling habitat.
Earlier in the day the bill had been debated and faced opposition from some Republicans. Pascrell, who has expended much energy on this needed legislation, and in coalescing bipartisan support for it, spent much of Monday afternoon lobbying for still more votes, and in the end gained 50 votes from across the aisle. That number included all six GOP members of the New Jersey delegation. Republicans cast all 122 "no" votes.
A similar bill, supported strongly by state Sen. Frank Lautenberg and state Sen. Robert Menendez, is pending before a Senate committee. To become the Great Falls National Park the proposal must also pass the Senate and be signed into law by President Bush.
The president has put a hold on creating any new national parks. However advocates believe he may sign the bill since New Jersey has already pledged $10 million toward the project.
"The Great Falls could be transformed into an attraction for visitors," Pascrell said during the afternoon debate. "Federal resources could be leveraged to revitalize the Great Falls and the entire city."
"Paterson NJ: America's Silk City"
Labels: New Jersey
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Donald Johanos and Charles Ives
I was working in a large record store in the late Sixties, my record budget was small, but one of my jobs at the store was taking care of the budget classical bins & shelves. The 1967 Johanos version of Holidays was about 1/3 the price of Leonard Bernstein's with the New York Philharmonic. It might been the very first orchestral music I heard by Ives. It was the only recording of the work I owned until a few months ago, when I finally got a CD by Michael Tilson Thomas with the Chicago Symphony, considered the definitive recording (so far). As I learned more about Ives over the years, & as Ives scholarship resulted in improved, less cluttered versions of his scores (Ives' original manuscripts were a mess), my appreciation of the Johanos recording grew. In addition to fine analog stereo sonics, the Johanos - Dallas Synphony interpretation sounded natural, at ease, as if they'd gone beyond the novelty of Ives, & the image promoted of him in the Sixties as a difficult, crackpot provincial genius (an attitude Bernstein - a born snob despite his proprietary affection for Ives' music - hadn't quite overcome). Now all good American conductors are comfortable with Charles Ives, & professional orchestras all around the world can perform his music. Except for a few of his more conventional works, musicians when Ives was actively composing considered his music literally impossible to play well, if at all. That certainly was an odd objection to Ives' solo piano music, because he could play it. I'm sure Ives imagined a time when his music would be performed by regional orchestras, & even semi-professional ensembles. The Johanos recording was rereleased on budget CD. But I picked up a cleaner vinyl copy for a buck at a record fair a couple of years ago.
In mono Realaudio, from an old record, here's Donald Johanos conducting Dallas Symphony Orchestra & Southern Methodist University Choir: "Thanksgiving" by Charles Ives. Think November in New England in the late 19th Century. (With thanks to Hatch, the following DJ, for the great seque).
Because of new statewide regulations from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, leaves and other yard waste cannot be placed in the roadway more than seven days prior to the scheduled collection dates or closer than ten feet from any storm drain inlet.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Romney / Giuliani
The Dem establishment is with Hillary because she represents them. Her husband was president & still has tremendous clout in the party. Anyway, how they gonna stop her unless something goes terribly wrong? Like she's exposed as a lesbian or secret Unitarian. The H.W. Bush corporatist Repugs know she's no great danger to them or the profitable Israeli-Saudi balancing act foreign policy. They oughta know after playing so much golf with her emissary, Bill. Hillary's her own person, but she's not radical, & she's hardly a populist. When she appears with Bill, the contrast is not to her advantage. She can't work the crowds like Obama & Edwards, but she has her own kind of celebrity - gets her share of excited screamers (hmm, nah, too easy) - & she's an insider, too. I'm sure there's a lot of fat cat Repugs who would prefer Hillary to a Christian Right ideologue: You can gay bash up to a certain point & then it becomes very bad for business. Likewise for anti- abortion & anti-Hollywood rhetoric, threats of boycotts, etc. The Money doesn't flow that way. Scientific ignorance is valuable when it weakens pollution laws, otherwise useless if not counterproductive. Mitt & Rudy. Think about it.
Labels: THE election
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Menlo Park NJ
There really was this compact bucolic scene driving the back road to Menlo Park Mall in sprawling Edison NJ. A piece of it is still there if you forget the apartment complexes, office buildings & train station parking lots behind you & don't think about what's just over the hill ahead. You might not want to see it when you're stuck in a traffic jam.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Outing the Wizard
Harry Potter fans, the rumors are true: Albus Dumbledore, master wizard and Headmaster of Hogwarts, is gay. J.K. Rowling, author of the mega-selling fantasy series that ended last summer, outed the beloved character Friday night while appearing before a full house at Carnegie Hall.& so, the zillionaire author, now done with the Potter series, confesses to what must be one of the biggest acts of literary cowardice ever. Applause? She should have been booed off the stage.
After reading briefly from the final book, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," she took questions from audience members.
She was asked by one young fan whether Dumbledore finds "true love."
"Dumbledore is gay," the author responded to gasps and applause.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Yankee management is looking at two years guaranteed sellout attendance regardless of how the team finishes; the last year in the old Stadium & the first in the new one. Incentives are one thing. Offering Torre a one year deal was the big insult. He deserved two years. They wouldn't even talk, so he walked. They could've done this two weeks ago.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
buzzing like mid-August
Baseball is a sport I follow mostly on the radio. It suits summer nights, I can write & read with a game on in the background, there's a rhyhm, a good game clocks in at around 3 hours or less. I switch off between Mets & Yankees games, depending on what's happening. I really like the late games on west coast swings. Late season, I usually have lseveral ponies in the races. Besides New York, there's a number of other teams that can carry me through post-season. But baseball lost me this year. The Mets folded & the other teams were gone quickly in the first round. Rutgers' early promise, then all the Top Ten upsets piqued my curiosity about college football. I watched large portions of a few very exciting games. Every year, the same schools, USC, LSU, Michigan, Ohio State, Florida, the annual Big Twelve flops. So what? Although the standings are packed with familiar colleges, the feeling this year is that nobody is secure. I even joined a Pick'em group. I didn't imagine I'd be sort of hoping South Florida would beat Rutgers. One can only hope the BCS is a total mess.
[Rutgers 30, #2 South Florida 27. Great defensive 2nd half. Another undefeated top ten team toppled.]
What they say about the larger baseball playoff "markets" is absolutely true. There's small incentive for viewer watching the playoffs & Series without choosing a team. If you find regular season baseball boring, try post-season. The games are longer, the pitchers slow down, batters step out of the box after every pitch. The quality of pitching goes up - that how teams get to post-season, so scores go down except the occasional blowout. We get network producers & "impartial" broadcasters freaking out at the idea of five seconds with no talk or special graphics. Stats become even more arcane & meaningless ("...batted .363 with a runner on second base in all road games in which his team was behind by at least one run when the 7th inning occurred later than 11:15 pm, so yeah, I say he''ll get a green light to swing on a 3 & 0 pitch.") One cannot listen to this dribble unless one cares a little bit which of the two teams wins.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
The Maines of Madison Borough
The Maines family made this a national story. They finally took the hanged man display down, & the rest of the decorations, placing a sign in front of their house: "Thanks to the assistance of Millie Hazlewood and her friends, Halloween and Christmas decorations will no longer be celebrated here." Go ahead, be bitter & punish yourself. Madison is a small, lovely college town in Morris County. Last December, a Menorah was vandalized at Madison train station, so it's not without problems. The Maines made Madison look small-minded & provincial, & worse.
(Tata also blogged on this. )
Anne's Sunflower 2007
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
I'd like to root for the Colorado Rockies, with their great finish & sweep to the National League Pennant. I respect manager Clint Hurdle, a failed phenom as a player & no great shakes in his previous seasons as Rockies manager, who had a personal epiphany concerning the relative importance of baseball. But this team plays in Coors Field & promotes an image as a "Christian" ballclub. No cursing in clubhouse, no "adult" mags permitted in lockers, even Playboy. Team chapel on Sunday - I'm not convinced there isn't pressure on players to show up & pray. They belong more in Colorado Springs than Denver.
Ownership runs a team as it sees fit. With the Bosox, Johnny Damon enjoyed his image as an "idiot" who never saw a barber, didn't own a razor, & showered once-a-week whether he needed it or not. But he cleaned up overnight when he signed with the Yanks, it just wasn't a big deal compared to the money & pinstripes, & we knew all along he was a funny, articulate guy regardless of how he looked. The Yanks don't allow a lunatic clubhouse anymore. Even banned locker room beer. But although they won't let customers buy a hot dog or keep walking to the restrooms during the singing of God Bless America, the song was composed by a Jew & the Yanks are nonsectarian. The Mets have a different way, & many superstitious fans attempt to influence the outcome of important games with vials of Shea Stadium dirt & other holy relics, & through where they sit in their own living rooms during rallies. I think the Mets ultimately lost the Division this year because in the final week the negative energies of Jose Reyes neutralized every bit of positive magic that surely would have won one additional game for them. Not the Rockies. They're a different kind of faith-based organization. But is Katsuo Matsui a Buddhist?
I'm tolerant about individual religious expression. Tell me you go to church every week, I don't assume you're some kind of wingnut. There's all kinds in every religion & denomination, even the Southern Baptist Convention. I'm not bothered when a football player briefly kneels or crosses himself after a touchdown, although you never see the same visible gratitude when a player doesn't break the plane & gets flattened into the ground by a 400 pound defender. I'm never pleased when an entire public university team forms a prayer circle in the middle of the field after a win; they can't all be faithful Christian believers at Kentucky. That's not why they were recruited.
So I won't root for the Rockies. I can't encourage all the stuff we're gonna hear & read about miracles & blessings & the virtues of front office management pushing communal prayer & clean thoughts if they win the Series. This is professional baseball, not a mega-church service. I'll go nominally with the Indians or I'll sit this one out if Boston gets in. Because I don't care. I'll have the games on TV or radio while I'm putzing around & enjoy them if they're interesting games. & when the Series is over, I'll check out how Big East basketball is shaping up this season.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Blog Action Day
More fun to hear about than Blog Action Day: American Airlines, Citibank & dozens of other advertisers bought space in a 16 page religion-oriented, pro-gay supplement included in Sunday's Dallas Morning News. Bet that ruined a lot of breakfasts. Did you know Dallas has a church with one of America's largest predominantly LGBT congregations?
*This catastrophic conception bubbled up again recently as a suggestion that the unprofitable Delaware Bay ferry service is seriously inhibiting Atlantic coast traffic flow & commerce, & hurting Atlantic City business. But it's still an outrageous multi-billion dollar scam.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Brant Beach NJ
Long Beach Island, formerly Wida's, now it's Daddy O,
promoted as a "boutique" restaurant & hotel.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
The perfect Jew
It's a common enough grassroots conservative Christian view, though most of them are polite enough to refrain from expressing it in public. There is some debate among some Evangelicals over whether or not Jews ought to be proslytized. When Jerry Falwell was suspected a few years ago of adopting "Dual Covenant" theology (one contract for Jews, another for Christians) other protestant mullahs became upset, because it gives Jews a "bye." Without explicitly endorsing it, the Dual Covenant is pretty much the attitude of mainstream protestants & the Roman Catholic Church now. Evangelicals know they can't support the State of Israel by sending in legions of missionaries, so they've backed off pushing for conversion of the Jews without abandoning both the hope & a belief in the necessity for trying. They're criticizing Coulter for being uncool rather than for being wrong. Anne meant what she said, & it's not a fringe belief in her world. If she's outraged Jews & lots of others, better that we know what she's representing. She's a messenger.
But something to keep in mind: Only hardass evangelicals give much thought to converting Jews. The average person in the pew probably doesn't think about it at all. They just believe everybody is better off getting with Jesus. Even Coulter had second or third hand echoes in her head, stumbled around & couldn't cite the relevant New Testament passages, which I read today thanks to Pastor Dan Schultz at Street Prophets, & he draws different conclusions from them.
Friday, October 12, 2007
Jerseyans headed for the exit
A report from Rutgers University suggests that New Jerseyans should not bother getting to know their neighbors, given the likelihood that they will be leaving shortly for Pennsylvania or North Carolina. The comparative allure of these and other states has gotten to the point that one in eight New Jerseyans -- more than a million -- left the state from 2000 through 2005.I can think of many reasons people would want to stay in Jersey, & probably more why they would want to leave. But I can think of only three for why anyone would want to move here: You have a really great high-paying job lined up; You're an ambitious young person & New York City is across the river; You're an undocumented immigrant & your contacts gave you a Jersey address. I hear about "lifestyle" & honestly I don't see much of one for the less-than-affluent that can't be more affordably had & improved elsewhere. There's an image promoted by NJ Monthly & its essence boils down to Princeton & Hoboken with flavoring from Cape May (wealthy people at the beach) Atlantic City (wealthy people party all weekend), Lambertville (wealthy people buy expensive old stuff), plus the adventurous tastes of urban cultural attractions where there's secure - preferably valet - parking, you know, museums, classical music, authentic ethnic cuisine. Oh yeah, there's Bruce, who's been really wealthy for 25 years.
While there is migration from other states into New Jersey, the outbound traffic was greater by about 24,000 people in 2002. By 2006, the net loss had tripled. If the trend continues, the exodus will account for a yearly hemorrhage of 100,000 residents before the decade's out.
Everyone loves to read about Asbury Park, but out of Jersey's population of over 8 million hardly anyone actually goes there. Unless there's secure parking. You find the greatest nostalgia for Tillie in nouveau riche Red Bank, where they prefer lite jazz & you're more likely to run into the Springsteens on a shopping spree.
Except for the boardwalks, the Jersey I really love disappeared years ago. Which puts me among those confused folks reading Weird NJ magazine, lamenting the disappearance of corn fields & sand quarries along old Route 9, & wondering what the heck happened to all the cows we used to see when we drove west on Route 78. To find that Jersey now you have go up into the Poconos or miles south of Ocean City Maryland where they haven't yet gotten around to building luxury condos & McMansions next to the mucky tidal creeks. I love mucky creeks & don't understand why antiseptic wealthy people would want to smell them twice-a-day.
So New Jersey is losing population. But every complaint I have about the state is related to there being too many people crammed into 8,729 square miles. To fit them all in we've had to fill in salt marshes, chop down Pine Barrens, pave over pastures, & dynamite the peaks off our modest but ancient mountains.
Labels: New Jersey
Al wins the big one
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Some residents of my building sit out front on the stoop. The landlord doesn't approve of it but he can't prevent it. Sitting there for hours, of course they become familiar with the punks & creeps living in the buildings across the street, or coming here to sell the smallest available retail sizes. By craning their necks they even see some of the activity all the way down by the nasty bar. I guess it all looks rough-edged after awhile. But it's all happening to the right. Sometimes I stop & chat for a few minutes, then walk to the left. Here's what I see on the street:
1. The punks don't wear cool clothes.
2. They don't have cars.
3. They don't have girlfriends.
4. Most of them act & sound stupid.
So if you're a young street guy on this corner, you're demonstrating that someone else is dressing snappy. Someone else is driving an Escalade with tinted windows (or even an old Toyota). Someone else is getting laid at 2 am on a weekend (small, anorexic women who look like 12 year old boys are the fashion). That's not interesting. Occasionally, a higher up in whatever organization comes by in a late model vehicle to check you out, maybe to collect the money, maybe to make sure you're not high on the product. The window rolls down, heavy bass thumping hip hop on an expensive sound system. All you got is a beeping walkie talkie. Well, you can always hope. But your future is the county lock up & a public defender. You would have been treated better running numbers for the Italians.
It's hard to find a parking space around here at midnight. Over half of those spaces open up between 5 & 7 on weekday mornings. Between 7 & 8 dozens of kids leave for school, yellow buses or walking, many accompanied by a parent. That's the neighborhood, too.
Labels: Elizabeth NJ
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
An Atlantic City Story
Before this story unfolded, I knew little about him except that he was a pal of the former mayor & had, for reasons known only to himself, lied around town that he had been a Green Beret. It's not against the law to bullshit people about one's military service unless one fraudulently obtains undeserved benefits. Levy is being investigated regarding this possibility. Why he inflated his service record is a mystery.
Bob Levy became a lifeguard as a teenager; graduated A.C. high school; married an African-American woman - unusual in the 60's. He enlisted in the Army & by all accounts had a long, diverse, & interesting career including two stints in Vietnam. He retired honorably. No need to exaggerate what he did, it's in the record. He was appointed Chief of the Atlantic City Beach Patrol, traditionally a large, colorful crew run by old lifeguards from town, then made Director of Emergency Services. He was elected mayor. Whether or not he was a good mayor, I don't know. But when he got into trouble, he sure didn't have a deep well of support on the island or upstairs in the Democratic Party. One suspects he was something of a "figurehead."
Some things never change about being mayor of Atlantic City; you have to distribute patronage, & you have to squeeze as much money as you can out of the boardwalk & "hospitality" businesses & use it to pay the bills for the rest of the city. Hopefully, you appoint competent
So Bob Levy is out & City Council President William "Speedy" Marsh is Acting Mayor.
(Photo of Mayor Levy with former lifeguards at the 2006 ACBP swearing in ceremony. As a kid, I had to figure out which lifeguards on my beach were too quick with the whistle. An experienced lifeguard could remember the "regulars" & decide if you deserved a looser leash. They're a lot more cautious now.)
Labels: Atlantic City
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
The Joe Torre Era
If Steinbrenner wants Joe out, he certainly could have arranged a change in respectful, valedictory manner. Denying Joe a dignified exit, treating him no better than when Trump fires a reality show contestant, is terrible. But it's George's way, the Yankee way. In Yankeeland there's no league parity, the Yanks didn't lose because the Indians won 96 regular season games & had better pitching.
Monday, October 08, 2007
The past three nights the half-wit above me overfilled his bathtub, leaking into my ceiling until two tiles collapsed into my bathtub. It happened last month. I thought we had it settled. He doesn't seem to understand what he is doing wrong; if that's the case, he probably belongs in a group home.
Handyman woke me up at 8 am. Reattached the hose (I still don't trust it) , replaced ceiling tiles, & for good measure replaced a slightly cracked upper windowpane in the other room I hadn't even noticed. I went back to bed & slept fitfully through all his work.
Labels: home furnishings
Sunday, October 07, 2007
Dear Old Rutgers
Cincinnati 28, Rutgers 23. That's the University of Cincinnati Ohio.
Saturday, October 06, 2007
Beastly Behavior at BBC
Friday, October 05, 2007
Topps Meat Company
Topps Meat Company was a privately owned family company founded in 1940, headquartered in Elizabeth, New Jersey. The company produced and distributed frozen ground beef patties and other meat products. In 2003, the company was purchased by Strategic Investment and Holdings, an investment firm based in Buffalo, New York; by 2007 it was "one of the country’s largest manufacturers of frozen hamburgers."Now it's gone.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
The War and Ken Burns
The War is mostly a documentary version of the popular soldier's eye view history books that have been published about WWII over the past few decades. It also matter-of-factly incorporates important revisionist history. The Tuskegee Airmen, 761st Tank Battalion, & the Japanese-American 442nd Regimental combat team & 100th Infantry Battalion weren't in my high school history books. The forced removal of Japanese-Americans to concentration camps was given passing attention there & was definitely not a class discussion topic. (The most egregious omission in those Cold War history books concerned the Soviet Union's role in defeating Germany).
Burns packed The War with photos & film I'd never seen before. World War Two was so well documented by government, the armed forces, industry, news media, & individuals, it was no surprise he found so much stuff. It's still just a fraction. He could probably throw together two more supplementary series with what he didn't use. That's certainly one reason he decided to concentrate on only four American locations & do his digging there. Any four towns & cities would reveal historical treasures & personal stories equally touching. A former girlfriend of mine has entire World War Two scrapbooks she fished out of curbside trash piles in suburban Union County, thrown out probably by sons & daughters when their parents died or were packed off to small senior apartments. Unfortunate this documentary wasn't made a decade earlier; everyone seeing it will think twice before discarding those old photos & mementos.
Burns also didn't hold back on the blood, killing & horror. Or on what we now call Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, so stigmatized in civilian life that few vets would openly seek treatment for it; even so there weren't any really good methods for treating it. It was a private agony & we have no way of knowing how many lives it ruined. Only the families know.
The personal view of The War is what I most appreciate. But it assumes we already have a general classroom knowledge of the history of World War Two.
I'm a baby boomer. I was a child in the 1950's. World War Two was not only the central experience for my parent's' generation, but also for people born in the 1930s - like the Scanlon sisters next door, two teenage sweeties who used to pick me up, carry me on to their front porch, hug & tickle me. They were in grammar school during The War. Did they have a victory garden & collect tin foil? How did they feel when a handsome young guy in their small town was killed & the Gold Star went in the window? How did that news travel? How did the neighbors treat each other. Burns thought of these questions. Fortunately, I've spent many interesting hours listening to an older friend tell me about her World War Two childhood, from rationing to the kinds of games they played, how it affected school, the propaganda, the delays in getting accurate news from the battle fronts, & how children were able to forget the war & be children. My central childhood cultural experience was the aftermath, American Triumphalism (despite the Korean War). I was always curious what it was like to live in my house, on my street, in my hometown, Roselle Park, during World War Two. I just heard the echoes. In a church social hall in Linden NJ I saw hanging on the wall a fading amateur oil painting of a WWI doughboy & a Boy Scout looking up at a blue sky filled with WWII fighter planes. It may have been copied from a popular illustration, but fighters had been built just down the road at the GM plant & flown off from Linden Airport. Imagine the sound overhead.
We need to see the broader picture of the war; the ideologies & governments, the grand strategies & great battles, the maps with the lines & arrows. We also need to remember why decisions were made as well as why they were right or wrong decisions. There's an increasing disconnect in America favoring historical hindsight bias over understanding what was known & what was considered realistically possible when events were actually happening. I knew a man who designed a piece of the atomic bomb without knowing that's what he was doing until after it was dropped. His limited view could be compared to a G.I.'s. But do we now believe we even need to learn our own history in all its breadth & depth? Or only those parts that concern our particular interest group?
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Mad George the Second
We know our Yalie prez doesn't understand irony, although he handed America a great example of it in his Child Health Day proclamation, issued on Monday. Well, not entirely, since he believes the biggest health challenges facing, say, a toddler child of working poor parents are drugs & not making the right choices.
Labels: George W. Bush
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Tuesday Vigil: Witnessing
We tend to think of "witnessing" in the larger meanings of the word; witnessing for religious faith, witnessing for the oppressed & voiceless, witnessing in the legal sense. Somewhere I read that when two Irish clans met on a battlefield, their respective bards were sent to a nearby hill under protection. If one clan were annihilated, its history & heroic final fight would be honored & live on through poetry & song. The poets were witnesses. Such great responsibilities. But don't we often fail to witness what is most ordinary in our lives? By witnessing, & remembering those things or occasions, however mundane, we give them significance.The rest of it is here. Hope you visit.
Monday, October 01, 2007
No slide for Rutgers
Rutgers is a new kid on campus in the big money brand name bowl era & has never held a national title in any era (Princeton won 7, probably beating Rutgers in every one of those seasons to do it). You have to build several college generations of winning teams. You know you're a prestige program when your failures are as newsworthy as your successes. Notre Dame & Penn State generate more sports commentary than Rutgers, & neither has won a national championship since the Eighties. But the rabid alumni of both expect to win it again, Notre Dame by firing & hiring coaches every few years & Penn State by sticking with Joe Paterno until he retires or falls down & can't get up. I enjoy college basketball a lot more as a sport, & because good teams from lower tier conferences get a chance at the end of the season to prove they really can't beat the great teams.
I must say, I think my first set (following the Nino Rota theme song) is masterly free form. When I arrived at the station I only had two songs in mind for a possible set, & when I started the Blues Magoos cover of "Gloria" hadn't yet decided on the next cut. My opening sets usually run about 1/2 an hour, but 20 minutes in I took quick inventory & realized I could steer it around the bend & go for an full hour. Once I make that decision, I really try to go with it. But I had to find a way to get to a long spacy cut by The Orb, at which point I could sit back & figure out how to end it. It worked out so well that I pretty much coasted through the rest of the program. I had other stuff already planned, & I'm long past the time when I enjoyed the challenge of doing an entire three hour program on the fly, like that first set.
Portions of my radio shows going all the way back to when I first started have always played with a particular idea, one I suspect came largely from comedy acts like Monty Python & Firesign Theater: What can I do that's obviously me pretending to be stoned but might trick a pot smoking listener into thinking I actually am? To do this, I have to rely on memory. I've always treated radio DJing as a job with real responsibilities, since there are situations requiring clearheadedness, like equipment failures & alerts from the National Weather Service (WFMU has a wonderful machine; a ghostly voice speaks & then it prints out the weather bulletin ticker tape style, which you rip off & read. I've had to break into programming to issue destructive thunderstorm & flash flood warnings & rouse the manager in the middle of the night to inform him of a power outtage. & hardly a show has ever passed without natural lapses of attention on my part, some of which I don't catch in time. One happened Saturday when I accidentally ejected a CD playing over the air. I believe free form ought to sound like you're sitting in the studio rolling numbers, that's how it got invented. Or so the inventors wanted us to believe. I proudly trace my free form lineage directly to two of the best who did it in 1968.
My fav music from the show: the ethereal classical piece, "Flos Campi."